ISLAMABAD: The Elec­tion Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday turned down the plea of the newly-formed Milli Muslim League (MML) for registration as a national political party because of its alleged links with banned militant outfits.

The decision was announ­ced by a four-member ECP bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza after hearing arguments from the MML’s lawyer Raja Abdul Rehman.

The ECP has taken the decision on the basis of a letter from the Ministry of Interior (MoI), which had asked the commission to ban the MML for having ties with banned militant outfits.

When the counsel objected to the ECP’s move to write a letter to the federal government on the MML’s application, the CEC advised him to get the party’s name cleared from the interior ministry, if it wanted to be recognised as a party.

The MML’s counsel, on the other hand, asked under which law the party should consult the interior ministry when it had fulfilled the set criteria of the ECP for a party’s registration. He also claimed that no party office-bearer had link with any banned organisation.

The lawyer argued that the ECP was not bound to contact the federal government for enlistment of a party.

“The interior ministry’s letter mentions that the MML is backed by banned terrorist outfits,” the CEC replied. He said the commission on its own had no mechanism to ascertain facts about any political party. The commission had written the letter to the Ministry of Interior only after seeing reports in the media about alleged links of the party with banned militant groups.

During the course of arguments, the MML’s counsel also objected to the language used in the letter of the interior ministry. He said the letter contained no evidence about the MML’s links with banned outfits.

Later, MML information secretary Tabish Qayyum, through a statement, announced that they would challenge the ECP’s decision in the high court, alleging that the commission had “acted beyond its authority”.

“Instead of deciding the case on merit, the ECP has acted on government’s dictation. We will challenge this biased decision in the high court along with the letter issued by the interior ministry,” he said. The interior ministry, through a letter last month, had opposed the enlistment of the MML as a party as it is believed to be a front for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba headed by Hafiz Saeed.

“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 (to counter terrorism). In view of the above, the registration of the MML is not supported,” the ministry had said in response to the ECP’s letter sent to it on Aug 24.

The interior ministry had stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had also told it that Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-lnsaniyat Foundation (FIF) were banned organisations under the Pakistan Security Council Act, 1948.

“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 the MML and its association with proscribed organisations with the ECP to avoid any negative consequences for Pakistan and, therefore, recommended that the MML’s application for registration should not be supported”, the interior ministry told the ECP.

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

The ECP in reaction only said that the MML was not a political party enlisted with it.

The documents submitted with the ECP show Saifullah Khalid as the president of the party, who had admitted his ideological links with the JuD while addressing a press conference.

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

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2017

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