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Pakistan's banned militant outfit Jamaat-ud-Dawa's move of launching a political party is "ludicrous" as it has been designated a terrorist group both by the UN and the US, a top American expert has said. Saifullah Khalid, closely linked to chief of Jamaat-ud- Dawa (JuD) and Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafeez Saeed, announced the formation of 'Milli Muslim League' in Islamabad on August 7 following weeks of campaign in Punjab's provincial capital Lahore. Khalid said the new party will strive to make Pakistan a "real Islamic state" and demanded the immediate release of Saeed, who is under "house arrest" since January. "How can a designated terrorist group register itself as a political party and declare ambition to contest in Pakistan's 2018 national election?" asked Alyssa Ayres, who served in the State Department during the Obama Administration. "The idea that a UN and US-designated terrorist group long under international sanctions could suddenly march over to the Election Commission of Pakistan and morph into a political party is ludicrous," said Ayres, who is now Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at Council on Foreign Relations, a top American think-tank. In 2012, the US had issued a USD 10 million reward for information leading to thearrest of Saeed, the "suspected mastermind"of the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008 for which not one single accused has been brought to justice in Pakistan, she wrote in her latest op-ed. "The Pakistani government cannot expect that anyone will believe claims that it is sufficiently countering terrorism in their country if terrorists under well-known, longstanding international sanctions not only escape justice but shift out of the shadows to the political arena," Ayres wrote. The State Department refused to comment on the formation of the political party which will formally be launched on August 14. "We have seen the reports on this and would refer you to the Government of Pakistan for more information," a State Department spokesperson told PTI when asked about it. Ayres said the formation of a political party by a terrorist organisation and globally designated terrorist poses a serious question on Pakistan's effort to fight terrorism. "A national security advisor, a secretary of defence, and a deputy assistant to the president with a clear-eyed view of the threat terrorists in Pakistan pose to US interests - you would think officials and generals in Pakistan might take greater, more credible action against terrorists given the high-level concern from senior Washington policymakers," Ayres wrote. The JuD is believed to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group behind the 2008 deadly attacks in Mumbai in which 166 people were killed by 10 terrorists who came from Pakistan.
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