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ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The Milli Muslim League (MML) — a political face of Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaatud Dawa — has failed to get itself registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan as the ECP again dismissed its application on Wednesday.

The decision was taken in the light of observations of the interior ministry that had expressed its reservations due to the party’s links with the leader of banned JuD Hafiz Saeed, said a four-member bench of the ECP in its short order.

While the order came a couple of days after the expiry of the last date for filing of nomination papers for the July 25 general elections, around 200 of its candidates were likely to contest the polls under the banner of Dr Mian Ehsan Bari-led Allah-o-Akbar Tehrik (AAT) that the ECP had already registered, sources in the MML disclosed.

Cites interior ministry’s letter regarding MML’s links with banned JuD

The ECP had earlier too rejected MML’s plea for registration, which was challenged by the latter in the Islamabad High Court. The IHC then directed the ECP to review its decision.

According to the ECP bench, headed by Abdul Ghaffar Soomro, the interior ministry had opposed MML registration as a political party, arguing that it was an offshoot of the banned JuD.

“[The] Ministry of Interior has taken up the issue with security agencies. While reply of [one] 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 neutralizing the gains of National Action Plan (NAP). In view of the above, the registration of MML is not supported,” the ministry stated in a response to ECP’s letter seeking clarifications from it over the issue of MML’s pending application.

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

“The ministry of foreign affairs has also highlighted our international obligations and commitment to NAP and recommended that the interior ministry should take up the matter of MML’s registration, activities 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.”

The letter has also referred to the ECP’s letter dated August 24 mentioning the claims of MML President Saifullah Khalid that the JuD leader Hafiz Saeed is his ideological affiliate. “There is evidence to substantiate that LeT, JuD and FIF are affiliates and are ideologically same. LeT has been proscribed since 14-01-2002, whereas since 27-1-2017 JuD and FIF have been placed under restrictions which were later extended up to 26-1-2018 under Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. They have also attracted sanctions under the UN Security Council Resolution No 1267 and have been dealt accordingly,” the letter added.

ECP sources said the MML, which had applied for registration on Aug 9, in its documents declared Saifullah Khalid as its president, Muzammil Hashmi as vice president, Fayyaz Ahmad as general secretary and Mohammad Haris as joint secretary.

Reaction of MML, JuD

While the MML said the ECP “did not implement clear orders of the IHC” and called the interior ministry’s letter a pack of lies, the JuD decided to move the courts against the decision.

MML spokesperson Tabish Qayyum said officials were using “illegal and unconstitutional ways to please foreign powers.” The government was creating obstacles in the MML’s registration due to Indian pressure, he said. “The Election Commission has also been acting partial by not accepting the orders of courts,” he said.

The spokesman said the MML was a peaceful political party and therefore had the right to continue its political activities. He said the government had not provided any justification for rejecting the party’s application for registration.

JuD spokesman Ahmad Nadeem said the ECP cited the interior ministry’s letter as a reason for denying the registration but it did not share a copy of the letter with the party “because of secrecy”. “So the MML does not even know the basis of denial of its basic human right,” he added.

“The party is already in the IHC, which had originally ordered the ECP to listen to the party’s version, and the ECP started the procedure. The party would now revert back to the court, as clearance from interior ministry was not legally required for party’s registration, he argued.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2018