ISLAMABAD - The federal government is pondering over banning Haqqani Network, the militant group having power base in North Waziristan, which is being believed as the significant development in the ongoing efforts of the government to fight terrorism after the December 16 terrorism incident in Peshawar.

The development is also being seen in the aftermath of the recent visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry who had urged Pakistan to take strict action against the militant groups that threaten the security of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“We are receiving a number of reports from different federal as well as provincial law-enforcement and intelligence agencies about the presence of different militant organisations operating in the country with the suggestion that these should also be banned,” an official of the Ministry of Interior said and added they had received a fresh report on the Haqqani Network’s activities. The final decision would to be taken by the government and a debate was going on within the government circles, he said.

Neither the Ministry of Interior nor National Counterterrorism Authority (Nacta) gave their versions on the issue. Nacta National Coordinator Hamid Ali Khan was twice contacted for his comments on the issue, but he did not respond.

However, a security analyst, wishing not to be named, said it was not a hard decision for the government as well as the military establishment. “Most of the militants of Haqqani Network have shifted to Afghanistan and have also transferred their network of operations there,” he said. On the other side, a government functionary said the decision would have far-reaching effects on the efforts of the country to counter terrorism while rising above the policy of good and bad Taliban.

Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) Executive Director Muhammad Amir Rana said the actual issue was not of the banning of militant organisations, but of monitoring their activities after placing these in the list of proscribed organisations. There are 72 proscribed organisations on the list of Ministry of Interior of which 62 were banned by the federal government while 10 are facing sanctions under the resolution of the UN Security Council.

The federal government has not banned any organisation after the December 16 incident of attack on Army Public School in Peshawar, but has written to the provinces to review the list of all banned organisations operating in their respective areas and point out new ones operating under new names.

The United States declared the Haqqani Network as a terrorist organisation in September 2012. Later, the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee added the group to a UN blacklist. Afghan warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani is the founder of the network that has been blamed for a number attacks on the US installations in Afghanistan. In June last year, the Pakistan Army launched a military operation in the troubled North Waziristan region which is considered to be the power base of the Haqqani group. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior Friday decided to conduct a special audit of around $ 230 million given by the US as aid to fight terrorism to civilian government and non-government organisations (NGOs).

The ministry has sought the details of the funding given to the provinces, NGOs and other government institutions during the last six years. “The interior minister took the decision after he came to know that the funding received from the US did not match the amount spent on counterterrorism,” an official of the Ministry of Interior said.

According to a source, the last PPP regime would come under the scanner as a result of the audit when PPP lawmaker Rehman Malik was the interior minister. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has also conveyed this decision to US Secretary of State John Kerry during his recent visit, the source added.

Reuters adds: Pakistan has outlawed the Taliban-linked Haqqani Network, officials said on Friday days after US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government to fight the groups that threaten Afghan, Indian and US interests.

American officials blame high-profile attacks in Afghanistan on the powerful Haqqani Network which mainly operates out of Pakistan’s border areas and say it has ties with the Pakistani state. Senior Pakistan government officials told Reuters a formal announcement of the ban would be made within weeks.

“We have decided to ban the Haqqani Network as a step in implementing the National Action Plan devised after the Peshawar school attack,” said a cabinet member, referring to the massacre of 134 children by Taliban gunmen last month. “The military and the government are on the same page on how to tackle militancy. There are no more good or bad Taliban. “Kerry specifically pressed for action against the Haqqanis, including banning the group,” the official added.

A minister who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed the decision to outlaw the Haqqani group. The United States accuses the Pakistani intelligence agency of supporting the Haqqani militants and using them as a proxy in Afghanistan to gain leverage there against the growing influence of India. Pakistan denies this.

A formal announcement of the ban would show the government is keen to convince the United States it will no longer differentiate between good and bad militants.