In a revised list of banned organisations by National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi Al-Alami have been declared banned terrorist organisations. This brings the total of banned organisations up to 63 – 63 organisations, that the state has officially classified as terrorist, when we have room for not even one. While it is an encouraging step to add these two outfits to the list, the real problem is how to deal with such groups and eliminate them.

A ban is just not enough for militant groups that openly confess to orchestrating attacks. It is just the first and smallest step. It is not hard to continue existing under another name. Members of the 63 groups have to be stopped from living freely in our society and there are measures that the state can take to do this.

Once an organisation is banned, its infrastructure is to be sealed, activities prohibited and members to be monitored. A banned outfit should not be allowed to open bank accounts, publish material or hold public meetings. In reality none of this happens. The Fourth Schedule comprises the elements found to be or suspected to be involved in anti-state activities, delivering hate speeches and/or activists of religious outfits not yet banned but related with militancy in any way. At least 2,000 criminals are at present included in the list and more should be added and prosecuted.

The Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 gives the government a wide range of powers to deal with this problem. Any credible source can provide information that can lead to a group becoming a proscribed one, including banks and non-governmental institutions. The measures the state can take, even before conviction are harsh, and includes property seizures. The law gives wide berth to law enforcement agencies – the problem is lazy enforcement, political linkages of dangerous religious groups with political parties and the police, and a lacklustre judicial system where advocates and judges are both to blame for a lack of convictions.

In the first couple of months after the National Action Plan was announced, the police was actively seen carrying out a number of raids against those disseminating, selling or printing material of banned groups. Reportedly, a large number of supporters of banned outfits were also arrested. Today we have little information on those arrested, and whether law enforcement agencies are even monitoring them closely.

There is a dire need to monitor and check the re-surfacing of the outfits that have been banned, and NACTA could serve this role if there was will behind such action. The establishment of joint intelligence directorate still appears to be a distant dream. The least that can be done for now is that the public be regularly updated on the lists of proscribed outfits, as well as dangerous individuals, in order to choke their funding and re-emergence.