Terrorist “charity” launches its own political party
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), is under house arrest for terrorism. For Saifullah Khalid, head of the new Milli Muslim League (MML) party, Saeed is “Pakistan's leader." For UN and US, he is linked to the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, which killed more than 160 people.
Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A Pakistani charity designated by the United Nations as a front for armed group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) launched a new political party, the Milli Muslim League (MML), in a move that could see the anti-India group accused of carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks enter mainstream national politics.
For the United Nations, JuD’s leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is a "terrorist", and the United States has had a US$ 10 million bounty on his head for his alleged role as the leader of LeT armed group.
In January 2017, Saeed was placed under house arrest in Lahore under the country’s anti-terrorism legislation. On 1st August, the authorities extended his arrest for another two months.
At the MML’s formal launch on Monday, party chief Saifullah Khalid was clear that he held Saeed in high regard, although the question of what role he would play in the party remained an unanswered one.
"What role he will play in the Milli Muslim League or in Pakistan's ongoing politics will be seen after Allah ensures his release," he said.
Saeed has repeatedly denied any role in planning the coordinated attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008, which killed more than 160 people.
Contrary to what the United States and other countries have said, Saeed claims that the JuD charity is distinct from LeT and has no connection with it.
The United Nations put LeT on an international sanctions list in 2005 for "participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf or in support of [. . .] supplying, selling or transferring arms and related material to [. . .] or otherwise supporting acts or activities of" al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and the Afghan Taliban.
The Pakistani government has not banned JuD outright, but has it as "under observation" on a list of banned "terrorist organisations".
In 2015, Pakistan's media regulator banned all coverage of the group's humanitarian activities by the country's news media.
Pakistan has listed LeT as a "terrorist organisation" since 2002.
Khalid said that the MML will work in close conjunction with the JuD, which has a network of thousands of volunteers across Pakistan who work mainly in the education and disaster and medical relief sectors.
"We will maintain coordination with Jamaat-ud-Dawa and all other like-minded organisations that hold the ideology of Pakistan . . . we will offer them our cooperation, and accept theirs."