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Pakistan: The Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP), including its activities and status (January 2003 - July 2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Ottawa
Publication Date 26 July 2005
Citation / Document Symbol PAK100060.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Pakistan: The Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP), including its activities and status (January 2003 - July 2005), 26 July 2005, PAK100060.E, available at: [accessed 1 December 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Formerly known as the Anjuman-e-Sipah-e-Sahaba ( 1 June 2005), the Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP), also known as the Army of the Friends of the Prophet (CDI 9 July 2004) or Guardians of the Friends of the Prophet (AP 27 Jan. 2003), is a "radical" (BBC 7 Oct. 2003a), "sectarian" group (CDI 9 July 2004; FAS 1 May 2003) with "strongholds" in the central province of Punjab (including towns such as Sargodha, Bahawalpur, Jhang, Multan and Muzaffargarh), and in the city of Karachi (CDI 9 July 2004; BBC 7 Oct. 2003a).

The Sunni cleric Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi founded what became the SSP in the early 1980s in an attempt to deter the increasing influence of the Iranian Shia revolution in Pakistan (ibid.). Jhangvi was assassinated in 1990, at which time Maulana Azam Tariq became the new leader of the SSP (ibid.). Tariq continued to be the leader of the SSP until his death on 6 October 2003, at the hands of gunmen who fired bullets into the vehicle he was travelling in with four others (ibid. 6 Oct. 2003; Times 7 Oct. 2003; AFP 30 Jan. 2005). On 15 November 2003, Allama Sajid Naqvi, a Shiite Muslim and leader of Tehreek-i-Islami Pakistan, was arrested in Rawalpindi in connection with the murder of Tariq (Windsor Star 17 Nov. 2003; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 17 Nov. 2003; Gulf News 18 Nov. 2003). No information about the status of the case against Naqvi could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

In October 2004, Dawn identified Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, Ali Sher Haideri and Khadim Dhiloon as among the "top leaders" of the SSP (8 Oct. 2004b). In July 2005, Dawn again identified Maulana Ali Sher Hyderi [Haideri] as a leader of the SSP (21 July 2005). Additional information on the leadership of the SSP could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

The SSP has also operated as a political party that has held seats in the Pakistan National Assembly (CDI 9 July 2004). The Herald reported that the SSP is an "umbrella" political group that supports the Jaish-e-Mohammad ("Army of Mohammad") as its "jihadi" branch and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi as its "domestic militant" branch (Feb. 2002, 35; see also 1 June 2005; UPI 4 Mar. 2004; CDI 9 July 2004)., an online, New Delhi-based independent magazine that is focused on South Asian geopolitics, identified Lashkar-e-Jhangvi as "a member of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People" (1 June 2005). However, in February 2003, Tariq denied any link with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, claiming that "'[s]ome members of Sipah-e-Sahaba opposed our peaceful struggle for the enforcement of Islamic laws, and formed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in 1996'," while emphasizing that "'Sipah-e-Sahaba has nothing to do with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi'" (The News 2 Feb. 2003; see also CDI 9 July 2004).

The Center for Defense Information (CDI) reported that the SSP also has "close links" with Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which is "a terrorist organization active in Jammu and Kashmir" and based in Pakistan (9 July 2004).

In its April 2005 report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) stated that "[m]any leading activists [of the SSP] began their political careers in anti-Ahmadi organisations" (18 Apr. 2005, 9). According to the ICG, Ahmadis are Pakistan's "most repressed religious community" who were designated non-Muslims through a 1974 Constitutional amendment (18 Apr. 2005, 4-5). Earlier reports indicate that "[m]any Taliban leaders received instruction in extremism at religious schools in Pakistan run by the SSP" (Knight Ridder 21 Jan. 2002; see also AFP 7 Oct. 2003). As at October 2003, the SSP was still operating "hundreds of seminaries and religious schools mostly in poverty-ridden parts of the Punjab" (ibid.). Moreover, the Associated Press (AP) reported in January 2003 that the SSP "backed Afghanistan's radical Islamic Taliban militia" (27 Jan. 2003). Agence France Presse (AFP) reported that in October 2003, Tariq "publicly showed his sympathy for Afghanistan's former hardline Islamic Taliban regime" (7 Oct. 2003).

The SSP follows the Deobandi stream of Sunni Islam, is "[v]iolently anti-Shi'a" (FAS 1 May 2003; ICG 18 Apr. 2005, 3) and wants Pakistan to be officially declared a Sunni Muslim state (Terrorism Knowledge Base June 2005; CDI 9 July 2004; BBC 7 Oct. 2003a; AFP 7 Oct. 2003). The ICG reported in April 2005 that the SSP is Pakistan's first anti-Shiite militant group (18 Apr. 2005, 3). According to CDI, the SSP

aims to restore the Khilafat (Caliphate) system, while protecting Sunnis and their Shariat (Islamic laws). SSP members declare that Shias are non-Muslims and must be violently converted or suppressed.... The organization boasts 500 offices and branches in all 34 districts of Punjab. It also has approximately 100,000 registered workers in Pakistan and 17 branches in foreign countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Canada and the United Kingdom (9 July 2004).

Reports have described the SSP as a violent group (AFP 18 Nov. 2003a) that is "responsible for most [of the] anti-Shia acts of terror" in Pakistan (ICG 18 Apr. 2005, 3). The violence, which is taking place "in retaliation for the political and religious assertiveness of the Shias of Pakistan following the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979" ( 1 June 2005), has led to numerous reports of the murder of Shiite militants and ordinary Shiite citizens (ICG 18 Apr. 2005, 24; Terrorism Knowledge Base June 2005; CDI 9 July 2004; The News 8 May 2005; ibid. 8 Mar. 2004; Dawn 21 May 2005; ibid. 8 Oct. 2004a; ibid. 8 Oct. 2004b; AFP 7 Oct. 2004; ibid. 7 Oct. 2003; Times 7 Oct. 2003; BBC 15 Apr. 2005; ibid. 7 Oct. 2003b; AP 10 Oct. 2003; Xinhua 19 Nov. 2003).

Activities of the SSP have ranged from "organizing political rallies calling for Shi'as to be declared non-Muslims [and] assassinating prominent Shi'a leaders" (FAS 1 May 2003; see also UPI 4 Mar. 2004) to the "indiscriminate" killing of Shiites, including attacks on Shiite mosques (Terrorism Knowledge Base June 2005; see also CDI 9 July 2004). The SSP has consistently maintained that, despite accusations to the contrary, it has not been involved in violence (BBC 7 Oct. 2003b; see also Terrorism Knowledge Base June 2005) and that it is a "legitimate political group" (ibid.; see also CDI 9 July 2004). The Research Directorate was able to find only a few reports that refer to political activities carried out by the SSP (Gulf News 25 Apr. 2004; Dawn 8 Oct. 2004b; ibid. 19 Aug. 2004).

The Research Directorate also found two reports that refer to attacks carried out against members, leaders and activists of the SSP (ibid. 8 Oct. 2004b; The News 16 Sept. 2004).

On 14 August 2001, the Pakistani government banned several groups considered responsible for sectarian violence and placed the SSP under its watch (Dawn 12 Jan. 2002; The Nation 19 Nov. 2003). For five months following the government's decision there was no significant reduction in the level of sectarian violence in the country, and, as a result, President Pervez Musharraf banned the SSP on 12 January 2002 (CDI 9 July 2004; Dawn 12 Jan. 2002; The Herald Sept. 2003). In April 2005, the United States listed the SSP as a "terrorist organization" (US Federal News 27 Apr. 2005).

In April 2003, Tariq re-established the SSP under a new name, Millat-e-Islamia (AFP 30 Jan. 2005; CDI 9 July 2004; The Herald Sept. 2003; The News 19 Nov. 2003; Dawn 20 Nov. 2003; PPI 18 Nov. 2003; AFP 18 Nov. 2003b; Times 7 Oct. 2003). Despite the January 2002 ban, the SSP continued to "draw huge amounts of money from its foreign patrons" under its new name (The Herald Sept. 2003).

In November 2003, the Millat-e-Islamia, along with two other groups, was officially banned by the government (AFP 18 Nov. 2003a; PPI 18 Nov. 2003; The Nation 19 Nov. 2003; Xinhua 19 Nov. 2003; The News 19 Nov. 2003) under the 1997 Anti-Terrorist Act (Dawn 20 Nov. 2003).

In July 2005, the government launched a country-wide crackdown against militants (ibid. 21 July 2005). Many SSP members, including SSP leader Maulana Ali Sher Hyderi, were arrested (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 30 January 2005. "Two Sunnis Killed in Sectarian Attack in Southern Pakistan." (Dialog)
_____. 7 October 2004. "More on at Least 33 People Killed, More than 70 Injured in Pakistan Bombings." (Dialog)
_____. 18 November 2003a. "AFP: Pakistan's Religious Parties Reject Government Ban on Renamed Militant Groups." (FBIS-NES-2003-1118 19 Nov. 2003/WNC)
_____. 18 November 2003b. "AFP: Pakistan Closes Over 130 Militant Offices in New Anti-Extremist Drive." (FBIS-NES-2003-1118 19 Nov. 2003/WNC)
_____. 7 October 2003. Rana Jawad. "Assassinated Sunni Muslim Hardliner Had Many Foes." (Dialog)

Associated Press (AP). 10 October 2003. Khalid Tanveer. "Security Tight Across Pakistan, Authorities Keep Wary Eye on Potential Violence." (Dialog)
_____. 27 January 2003. "Pakistani Islamic Militant Group Challenges Government Ban." (Dialog)

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 15 April 2005. "Pakistan Shrine Bomb – Men Held." [Accessed 21 July 2005]
_____. 7 October 2003a. "Pakistan's Militant Islamic Groups." [Accessed 26 Nov. 2003]
_____. 7 October 2003b. "Pakistan Riots after Militant Killed." [Accessed 26 Nov. 2003]
_____. 6 October 2003. "Pakistani Sunni Militant Killed." [Accessed 26 Nov. 2003]

Center for Defense Information (CDI). 9 July 2004. "In the Spotlight: Sipah-I-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP)." [Accessed 20 July 2005]

Dawn [Karachi]. 21 July 2005. "Hunt Intensified; 200 Held: Prominent SSP Leader Arrested in Khairpur." [Accessed 21 July 2005]
_____. 21 May 2005. "Karachi: Judgment in Mosque Blast Cases on 28th." [Accessed 21 July 2005]
_____. 8 October 2004a. "Vehari: 15 TJP, SSP Men Held in Mailsi." [Accessed 21 July 2005]
_____. 8 October 2004b. "Massive Car Bomb Blast Kills 39 in Multan." [Accessed 21 July 2005]
_____. 19 August 2004. "Gujranwala: Five 'SSP Activists' Arrested." [Accessed 21 July 2005]
_____. 20 November 2003. "US Welcomes Crackdown." [Accessed 26 Nov. 2003]
_____. 12 January 2002. "Text of President Musharraf's Address to the Nation." [Accessed 26 Nov. 2003]

Federation of American Scientists (FAS). 1 May 2003. "Sipah-I-Sahaba/Pakistan (SSP)." Para States – Scope Note. [Accessed 26 Nov. 2003]

Gulf News [Dubai]. 25 April 2004. "Banned Party Decides to Boycott By-election in Jhang." (Dialog)
_____. 18 November 2003. Abdullah Iqbal. "More Groups Face Ban as Massive Crackdown Starts." (Dialog)

The Herald [Karachi]. September 2003. Mubashir Zaidi. "Back to the Drawing Board." [Accessed 26 Nov. 2003]
_____. February 2002. Azmat Abbas. "Tightening the Noose."

International Crisis Group (ICG). 18 April 2005. Asia Report No. 95. The State of Sectarianism in Pakistan. [Accessed 20 July 2005]

Knight Ridder [Washington]. 21 January 2002. Michael Dorgan. "Pakistan's Future May Depend on Ability to Quash Religious Militants." (NEXIS)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 17 November 2003. "Terror/Iraq Briefing: Shiite Leader Held in Killing." (Dialog)

The Nation [Islamabad]. 19 November 2003. Husain Haqqani. "Pakistan: Author Insists Ban on Militant Outfits Imposed Under Foreign Pressure." (FBIS-NES-2003-1119 20 Nov. 2003/WNC)

The News [Islamabad]. 8 May 2005. "Pakistan: Police Arrest 'Alleged Terrorist' Involved in Religious Terrorism." (WNC)
_____. 16 September 2004. "Pakistan: Police Arrest 2 Sectarian Terrorists Involved in Killing 20 Persons." (Dialog)
_____. 8 March 2004. "Police Detain 30 in Connection with 2 Mar Attack on Shiite Mourners in Quetta." (FBIS-NES-2004-0308 9 Mar. 2004/WNC)
_____. 19 November 2003. "Pakistan: MMA Leader Terms Ban on Renamed Militant Outfits Attempt to Please US." (FBIS-NES-2003-1119 20 Nov. 2003/WNC)
_____. 2 February 2003. "Pakistan: Sipah-i-Sahaba Chief Denies Link with Lashkar-i-Jhangvi." (FBIS-NES-2003-0202 3 Feb. 2002/WNC) 1 June 2005. "The Ghosts of Gilgit." (Dialog)

Pakistan Press International (PPI). 18 November 2003. "Terrorism (UK Welcomers Crackdown Against Religious Outfits)." (Dialog)

Terrorism Knowledge Base. June 2005. "Sipah-e-Sahaba/Pakistan (SSP)." [Accessed 20 July 2005]

Times [London]. 7 October 2003. Zahid Hussain. "Pakistan MP Shot Dead as Extremists Take Their Revenge." (Dialog)

United Press International (UPI). 4 March 2004. "U.S.: Terrorist al-Zarqawi Busy in Iraq." (Dialog)

US Federal News. 27 April 2005. "State Department Identifies 40 Foreign Terrorist Organizations." (Dialog)

Windsor Star. 17 November 2003. "World Report: Pakistan: Crackdown in Pakistan Nets Shiite Muslim Leader." (Dialog)

Xinhua News Agency. 19 November 2003. Rong Shoujun. "Xinhua 'Roundup': Pakistan Cracks Down on Renamed 'Extremist Groups.'" (FBIS-CHI-2003-1119 20 Nov. 2003/WNC)

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Asian Affairs, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004, European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Freedom in the World 2004, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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