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ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Interior has termed the Milli Muslim League (MML) an offshoot of proscribed entities and subsequently opposed its registration as a political party with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The ministry formed its opinion on the basis of a security agency’s report which expressed apprehensions that the registration of MML as a political party “would breed violence and extremism in politics.”

The ministry in its written reply submitted to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on a petition filed by MML seeking its registration with the ECP requested the court not to consider MML’s plea and dismiss the petition accordingly.

In September this year, MML-backed candidate Yaqoob Sheikh secured 5,822 votes and stood fourth in a by-election in Lahore’s National Assembly constituency NA-120.

The by-election was held after the disqualification of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court.

Ministry calls MML offshoot of LeT, JuD

According to the interior ministry’s reply, MML is the offshoot of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), organisations which India has alleged were involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack and the 2001 attack on Indian parliament.

The reply stated: “ECP referred the matter to Ministry of Interior to seek clarification of the position of MML with regard to Section 3(4) of Political Parties Order (PPO) 2002.”

As per the PPO, organisations which act in the manner prejudicial to fundamental rights, undermine the integrity of Pakistan, promote sectarian, regional or provincial hatred, bear a name as a militant group and impart any military or paramilitary training to its members, do not qualify for registration as political party.

The reply said: “After receipt of the matter from ECP, interior ministry processed the case as per procedure and requested the security agencies for report in the matter.”

It said a security agency opined that “it is difficult to believe that MML will tread its own path, completely at variance with its mother (LeT and JuD) organisations,” adding that, therefore, the agency “recommended that since registration of such groups would breed violence and extremism in politics, such groups be avoided”.

Moreover, the interior ministry cited the response of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs against the MML’s registration in view of international obligations.

As per the reply, the LeT, JuD and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) are facing UN sanctions, therefore, the interior ministry “furnished comments to the ECP that the registration of MML, an offshoot of the same network of JuD/FIF (which apparent in MML as well), was not supported”.

MML challenged the ECP’s order of Oct 11 that had declined its registration as a political party due to the alleged interference of interior ministry.

The petition maintained that non-registration of the MML was violation of administrative fairness, constitutional and statutory obligations and fundamental rights.

According to the petition, the ECP order is also violation of PPO 2002. The petitioner said time and again it had clarified that none of its members belonged to any proscribed or banned organisation. “All office-bearers of the party are educated and there exist not even a fictitious FIR against them.”

The petition contended that there were almost 352 political parties registered with the ECP which neither fulfil criteria for a political party nor was there democracy in these parties.

A number of parties were formed on regional, religious, sectarian, linguistic, tribal basis and were person-driven and devoid of democratic values, it added.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2017