Pakistan, August 11, 2017: A Pakistani 'charity' organization, designated by the United States as a front for armed terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has launched a political party in Pakistan, the announcement for which was made on August 7, 2017 at a news conference held at National Press Club. In an interesting shift, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa decided to enter mainstream Pakistan politics from a new platform 'Milli Muslim League' (MML) to make Pakistan a "real Islamic and welfare State".
The parent organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa has been listed as a terrorist organization by the US State Department for over a decade, with its founder-leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed currently under house arrest for the last six months. The US has also placed a $10m reward since 2012 for any information leading to conviction for his alleged role as the leader of LeT.
Important Announcements by the JuD
MML President Saifullah Khalid said at the conference that Pakistan has been corrupted by those who're misusing the power to serve their own interest thus reiterating the need to revive the idea of making Pakistan an "Islamic welfare state". He further claimed that those in power "want to put this country on the path to liberalism and secularism" because if linked interests with the Western world, as reported by Dawn, Pakistan's oldest and most widely read English newspaper.
Saifullah further announced in the conference that the newly formed MML will have no direct links with the JuD and its leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed as they were only ideologically affiliated with each other because of their common interest of the betterment of the country.
"Once he is released, we will seek his guidance and ask what role he wants", he said as reported by VOA.
According to media reports, the MML logo and flag was also revealed to the media IN the conference, who were also told that the Election Commission of Pakistan has been requested for its registration.
Dawn also reported that the MML president stressed upon the importance of women in political positions of the country. Saifullah emphasized that the role of women in societies cannot be ignored as they constitute about 50% of the population.
JuD's Past Association With Terrorist Organizations
While Jamaat-uḍ-Dawa proclaims itself as a charity and humanitarian organization without any established links to terrorists, it is widely considered a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, founded by Hafiz Saeed. Saeed is also allegedly the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks (26/11) when terrorists disrupted the functioning of Mumbai city and the country in fact, by coordinated bomb and gun attacks for 4 days killing 166 people, including several international citizens.
While Saeed's role in the party is yet to be announced, it will be headed by Saifullah Khalid, who is an old member of JuD central leadership himself. This raises concerns of allowing terror elements access into national politics.
It is being believed that Party chief Khalid and the MML will closely work with the JuD with the support of their thousands of volunteers and maintain coordination with JuD and all other like-minded organizations.
JuD's Alleged Shift from a Terrorist to a Moderate Political Organization
Notwithstanding its formal listing as a 'terrorist organization' by the United States, the United Nations and Pakistan itself, the Jamaat-uḍ-Dawa (JuD) aims to enter mainstream politics. Claiming to be a moderate political force, the new Milli Muslim League will be led by Saifullah Khalid.
Analysts and experts on South Asian affairs suspect the intentions and promises of JuD because if their obvious ties to militant groups. The new MML is also suspected to be a tool to mask future immoral activities and an attempt to operate and control the root of all national administration through politics.
Michael Kugelman, a South Asia analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington questions whether JuD or its associates in Lashkar-e-Taiba would cut ties with militant groups. "It is highly unlikely that Hafiz Saeed will sever ties (with militant groups) that have helped sustain his popularity in recent years" he said, as reported by VOA. He further sees the move as an attempt by Saeed to gain legitimacy for his views and ideas by working as a political figure from within the system.
Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa during talks with the Associated Press in Islamabad, Pakistan in 2012, who is currently under house arrest. VOA
LeT and its Threat to US and Allies
Calling itself an Army of the Pure and Righteous, Lashkar-e-Taiba, or LeT, is one of the largest anti-India militant groups in Pakistan and has conducted several operations against Indian troops and civilians in Kashmir, and high-profile arracks inside India like the 26/11 terror attacks.
US State Department officials believe the LeT changed its name to Jamaat-ud-Dawa to evade sanctions, as reported by VOA.
According to a US Treasury report published last year, LeT and other associated militant groups continue to pose direct threat to US interests and allies in the region, and continue to fund their functioning from proceeds from illegal activities.
In such a situation, a move to allow leaders with terrorist ties to the political chamber can exhibit increased hostility.
Reactions Over JuD'S Alleged Political Bend
Hassan Askari, a Pakistan-based security analyst said, "If they enter mainstream politics, they will have to change their political style", as reported by VOA. However, it is still a question as to what extent they will change their attitudes, ideas and ideology that continues to hover over all minds.
While some Pakistani politicians maintain that banned and disputed organizations should not be allowed to exercise a political role in Pakistan, Saeed Nazir, a retired brigadier who is now working for Institute of Policy Studies in Islamabad hopes for a positive change. "If they are now abandoning militancy, establishing a political party, entering mainstream politics, presenting a soft image, and becoming accountable, that is positive", he told VOA.
Bushra Gohar, a former Pakistani lawmaker holds strong opinions about allowing Hafiz Saeed and his banned theorist organization into Pakistan's politics. "This is a grave violation of the National Action Plan and the country's commitment to peace" she said, as reported by VOA.
She believes the MML will use "a political platform as a cover for its terror activities and networks" further adding that this can only have negative repercussions for the Pakistani political economy.
Previously, Pakistani opposition political parties has expressed outrage when Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi had won a legislative seat in Punjab province (Pakistan).
Jhangvi is the son of slain founder of Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi which is also in the US and Pakistani terrorists' lists.
Kugelman of Washington's Wilson Centre told VOA that "the bottom line is" that in a country like Pakistan, "it is always possible for a terrorist mastermind to establish a political party." (VOA)
NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.