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Published On: Fri, Sep 29th, 2017

Pakistan opposes registration of Hafiz party

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2016_10$largeimg01_Saturday_2016_121338498ISLAMABAD : Pakistan’s Interior Ministry has asked the country’s elections overseeing body to ban from politics a new party backed by Islamist Hafiz Saeed, who carries a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head for alleged involvement in 2008 terror attacks in India. Haroon Shinwari, a spokesman at the Election Commission of Pakistan, said on September 29 that they will assess the status of Milli Muslim League party next month.
The MML party is headed by Saifullah Khalid, a friend of Saeed, who is the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group. India accuses Saeed of links to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 160 people, and he has been designated a terrorist by the U.S. government. Saeed is currently under house arrest in Lahore.
Pakistan’s interior ministry has asked the Election Commission not to register the new political party formed by Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawah as intelligence reports have suggested such a move would breed violence in politics, according to a Pakistani media report.

The Milli Muslim League (MML), which was formed by the JuD after Saeed was put under house arrest early this year, has applied to the Election Commission for registration. Its leaders have also unveiled plans to contest next year’s general election.

After being approached by the Election Commission, the interior ministry took up the matter with security agencies, the Business Recorder daily reported. It cited a letter from the ministry which said one security agency believed the “indulgence of proscribed/under-observation organisations in the political process with an aim to win legitimacy is a serious issue, besides neutralising the gains of National Action Plan (NAP)”.
The NAP is a counter-terror strategy framed by the Pakistan government after terrorists killed nearly 150 people, most of them children, during an attack on an army-run school in Peshawar in 2014. The JuD has not been banned by Pakistani authorities but it is on a “watch list” maintained by the interior ministry. The group has been banned by the US and UN Security Council for its role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The interior ministry’s letter further said that given the philosophy, outreach and modus operandi of the MML, it is difficult to believe that the party “will tread its own path, completely at variance with its mother organization”.
The ministry recommended that the registration of such groups should be avoided as the step “would breed violence and extremism” in politics. The letter further said the foreign ministry too had noted that JuD and its front organization, Fala-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF), had been proscribed by UN Security Council, while the Financial Task Force (FATF) had been repeatedly informed of action being taken by Pakistan against these groups.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also highlighted our international obligations and commitment to NAP and recommended that the Ministry of Interior should take up the matter of registration and activities of the MML and its association with proscribed organisations with the ECP to avoid negative consequences for Pakistan and therefore recommended that MML’s application for registration should not be supported for registration,” the report quoted the letter as saying.

The interior ministry’s letter also noted that other countries had objected through diplomatic channels to the MML’s political activities. It cited another letter from the Election Commission which stated that MML president Saifullah Khan had claimed Hafiz Saeed and the MML are “ideologically affiliated”. “There is evidence to substantiate that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), JuD and FiF are affiliated and are ideologically of the same hue,” the letter said.

The MML recently backed an independent candidate in bye-polls to a parliamentary seat in Lahore that became vacant when the Supreme Court disqualified former premier Nawaz Sharif. Though the candidate lost, he bagged more votes that the candidates of the Pakistan People’s Party and the Jamaat-e-Islami.

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