Pak­istan min­istry seeks ban on new party

The Jakarta Post - - WORLD - Asif Shahzad

Pak­istan’s in­te­rior min­istry has called for the elec­toral com­mis­sion to bar from pol­i­tics a new party backed by an Is­lamist with a US$10 mil­lion United States bounty on his head, a gov­ern­ment doc­u­ment seen by Reuters showed on Thurs­day.

In a let­ter dated Sept. 22, the min­istry rec­om­mended that the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of Pak­istan re­ject the newly formed Milli Mus­lim League’s (MML) ap­pli­ca­tion to be­come an of­fi­cial party as it is “af­fil­i­ated” with Lashkar-eTayyeba (LeT), a mil­i­tant group blamed for the 2008 Mum­bai at­tacks that killed 166 peo­ple.

“The reg­is­tra­tion of MML is not sup­ported,” the min­istry said in the two-page doc­u­ment.

Spokes­men for the elec­tion com­mis­sion and the in­te­rior min­istry ac­knowl­edged the cor­re­spon­dence and con­firmed that the let­ter was au­then­tic.

The United States has des­ig­nated LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, who cur­rently heads the Ja­maatud-Dawa Is­lamic char­ity, a ter­ror­ist. It views him as the master­mind of the 2008 Mum­bai at­tacks and has of­fered a $10 mil­lion re­ward for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to his im­pris­on­ment.

Saeed is cur­rently un­der house ar­rest. Pak­istan’s re­luc­tance to press charges against him has been a sore point in re­la­tions with Wash­ing­ton and In­dia over the past decade.

The min­istry said MML is “ide­o­log­i­cally of the same hue” as LeT and its af­fil­i­ated char­i­ties Ja­maat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-In­sanyat Foun­da­tion (FIF).

Tabish Qayyum, a spokesman for the MML, said in a state­ment that the min­istry’s let­ter was un­law­ful.

“MML isn’t a bus or truck which needs reg­is­tra­tion,” he said, deny­ing that MML had links with any banned mil­i­tant group.

The min­istry’s stance ap­pears at odds with what po­lit­i­cal sources and a re­tired army gen­eral have said is a plan pro­posed by the mil­i­tary’s In­ter Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence (ISI) to ‘main­stream’ some Pak­istan-based anti-In­dian mil­i­tant groups as part of de­rad­i­cal­iza­tion ef­forts by bring­ing them into pol­i­tics.

The in­te­rior min­istry’s let­ter was writ­ten a week af­ter MML caused a stir by win­ning 5 per­cent of votes in a par­lia­men­tary by­elec­tion in La­hore on Sept. 17.

The doc­u­ment said for­eign coun­tries have raised diplo­matic ob­jec­tions to MML’s ex­is­tence and the in­te­rior min­istry has sought the opin­ions of in­tel­li­gence agen­cies on the group.

One of the agen­cies, the min­istry said, has warned against let­ting pro­scribed and mon­i­tored or­ga­ni­za­tions en­ter pol­i­tics with a view to gain­ing le­git­i­macy.

The in­te­rior min­istry said the se­cu­rity agency has in­formed it that “given the clam­our, phi­los­o­phy, out­reach and modus operandi to op­er­ate, it is dif­fi­cult to be­lieve that MML will tread its own path com­pletely at vari­ance with its mother or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

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