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Pakistan's interior ministry has asked the election commission not to register a newly-floated political party backed by Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed, citing security agencies' report that such groups would "breed violence and extremism in politics". Saeed-led Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), a front for the Lashkar- e-Taiba militant group that carried out the deadly 2008 Mumbai attack, last month launched the Milli Muslim League (MML). The party, on September 18, said that it will foray into Pakistan's political scene by contesting the 2018 general elections. The MML applied for registration with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which is mandatory for any party to contest elections. The ECP sought opinion of the Ministry of Interior about the MML, which is apparently a facade to promote the message of Saeed who is currently kept in detention by Pakistan. A ministry official said that after consultation with various security agencies, the ECP was informed that the MML was not fully independent from the JUD and Saeed, and "it should not be registered as a political party". Meanwhile, the Nation newspaper in a report on September 27 quoted a letter by the Ministry of Interior to the ECP, asking the election authority not to register the MML. "There is evidence to substantiate that the Lashkar-e- Tayaba (LeT), the JuD and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) are affiliates and ideologically of the same hue and the registration of the MML is not supported," the letter said. The ministry in the letter, quoting an official correspondence of the ECP, said that MML President Saifullah Khalid has claimed that Saeed and he were ideologically affiliated with each other's organisations. The ministry informed the ECP that the LeT had been proscribed since January 14, 2002, in Pakistan whereas the JuD and the FIF had been placed under "restrictions" since January 27, 2017, under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
The restrictions now have been extended up to January 26, 2018."They have also attracted sanctions under the United Nations Security Council Resolution No 1267 and have been dealt accordingly," the letter said. The ministry said it took up the MML issue with security agencies. "The reply of one agency is awaited, while the other agency has intimated that indulgence of proscribed/under observation organisation in the political process with an aim to win legitimacy is a serious issue, thereby neutralising the gains of the National Action Plan (NAP)," the letter said. "Given the clamour, philosophy, outreach and modus operandi to operate, it is difficult to believe that the MML will tread its own path, completely at variance with its mother organisation," the ministry said while quoting the security agency. The security agency recommended that "since the registration of such groups would breed violence and extremism in politics, their registration as an apolitical party should be avoided". The ministry also informed the ECP that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has also highlighted Pakistan's international obligations and commitment to the NAP and recommended that the Ministry of Interior should take up the matter of the registration and activities of the MML and its association with proscribed organisations with the ECP to avoid any negative consequences for Pakistan. The MoFA has recommended that the MML's application should not be supported for registration. The Nation also reported that the Foreign Office told the interior ministry that the recent political activities of the group had also been officially objected at the diplomatic level. The MoFA also reminded that the JuD and the FIF were proscribed organisations under the UN Security Council Act 1948. The paper also reported that MML Secretary Information Tabish Qayyum strongly challenged the letter of the ministry and called it "unconstitutional, unlawful and unethical", claiming that there was no law to register a political party. He said that the MML was a political party under Article 17 of the Constitution and Political Parties Order 2002. "The party has already made it clear that it had no relations of any kind with any banned organisation, and is not involved in any unlawful activity," the report said. He said that no proof against the MML leadership had been provided to the ECP along with the so-called letter. Despite legal issues faced by the MML, it supported a candidate in the elections held in Lahore on September 17. The candidate performed well and polled more than 7,000 votes. The JuD formed Milli Muslim League at the time when Saeed was detained in Lahore. Saeed and his four aides - Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Hussain - were placed under house arrest in Lahore on January 30 under the anti- terrorism act. The JuD has been declared as a foreign terrorist organisation by the United States in June 2014. Saeed carries a USD 10 million American bounty on his head for his role in terror activities.
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