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The Election Commission of Pakistan's recent refusal to recognize the Muslim Milli League (MML), the new political party started by the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the social welfare arm of the militant Lashkar-e-Taiba, has revealed that Pakistan isn't ready to terrorist organizations contest polls.
The election commission has also warned independent candidates not to use the MML's s name in campaigns.
According to Stephen Tankel, the author of "Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba," and an Assistant Professor at American University, "It would be naïve to think that the election commission's decision is a harbinger of a shift in terms of Pakistan's policy of supporting and tolerating militant groups."
In an opinion piece for the New York Times (NYT), Tankel says he believes that the men who lead these proscribed (militant) organizations under different names will find some way to "continue contesting elections as independent candidates."
It is a well known fact that Pakistan is home to many Islamist terrorist groups and that some enjoy a permissive environment despite being banned by the state technically, and this has enabled them to acquire political power.
Tankel reveals that in his conversations with people in Pakistan politics, he has been told that terrorist leaders are often used to turn out voters for a politician, and encouraging such men to get into politics is seen as being a better option than seeing them remain involved in terrorism.
"If the (election) commission had recognized the Muslim Milli League, that would have in effect allowed a terrorist organization to contest elections. It could have opened the door for other militant groups in Pakistan - and several militant groups were already gearing up to establish their own political parties.
Pakistan still differentiates between Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is banned, and Jamaat ud Dawa, which is not. In reality, they remain two sides of a single organization, led by the same individuals. The military and the intelligence service still support the group. It remains their most reliable terrorist ally against India, sends fighters to Afghanistan, and has helped to combat separatists in Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan.
Apart from militancy, this group is also dedicated to proselytizing and pursuing non-violent reformism intended to turn Pakistan into a "pure" Islamic state.
Recasting their organization as a political party could have provided LeT and JuD founder Hafiz Saeed and other leaders with more influence over how the state deals with their group. It also would have given them greater freedom to operate, especially when it comes to raising money.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)