Pakistan stops Hafiz Saeed-backed group from forming political party

Pakistan’s election commission has barred from contesting elections a political party that is backed by Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed.

Saeed carries a $10 million US bounty on his head and is accused by India of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks .

Haroon Khan, a spokesman for the commission, said a four-man panel rejected the registration of Milli Muslim League (MML) as an official political party.

According to Pakistani media, Muhammad Raza Khan, chief of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), told MML’s lawyer at the final hearing of the registration that the new party has links with “terrorist” groups and as such “we can’t enlist you.”

The Ministry of Interior, in a letter, had asked the ECP to ban the newly-formed political party, arguing that it had ties to banned militant outfits, Dawn newspaper reported.

While hearing the MML lawyer’s arguments on the matter, the ECP chief election commissioner repeatedly suggested that the party should clear its name with the interior ministry.

The MML’s counsel, on the other hand, questioned under which law the party should consult the interior ministry when it had fulfilled the set criteria of the ECP for any political party’s registration.

“The interior ministry’s letter mentions that the MML is backed by banned terrorist outfits,” the ECP chief commissioner pointed out.

“The real terrorists are those who question the finality of prophethood,” the MML lawyer replied.

In September, the interior ministry had asked the ECP to ban the MML, claiming that the party is backed by Hafiz Saeed, who carries a $10 million US bounty on his head for his alleged involvement in the 2008 terrorist attacks in India.

According to Dawn, the move was seen as a bid to prevent “extremists from entering mainstream politics ahead of next year’s elections.”

At the time, the ECP spokesperson had said that the ministry had informed the commission that the MML was linked to the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group, which was formed by Hafiz Saeed.

(Image:  Milli Muslim League unveils its party flag)

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