ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has allotted the election symbol of ‘crane’ to the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

The TLP had forced its way into the red zone in Islamabad to stage a protest against conviction of Mumtaz Qadri, who was sent to the gallows for assassinating then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.

A nominee of the party also contested the NA-120, Lahore, by-election as an independent candidate. His posters and banners bore photographs of Mumtaz Qadri.

In a related development, the interior ministry has opposed the registration of the Milli Muslim League (MML), which is believed to be a front for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, as a political party.

“Ministry of Interior has taken up the issue with security agencies. While reply of [an] agency is awaited, the other agency has intimated that indulgence of proscribed and under observation organisations in political process with an aim to win legitimacy is a serious issue, thereby neutralising the gains of the National Action Plan. In view of the above, the registration of MML is not supported,” the ministry said in response to the ECP’s letter seeking clarifications from it over the issue of MML’s pending application for enlistment as a political party.

The ECP had written a letter to the interior ministry in this regard on Aug 24 and had sent a reminder on Sept 11.

In its response, a copy of which is available with Dawn, the interior ministry has said that the ministry of foreign affairs has recommended to the ministry of interior that Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-lnsaniyat Foundation (FIF) are banned organisations under the Pakistan Security Council Act, 1948. The Financial Action Task Force has been informed repeatedly that these organisations are banned in Pakistan under the 1948 Act.

It says: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also highlighted our international obligations and commitment to the National Action Plan and recommended that the MoI should take up the matter of registration and activities of Milli Muslim League (MML) and its association with proscribed organisations with the ECP to avoid any negative consequences for Pakistan and therefore recommended that MML application for registration should not be supported.”

Moreover, recent political activities of the group have also been officially objected to at the diplomatic level. It also refers to the ECP’s letter dated Aug 24 mentioning the claims of MML president Saifullah Khalid that the leader of Jamaatud Dawa Hafiz Mohammad Saeed is an ideological affiliate.

“There is evidence to substantiate that Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaa­tud Dawa and Falah-i-lnsaniyat are affiliates and are ideologically of the same hue. Lashkar-e-Taiba has been proscribed since 14-01-2002, whereas Jamaatud Dawa and Falah-i-lnsaniyat Foundation are placed under restrictions since 27-1-2017 and later extended up to 26-1-2018 under Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. They have also attracted sanctions under the United Nations Security Council Resolution No 1267 and have been dealt accordingly,” the letter reads.

The issue of MML’s links with banned outfits was highlighted during the recently held by-polls in NA-120 where its nominee contested election as an independent candidate, prominently displaying pictures of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed on his banners and posters.

The ECP in reaction only said that MML was not a political party enlisted with it and that an election symbol had been allotted to an independent candidate.

According to ECP sources, the MML had applied for enlistment on Aug 9. The documents submitted with the ECP show Saifullah Khalid as the president of the party, Muzammil Hashmi as vice president, Fayyaz Ahmad as general secretary and Mohammad Haris as joint secretary.

MML president Khalid had admitted his ideological links with the JuD while recently addressing a press conference.

The United States has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Hafiz Saeed.

The US and India consider JuD to be a mere front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

But the JuD despite being under observation for years has no formal charge against it and denies any link to violence. The organisation is popular in the country for its charitable activities.

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2017

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