Days after declaring himself the greatest supporter of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), former president Pervez Musharraf said that he is open to forming a political alliance with the proscribed Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and its chief, Hafiz Saeed.
"If it is meant to be, it will be," Musharraf said during an appearance on Aaj News for an interview on Sunday.
"There have been no talks yet, but if they want to be included in the alliance, by all means, I will welcome them," Musharraf said, referring to his recently announced 23-party 'grand alliance'.
International powers, including the US and India, consider JuD to be a front for LeT, the militant group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead.
But JuD denies any link to violence, and within Pakistan the organisation enjoys a high degree of popularity for the work of its charitable arm, particularly after natural disasters.
When asked about the possible international repercussions his statements in favour of the proscribed group could have for the country, the former president said, "This is our country [...] we are aware of the internal situation in the country, the people in it and if they are good or bad."
"I spoke about Hafiz Saeed and I will say it proudly that LeT and JuD are both very good organisations of Pakistan," Musharraf added.
"In 2005, I saw that they were the best engineers. They did the best work at the time of the earthquake [in Islamabad]."
"They are not in favour of Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Why are we pushing them to the wall? They have religious followers, youngsters who are religious."
"They are not terrorists and we should tell [this to] America and the world," Musharraf said.
He added that Saeed should be given credit for employing his followers in welfare organisations and preventing them from "taking up weapons and joining the Taliban."
Musharraf's recent comments in favour of LeT and JuD come in the wake of Hafiz Saeed's release from house arrest. USA and India have shared their “deep concerns” with Pakistan over the the release of the JuD chief, who carries a bounty of $10 million announced by Washington for his alleged role in terror activities.