US may slap terrorist designation on MML, other Pakistan based groups

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WASHINGTON: The United States could add Milli Muslim League and some other Pakistan based groups to a list of organizations that use terrorism to promote their agenda, diplomatic sources told Dawn. The Indian media reported earlier on Thursday that the Donald Trump administration had accepted India’s request to label more Pakistani militant groups as globally designated terrorists.

RAWALPINDI: Milli Muslim League leader Saifullah Khalid and his colleagues announces their future plan at a press conference.

The request was made at the first India-US conference on designation of terror masterminds and organisations held in New Delhi on Dec 18-19. When Dawn contacted the State Department for comment on the reports that the United States could add more Pakistan-based groupsto itslist of terrorist outfits, an official said: “While Pakistan is an important partner for achieving US priorities in the region, this administration has also set clear expectations for Pakistan to take decisive action against terrorist and militant groups that operate from Pakistani soil.”
The official did not identify the groups that Washington wanted Pakistan to go after, but diplomatic observers in the US capital see it against the backdrop of a recent statement criticising Islamabad for allowing Hafiz Saeed to continue his political activities.
On Tuesday, State Department’s spokesperson Heather Nauert reminded Pakistan that Hafiz Saeed was a US-designated terrorist with a $10 million reward for information leading to his arrest and if he ran for election in 2018, it would certainly be a cause of concern for Washington. Official sources in Washington had also expressed similar concerns after the Lahore by-election earlier this year, in which Hafiz Saeed’s group backed a new party called Milli Muslim League.
The group received more votes than both the Pakistan Peoples Party and Jamaat-i-Islami combined. Recent media reports suggest that Hafiz Saeed may also participate in the 2018 general elections. Interior ministry Pakistan 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 apprehensionsthat 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. 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.
MML office Notwithstanding the opposition by the interior ministry to entry of offshoots of proscribed entities into the national political arena, Jamaatud Dawa Emir Hafiz Muhammad Saeed opened an office of a subsidiary of the JuD in Lahore. He inaugurated an office of the Milli Muslim League (MML), the political face of the JuD. People welcomed Hafiz Saeed by showering rose petals on his vehicle in Kasurpura, Chaudhry Park and Outfall Road.