Mar 07, 2019 16:16 UTC
  • Pakistan takes control of religious schools in continued crackdown

The Pakistani government has taken control of more than 180 purported religious schools as part of a crackdown on militant organizations operating in the country.

“Provincial governments have taken in their control management and administration of 182 seminaries (madaris),” Pakistan’s Interior Ministry said in a statement on Thursday, using the Arabic word for the purported religious schools.

Those facilities are often funded by Saudi Arabia.

The ministry added that other facilities and properties belonging to different militant groups had been taken control of in the crackdown, which began this week. Those facilities include 34 schools or colleges, 163 dispensaries, 184 ambulances, five hospitals, and eight offices of banned organizations.

Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies also arrested 121 people, according to the ministry.

On Tuesday, Pakistani security forces arrested dozens of militants in what was described as a crackdown against “proscribed organizations” following last month’s bombing attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The younger brother of the leader of a militant group — which claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on an Indian security forces convoy in Kashmir on February 14 — was among the detainees.

Pakistani officials said the crackdown was part of a long-planned drive and not a response to Indian anger over what New Delhi calls Islamabad’s failure to rein in militant groups operating on Pakistani soil.

The terrorist attack in Kashmir left at least 40 troops dead, sparking tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors and spurring tit-for-tat cross-border raids. The tensions reached a peak last Tuesday, when India said it had conducted “preemptive” airstrikes against what it described as a militant training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot.

Islamabad confirmed and condemned the violation of its airspace but denied that the purported target had been hit.

Days later, the Pakistani military captured an Indian pilot after shooting down his MiG-21 fighter jet, which Islamabad said had violated Pakistani airspace.

The flare-up between the two arch-foes appeared to be easing after Pakistan handed back Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, whose return was meant to be a goodwill gesture toward India.

But the tensions continued.

In a separate development on Thursday, a grenade explosion at a bus station in Jammu City — the Hindu-majority region of Kashmir — killed one person and wounded at least 29 others.

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