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Pro-army rally by Sunni hardliners may lead to FATF clampdown on Pak

File photo of a bomb attack on a mosque in Peshawar (Photo: Twitter)

A radical Sunni group, banned by Pakistan under international pressure, emerged in a big way on the main Shahrah-e-Faisal road in Karachi, sparking fears among Pakistanis that the country could again face blacklisting by the global watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

It was only late last year that Pakistan had been taken out of the grey list of countries that support terrorism by providing shelter and finances to extremist organisations.

The Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), which has been linked to terror attacks against the Shia minority demonstrated its support for the Pakistan Army after the latter faced vitriolic attacks by former prime minister Imran Khan’s supporters on May 9. The unimaginable violence and opposition to the army, the de-facto ruler in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, by Khan’s supporters shook the entire nation.

The SSP rally in favour of the army was a shot in the arm for the beleaguered military, which had witnessed mass violence against some of its commanders and properties – many of which are symbols of power. Paramilitary forces, the Rangers provided protocol  – who were tasked with arresting Khan from the Islamabad High Court, were seen facilitating the support march of the SSP, which was led by proscribed leader Ahmed Ludhyanvi.

The public demonstration of power by the SSP is also seen as tacit support by ruling coalition partner Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), currently represented by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto, to the army which is now leading a crackdown against Khan and his supporters.

The rally in Pakistan’s financial capital Karachi, however, sparked fears among the minority Shia community, which has been targeted in a vicious campaign by the SSP. Ghulam Hussain Shabrani, the Central General Secretary of the Jeay Sindh Freedom Movement (JSFM) alleged that Pakistan’s military intelligence is organising the banned Islamist organisation in Sindh. He also appealed to the international organisations to support the Sindhi struggle for independence.

The SSP, earlier called the Anjuman Sipah-e-Sahaba at the time of its formation by feudal landlords in Pakistan’s Punjab, has led a campaign killing hundreds of Shias by killing prominent Shia leaders and by bombing shrines and religious processions.

The SSP has made it known that it wants Pakistan to be declared a Sunni State and also opposed Pakistan’s decision to join the US-led war on terror.