In an interview with DW, Pakistan's Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the crackdown against banned militant groups is not in response to increased Indian pressure over Kashmir.
The Pakistani government announced on Monday that it would launch a "decisive" crackdown against militant outfits in the country. The decision comes amid rising tensions with India over militancy in the disputed region of Kashmir.
The two nuclear-armed South Asian nations came close to a full-scale military confrontation last week, with New Delhi claiming it bombed an alleged militant camp inside Pakistan and Islamabad saying it shot down India's fighter jets in retaliation.
Although the two countries continue to trade gunfire across their disputed frontier, known as the Line of Control, the risk of a full-blown war has somewhat subsided after Pakistan handed back a captured Indian fighter pilot to New Delhi on Saturday.
India, however, continues to demand action against Jaish-e-Mohammed, the militant group that claimed responsibility for last month's suicide bombing in Kashmir's Pulwama district. Over 40 Indian paramilitary troops were killed in the attack.
Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported on Tuesday that officials have detained 44 members of banned organizations, including some people who are named in a dossier handed by India to Pakistan on the Pulwama attack.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir, which they both claim in full, but rule in part. Any escalation of military conflict between the two countries has a dangerous risk of a nuclear confrontation.
In an interview with DW, Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan's information minister, said his government has decided to launch a crackdown on militant groups active on Pakistani soil as part of the National Action Plan endorsed by all major political groups in the country.
DW: Islamabad says it will act against certain proscribed militant organizations in the country. Is this decision a result of ongoing tension with New Delhi?
Fawad Chaudhry: It has nothing to do with the escalation of tensions with India. Pakistan formulated a National Action Plan in 2014 and it started taking action against militant groups as part of the plan. We also have to fulfil the Financial Action Task Force (FATF, a global money laundering watchdog) requirements. We also have to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions. So we actually started taking these measures long before the Pulwama attack. The steps we are taking now are in accordance with the decisions that Pakistan's National Security Committee had taken in January.
Read more: India and Pakistan's troubled history
Which militant groups are we talking about here?
These are proscribed organizations. In the last National Security Committee meeting, we banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation as well as some other groups under our own laws.
Chaudhry (l): 'We are taking economic and political actions, and will also use force should there be a need'
Is Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group, which has claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack, part of this crackdown?
JeM has been proscribed since 2002.
And the action will include JeM as well?
It is already on the list, so action is being taken against the group.
But it is not the first time that Pakistan has launched a crackdown on militant groups. We see that these organizations are still active in the country. Why has the past operations not yielded results?
We must not forget that the West itself was involved in aiding extremist groups during the conflict with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Most of the jihadist literature was prepared by the University of Nebraska at the time. But after the conflict was over, the West departed and put the blame on others. The West was supporting the philosophy that these groups still subscribe to. Nonetheless, we have decided that we will not allow any of these groups to use our soil for militancy.
What kind of action will be part of this crackdown against extremist groups?
We are taking economic and political actions, and will also use force should there be a need. Under the FATF requirements, we are squeezing these groups' finances. We are putting in place measures against money laundering. We are also trying to alienate these groups through political measures.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has been praised for his efforts to deescalate tensions with India. Is your government planning to take more steps to improve ties with New Delhi?
We have offered talks to reduce tensions. Now it is up to India to accept our offer, and we hope that it will. Normalizing ties with India is our government's priority. We want good relations with India.
What role do you think can Germany and the European Union play to deescalate India-Pakistan tensions?
The only thing that we expect from the international community, including the EU, is to act on the UN resolutions on Kashmir and recognize it as a human rights predicament. New Delhi has deployed close to a million troops in Kashmir. It is the most militarized region in the world and rights violations are a norm there. The rights of the Kashmiri people must be respected and India needs some introspection in this regard. If the Kashmiris don't want to stay with India, how can New Delhi force them to do that? I think the international community is cognizant of it and India is facing increasing global pressure over Kashmir.
Fawad Chaudhry has been serving as Pakistan's minister for information and broadcasting since August 2018.
The interview was conducted by Shamil Shams.