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JuD makes its presence felt: by Zulqernain Tahir in Dawn, Sept 18, 2017

LAHORE: Azhar Ali of Mohni Road on Sunday was a little surprised over Jamaatud Dawa-backed candidate’s polling camp matching the PML-N and PTI’s in terms of size and presence of activists.

“I have been actively participating in election activities for the last two decades or so from the platform of PML-N. During the period, PML-N, PPP, Jamaat-i-Islami and recently PTI set up camps in almost all polling stations of a constituency. But this time, not just me, but almost everyone saw a strong presence of JuD men on election day which is a little surprising for us,” said Ali, who was all praise for his leadership for giving him a job 18 years ago.

JuD-backed Sheikh Yaqoob contested as an independent candidate. He wanted to contest from the platform of Milli Muslim League – the new political face of JuD – launched just before the NA-120 by-poll, but the Election Commission of Pakistan has not registered it as a political party yet.

A visit to the constituency by Dawn showed that several polling stations of mainstream parties such as PPP and JI wore a deserted look, but the JuD camps were buzzing – a sight never witnessed in past elections. However, voters were hardly seen heading to its camps.

Workers of the JuD and its charity wing Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation appeared enthusiastic, hoping their candidate would put up an impressive show laying a strong foundation for Hafiz Saeed’s party for the 2018 general elections.

“We are here to stay in the political field. The response we got during the campaign for Mr Yaqoob is promising. People want a party that talks about making Pakistan strong against its enemies and at the same time help them in solving their basic livelihood problems,” Abdul Wajid of JuD told Dawn on Mohni Road.

Though he admitted that most of their vote bank in 2013 and before had supported the PML-N candidates across the country, but now since they had launched their own political party, they would field candidates in most constituencies.

A young JuD activist Zaid bin Abbas at the Mozang polling camp took credit for distributing free food in the area which he said other parties usually never did in a constituency.

“We are known for our social work, especially in Balochistan. We also provided free medical facility through our mobile dispensaries in NA-120 giving a choice to the people that they can look up to someone else other than the conventional political parties,” Abbas said.

Azhar Ali said he and other locals listened to the “ideology” of JuD activists patiently but did not promise to give vote to its candidate.https://www.dawn.com/news/1358437/jud-makes-its-presence-felt

September 18, 2017   No Comments

He’s on Wanted Posters in U.S., and Campaign Posters in Pakistan

By MEHREEN ZAHRA-MALIK in New York Times online, Sept 16, 2017
LAHORE, Pakistan — For years, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, one of the most-wanted militant leaders in South Asia, has lived in the open in Pakistan despite a $10 million American bounty on his head. He has mocked efforts by the United States to capture him and led large public gatherings in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city.

Now he is trying something even more brazen: In recent weeks, he has become the face of a new political party campaigning to win the seat of a former prime minister in the National Assembly.

Last month, the Islamist charity that Mr. Saeed founded — Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which is widely accused of being a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group that waged the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks and is on the United Nations list of global terrorist groups — announced that it was starting the Milli Muslim League political party.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has forbidden the display of Mr. Saeed’s picture on election posters, but despite these clear orders, the constituency in Lahore is covered with posters showing Mr. Saeed, his visage side by side with the official candidate, Muhammad Yaqoob Sheikh, a senior Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader.

Mr. Saeed, who is under house arrest, cannot run for the seat himself nor can he attend campaign events in person. Mr. Sheikh was placed in 2012 on a United States Treasury sanctions list of those designated as leaders of terrorist organizations.

A large restaurant on Lakshmi Chowk, a boulevard named after the Hindu goddess of fortune, has been converted into the party’s headquarters, where dozens of volunteers were unfolding banners and posters on a recent visit.

One group went over voter lists in preparation for a door-to-door awareness drive, while more than two dozen young men prepared for a motorcycle campaign through the narrow alleys and congested roads of Lahore’s Old City. In a social media office, volunteers edited campaign videos to be released online.

Naveed Qamar, the party’s campaign manager, said a women’s wing made up of relatives of senior Jamaat leaders was going door to door, and the party had set up around 150 small offices and stalls across the election district.

“People have emptied their homes and offered them to us as offices,” Mr. Qamar said. “One supporter paid for all the banners. Another gave us his printing press.”

He made no attempt to hide the party’s anti-India leaning or what he called its “ideological affinity” with Lashkar-e-Taiba, adding the party had the “full support and blessing” of Mr. Saeed.

“From the deepest recesses of his heart, no Pakistani wants friendship with India,” Mr. Qamar said. “In that way, we are with Lashkar-e-Taiba.”

The party, which says its goal is to unite Pakistan’s Muslims across all ethnicities and languages, is not yet formally registered with the election commission, because it submitted its documents only in August, so Mr. Sheikh is running run as an independent candidate in the special election being held on Sunday to fill the seat that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was forced to vacate over corruption charges in July.

“But that does not mean we are not a reality,” Mr. Qamar said. “We have launched our party, and our campaigning is going on in full swing.”

The campaign is seen as largely symbolic, and the party is not expected to win the seat.

In January, the Pakistani government put Mr. Saeed under house arrest to keep him from collecting funds for his charity in violation of United Nations resolutions. Pakistan also included the charity on an interior ministry watch list, though it did not ban it.

Against the backdrop of Mr. Saeed’s arrest, many see the Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s bold foray into politics as an attempt to gain legitimacy at a time when Pakistan’s government is being forced to act against it amid pressure from the United States and groups like the Financial Action Task Force, which tracks terrorism financing.

“It’s clear that the Milli Muslim League is meant to legitimize or camouflage Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s actions and avert international sanctions,” said Muhammad Amir Rana, an expert on jihadist groups who runs the Pak Institute for Peace Studies in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital.

A closed-door meeting organized by the institute in March, and attended by high-profile leaders of groups banned in Pakistan, discussed the “reintegration and rehabilitation” of those willing to renounce violence, Mr. Rana said. One of those in attendance was Mr. Saeed’s brother, Hafiz Masood, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa spokesman.

After that meeting, the institute recommended that the government set up a parliamentary body to assess the activities of groups willing to shun violence, and that it review the criteria for banning organizations. “But the state doesn’t seem to have a real plan to mainstream these groups,” Mr. Rana said.

For decades, Pakistan has cast a benign eye on groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba — which is perceived as an asset because its attacks target Indian soldiers in disputed Kashmir — even as the government battles entities like the Pakistani Taliban that directly threaten the country.

“The fact that the state, to this point, has not stood in the way of this political party’s formation gives the lie to the idea that Pakistan’s powers-that-be are engaged in a full-court blitz against terror and extremism of all stripes,” said Michael Kugelman, the deputy director for Asia at the Wilson Center, a research institute in Washington.

Neither Pakistan’s interior ministry, which oversees counterterrorism operations, nor the military’s media wing, responded to phone calls seeking comment.

Pakistan’s all-powerful military openly controls the country’s foreign policy and internal security, and its spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, is widely considered to have helped establish the Lashkar militant group in 1989 to counter India.

The Pakistani government and military deny any link to that group. But officials have publicly rebuffed pressure by the United States and India to charge Mr. Saeed in the Mumbai attacks, arguing that there is not enough evidence to prosecute him.

Mr. Rana said he did not think the state was behind the new party. “Some people in the security establishment might be putting their weight behind this party,” he said. “But I don’t see this as part of a concerted push by the state.”

The dispute over Pakistan’s allowing Lashkar-e-Taiba’s ideology to persist under yet another name, and how far Islamabad will go to get rid of jihadists, has damaged relations between Pakistan and the United States in the past. And the announcement of the new party could further strain ties at a time when President Trump has laid out a South Asia strategy that includes new steps to pressure Pakistan to shut down militant sanctuaries.

“For Washington, the question is and will continue to be why the Pakistani state isn’t stopping a political party tied to Lashkar-e-Taiba from being formed, particularly in light of President Trump’s recent harsh words about Pakistan,” Mr. Kugelman said.

Foreign policy aside, analysts said Pakistan was hurting itself the most by allowing extremist groups to have political wings and to introduce more radical elements into mainstream society.

“Hafiz Saeed’s ability to damage Indian interests has declined sharply in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attack,” said Siddharth Varadarajan, an Indian journalist who covers Pakistan-based Islamist groups. “But the Pakistani establishment’s failure to recognize the threat he poses to the people of the country poses a danger to Pakistan itself.”

September 18, 2017   No Comments

Pak Army proposed plan to mainstream militant groups: Lt Gen Amjad Shuaib (retd)

Reuters report in The Nation online, Sept 16, 2017 at 8:47 am
A new Pakistani political party controlled by an Islamist with a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head is backing a candidate in a by-election on Sunday, in what a former senior army officer says is a key step in a military-proposed plan to mainstream militant groups.

The Milli Muslim League party loyal to Hafiz Saeed – who the United States and India accuse of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people – has little chance of seeing its favored candidate win the seat vacated when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was removed from office by the Supreme Court in July.

But the foray into politics by Saeed’s Islamist charity is following a blueprint that Sharif himself rejected when the military proposed it last year, retired Lieutenant General Amjad Shuaib told Reuters.

Three close Sharif confidants with knowledge of the discussions confirmed that Sharif had opposed the “mainstreaming” plan, which senior military figures and some analysts see as a way of steering ultra-religious groups away from violent jihad.

“We have to separate those elements who are peaceful from the elements who are picking up weapons,” Shuaib said.

Pakistan’s powerful military has long been accused of fostering militant groups as proxy fighters opposing neighboring arch-enemy India, a charge the army denies.

“PATRIOTIC PEOPLE”

Saeed’s religious charity launched the Milli Muslim League party within two weeks after the court ousted Sharif over corruption allegations.

Yaqoob Sheikh, the Lahore candidate for Milli Muslim League, is standing as an independent after the Electoral Commission said the party was not yet legally registered.

But Saeed’s lieutenants, JUD workers and Milli Muslim League officials are running his campaign and portraits of Saeed adorn every poster promoting Sheikh.

Another Islamist designated a terrorist by the United States, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, has told Reuters he too plans to soon form his own party to advocate strict Islamic law.

“God willing, we will come into the mainstream – our country right now needs patriotic people,” Khalil said, vowing to turn Pakistan into a state government by strict Islamic law.

Saeed’s charity and Khalil’s Ansar ul-Umma organization are both seen by the United States as fronts for militant groups the army has been accused of sponsoring. The military denies any policy of encouraging radical groups.

Both Islamist groups deny their political ambitions were engineered by the military. The official army spokesman was not available for comment after queries were sent to the press wing.

Still, hundreds of MML supporters, waving posters of Saeed and demanding his release from house arrest, chanted “Long live Hafiz Saeed! Long live the Pakistan army!” at political rallies during the past week.

“Anyone who is India’s friend is a traitor, a traitor,” went another campaign slogan, a reference to Sharif’s attempts to improve relations with long-time foe India that was a source of tension with the military.

‘DERADICALISATION’ PLAN

Both Saeed and Khalil are proponents of a strict interpretation of Islam and have a history of supporting violence – each man was reportedly a signatory to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa declaring war on the United States.

They have since established religious groups that they say are unconnected to violence, though the United States maintains those groups are fronts for funnelling money and fighters to militants targeting India.

Analyst Khaled Ahmed, who has researched Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity and its connections to the military, says the new political party is clearly an attempt by the generals to pursue an alternative to dismantling its militant proxies.

“One thing is the army wants these guys to survive,” Ahmed said. “The other thing is that they want to also balance the politicians who are more and more inclined to normalize relations with India.”

The military’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency first began pushing the political mainstreaming plan in April 2016, according to retired general Shuaib, a former director of the army’s military intelligence wing that is separate from the ISI.

He said the proposal was shared with him in writing by the then-ISI chief, adding that he himself had spoken with Khalil as well as Saeed in an unofficial capacity about the plan.

“Fazlur Rehman Khalil was very positive. Hafiz Saeed was very positive,” Shuaib said. “My conversation with them was just to confirm those things which I had been told by the ISI and other people.”

Saeed has been under house arrest since January at his house in the eastern city of Lahore. The United States has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his conviction over the Mumbai attacks.

Then-Prime Minister Sharif, however, was strongly against the military’s mainstreaming plan, according to Shuaib and three members of Sharif’s inner circle, including one who was in some of the tense meetings over the issue.

Sharif wanted to completely dismantle groups like JuD. Disagreement on what to do about anti-India proxy fighters was a major source of rancour with the military, according to one of the close Sharif confidants.

In recent weeks several senior figures from the ruling PML-N party have publicly implied that elements of the military – which has run Pakistan for almost half its modern history and previously ousted Sharif in a 1999 coup – had a hand in the court ouster of Sharif, a charge both the army and the court reject.

A representative of the PML-N, which last month replaced him as prime minister with close ally Shahid Khaqi Abbasi, said the party was “not aware” of any mainstreaming plan being brought to the table.

RELIGION AND POLITICS
Some analysts worry that mainstreaming such controversial groups would be a risky strategy for Pakistan.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has threatened sanctions against members of Pakistan’s military and even raised the specter of declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism.

“It will send a wrong message,” said analyst Zahid Hussain, who nevertheless thought that Saeed’s new party would have a “negligible” effect on Pakistani elections because religious parties have never won more than a few seats in parliament.

Others are not so sure.

Sheikh, the MML candidate in Sunday’s by-election who says he was handpicked by Hafiz Saeed, vowed to establish strict Islamic rule and “break” liberalism and secularism.

Analyst Ahmed warned that few existing religious parties have a charismatic leader like Saeed, and Pakistan may find itself unable to control a rising tide of Islamist sentiment.

“If Hafiz Saeed comes into the mainstream, it’s not that he is going to be politicized,” he added. “It’s that he is going to make politics more religious.”
http://nation.com.pk/national/16-Sep-2017/pakistan-military-proposed-plan-to-mainstream-militant-groups-lt-gen-amjad-shuaib-retd

September 16, 2017   No Comments

Punjab home secy directed to decide detained JuD leaders representation

report in The News, Sept 8, 2017
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Thursday directed the Punjab home secretary to decide by Sept 11 a representation of Jamatud Dawa (Jud) chief Hafiz Saeed and its four other leaders against their detention. Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi passed the order on a writ petition of the JuD leaders challenging their detention orders issued on July 28, 2017, under Section 1 of Section 3 of Maintenance of Public Order, 1960, for a period of next 60 days.

Advocate AK Dogar appeared on behalf of the petitioners and stated that there was no evidence whatsoever that the petitioners were planning to spread chaos in the country or that they had planned violent demonstrations. He said the government in the impugned detention orders had only shown apprehension against the petitioners. However, he said, under the law no presumption and assumption could give rise to any apprehension unless it was supported by some piece of evidence. The counsel argued that an order of preventive detention had to satisfy the requirements laid down by the Supreme Court in its many judgments, but in the instant case blatant violation of laws had been committed by the government. He said imprisonment without trial and conviction was prima facie unlawful and unconstitutional.

Advocate Dogar also alleged that the government detained the petitioners to please India and America only as different courts of the country in the past had already declared detention of JuD leaders illegal after government failed to prove its charges. He told the court that a departmental representation against the detention was filed before the home secretary on Aug 3 but no action had been taken so far. He asked the court to set aside the impugned detention orders for being issued without lawful authority and of no legal effect.

A law officer told the court that the home secretary was set to hear the petitioners’ representation on Sept 11. At this, Justice Naqvi adjourned the hearing of the writ petition till Sept 12, directing the home secretary to decide the representation of the petitioners on the given date. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/228546-Punjab-home-secy-directed-to-decide-detained-JuD-leaders-representation

September 8, 2017   No Comments

ECP refuses to recognise JuD’s political front

by Iftikhar A. Khan | Zulqernain Tahir in Dawn, September 8th, 2017
ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday refused to recognise the Milli Muslim League (MML) — a political front of the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) — as a legitimate political party and warned electoral candidates not to use the party’s name in election campaigns.

In Lahore, the returning officer (RO) for the by-poll in NA-120 restrained Sheikh Mohammad Yaqoob from displaying photos of the proscribed organisation’s leaders on his campaign banners. A spokesperson for the ECP clarified that Mr Yaqoob, who was contesting the by-poll as an independent candidate, had been allotted the symbol of an energy saver. He said action would be taken under the ECP’s code of conduct if Mr Yaqoob failed to comply with the returning officer’s directives.

The JuD had launched the MML last month. While several countries, including the US and India, consider JuD a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba — the militant group accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks — the JuD denies links to violence.

In fact, the organisation enjoys considerable popularity, especially for its charity work under the banner of Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF). The JuD has not been designated a terrorist organisation in Pakistan but has been on its terror watch-list for several years.

The United States has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of JuD’s founding chief Hafiz Saeed. The government had placed him under house arrest earlier this year.

The ECP had taken notice of the JuD chief’s pictures and the insignia of the MML displayed on the banners used in Mr Yaqoob’s election campaign in NA-120.

RO Mohammad Shahid issued a show-cause notice to the candidate for this, terming it a violation of the code of conduct set by the ECP. He directed Mr Yaqoob to comply with the code of conduct or face proceedings.

During his campaign in the constituency, Mr Yaqoob’s supporters were seen wearing vests bearing the MML’s insignia. Mr Yaqoob had also reportedly distributed sacrificial meat among the ‘poor’ residents of the constituency during Eidul Azha holidays.

“JuD’s sister organisation FIF was also providing free medical service in the constituency but the police had cracked down on its camps,” a JuD official told Dawn.

Growing trend: The ECP’s warning comes at a time when several proscribed outfits are planning to launch political fronts ahead of the general elections scheduled next year.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, founder of the Kashmiri militant outfit Harkatul Mujahideen (HuM), is set to launch a political party under the name Islah-e-Watan Party.

Khalil, a Rawalpindi-based cleric, had been tagged by the US State Department as a “specially designated global terrorist” on Sept 30, 2014. He had co-founded the Harakatul Jihadul Islami in 1980, and was reportedly a signatory to Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa that had called for an international front against the West. He stepped down as chief of the HuM in February 2000.

Pakistani authorities arrested him in May 2004 for allegedly helping transport Pakistani militants into Afghanistan. However, he was released after six months due to lack of evidence. He then founded the Ansarul Ummah, but the outfit was disbanded after some years.

Last year, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ)-backed independent candidate Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi had routed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz candidate Azad Nasir Ansari in the PP-78 by-election in Jhang.

Although there were 25 candidates contesting the election, a close contest was expected between Ahmad Ludhianvi of the ASWJ and Ansari. The ASWJ chief eventually withdrew from the by-election, paving the way for a victory for Jhangvi.

Outlawed ASWJ chief Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi had not only contested the poll for a National Assembly seat from Jhang but had been declared a successful candidate by an election tribunal in a controversial decision which had de-seated Sheikh Mohammad Akram of the PML-N.

He had contested elections from the platform of the Pakistan Rahe Haq Party, which is registered with the ECP.

Many observers believe that there is no mechanism to officially communicate the names of banned outfits and individuals associated with them. This allows leaders of such outfits to get their parties enlisted with the ECP with different names in order to contest elections.https://www.dawn.com/news/1356284/ecp-refuses-to-recognise-juds-political-front

September 8, 2017   No Comments

JuD leaders challenge detention: Report in Dawn, August 31st, 2017

LAHORE: Jamatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed and its four other leaders have challenged in the Lahore High Court the last orders for their detention issued by the Punjab government.

A writ petition filed through Advocate AK Dogar states that the Home Department issued the impugned orders on July 28 last under section 1 of section 3 of Maintenance of Public Order, 1960 detaining the petitioners for a period of next 60 days.

The petition states that a representation against the detention was submitted to the home secretary on Aug 3 but no action has been taken so far. It pleads that there is no evidence whatsoever that the petitioners are planning to spread chaos in the country or that they have planned violent demonstrations.

It says the government in the impugned detention orders has only shown apprehension against the petitioners. However, it pleads, under the law no presumption and assumption can give rise to any apprehension unless it is supported by some piece of evidence.

It argues that an order of preventive detention has to satisfy the requirements laid down by the Supreme Court in many judgments but in the instant case, blatant violation of laws has been committed by the government.

The petition pleads that imprisonment without trial and conviction is prima facie unlawful and unconstitutional. It further states the government detained the petitioners to please India and America. Courts in past declared detention of JuD leaders illegal as the government failed to prove its charges, it says and requests the court to set aside the detention orders for being issued without lawful authority.

The other petitioners are Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Hussain.

In response to previous petitions by the JuD leaders, the government had taken a stance before the court that no violation of law was made in issuance of the detention orders against the petitioners.

The government said JuD and its allied organisation (Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation) had been kept under observation on the basis of a report sent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And in the light of that report, the government had reasons to believe that JuD and FIF were engaged in certain activities which could be prejudicial to peace and security and in violation of Pakistan’s obligation to the United Nations Security Council resolution, it said. https://www.dawn.com/news/1355004/jud-leaders-challenge-detention

August 31, 2017   No Comments

Why JuD opts for electoral politics?: op-ed in The News, Aug 16, 2017

by Mazhar Abbas
It was not an easy decision for someone like Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, chief of Jamaat Ud Dawa (JuD), to enter into mainstream electoral politics and launch its political wing with the name of Milli Muslim League (MML).

It has already shown its presence in NA-120, and decided to oppose PML-N candidate Kulsoom Nawaz, but also decided to distance itself from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which it considers as a ‘liberal’ party.

Interestingly, the JuD sources said the MML opposition to Kulsoom Nawaz is not because she is a woman but because they are against the PML-N politics and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. “We have lot of respect for Mrs Nawaz and we are not opposing her but the PML-N,” party source said.

The MML held its first corner meeting in NA-120 constituency, which was also attended by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leaders. The JI announced support for the JuD likeminded independent candidate, but sources hinted at the possible alliance between the MML and the JI.

While Hafiz Saeed himself is under house arrest, the MML political and organisational structure is different from the JuD, and in the coming months and years, its politics may not reflect JuD’s basic philosophy, though they may continue to demand his release and support Kashmiris struggle.

But, how different will be the MML from the JuD would be interesting to watch whether its just an addition to the JuD political and ideological structure or a new political narrative in the making to bring all the extremists religious and political forces into mainstream electoral politics.

It will also become clear in the coming months whether this is clear shift from the politics of the past i.e. 80s, or just a makeshift arrangement. Pakistan is already fighting a gallant war against terrorism in which over 80,000 people had given their lives including over 20,000 jawans and officers.

In 2013, Hafiz Saeed had rejected a proposal for electoral politics and kept his party away from elections. What happened in the last four years which changed his ideological approach and made him launch the Milli Muslim League as JuD’s political wing with Prof Saifullah Khalid as its chief.

Not much has been discussed in the media on this significant development in view of the changing political situation after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified and politics revolve around his four days rally and aftermath, but it will have its impact on future politics.

It is a welcome sign for religious parties like Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and Jamaat-e-Islami, which had been in mainstream electoral politics for decades. The JI in particular did not get much electoral success while the JUI-F, because of its past political character in which it had even shared government with secular parties, it got better results. Huge presence of the JUI-led madrasas also helped them in getting electorate support.

Sources said about 10/15 days back, the JUI leader and Senate Deputy Chairman Maulana Ghafoor Haidri met the JuD leadership for joining the mainstream politics and for revival of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).

The MML, which will not act as the political wing of the JuD, has not yet been registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan. However, it has submitted an application along with its flag and manifesto, which call for a true democracy in the country. It has also submitted that its executive and chief had been elected.

The JuD has now asked all its supporters and workers to work for the MML and are moving in a fast pace as reflected from its first public meeting in the NA-120, where it has decided to vote for an independent candidate, Sheikh Yaqub, whom the JuD sources claim its man.

The PML-N should take this development seriously, as it is not merely the issue of the NA-120 bye-election but also the next general elections. The PML-N strong vote bank belongs to Kashmiris, while the MML is confident of causing dent to the PML-N.

While the JuD and the MML oppose the PML-N, they are also not inclined towards the PTI, because of its ‘glamorous and liberal’ approach. Thus, there are indications that there will be an understanding between the JI and the MML in NA-120, and the presence of JI’s Secretary General Liaquat Baloch in the MML corner meeting is a hint that there can be a common candidate.

The JuD sources claim some 15,000 to 20,000 votes in NA-120, majority of whom in the past mostly went in favour of the PML-N, particularly the Kashmiri vote. If true, it can hurt the PML-N, Ms Kulsoom Nawaz, particularly in this tense campaign.

It will also be a test for the JuD, whether its workers and supporters have accepted this change. One thing is for sure that if the JuD, which has one of the most organised social network, if manages to convince its voters, it can emerge as a strong player in the religious parties alliance like the MMA or Milli Yakjehti Council. It would not only hurt the PML-N but also the PTI in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. In Sindh, the JUI is fast emerging as a political reality and the JuD also has a work force. But, if the MML supporters decline the electoral support or it fails to produce the desired results, it could also hurt the JuD as well.

Hafiz Saeed, who in the last 25 years, has emerged as a strong voice in Jihad-e-Kashmir, in the aftermath of Afghan Jihad, when he formed Jamaatud Dawa and abandoned Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was banned in 2002 along with some other jihadi outfits.

Hafiz Saeed always distanced himself from electoral politics and though unlike some other hardliner groups never denounced Constitution of 1973, but always opposed the system and supported the change through vote.

Well informed source close to Hafiz Saeed and JuD believe that the change has come in view of the changing international scenario and also due to the efforts of some other religious parties and scholars that change can also come through electoral politics.

There was a time when Hafiz Saeed was among those highly conservative leaders, who even avoided being photographed. The JUD has a strong social network and for the first time it realised the importance of electronic media during 2005 earthquake and changed its approach.

It is certainly a major shift in its politics as in 2013, Maulana Samiul Haq, head of his own faction of the JUI-S, wanted to convert an alliance of religious parties into one party to contest elections under one banner, one name, one programme. But, Hafiz Saeed opposed it, saying that he did not believe in vote and western democracy.

Pakistan’s mainstream religious parties have welcomed the move as they knew that the JuD not only has strong organisation but also a vote bank. Its first test will be in NA-120, where they can play the role of real spoiler, particularly for the PML-N candidate as indicated by one of its leaders while talking to this writer, on condition of anonymity.

In the post-9/11, Pakistan, when dozens of sectarian and Jihadi outfits were banned, some groups decided to enter into electoral politics.

The MML is now a new and perhaps the most significant change in the changing political environment and that too when next general elections are due in 2018, and the strong political force in Punjab, PML-N and its leader, Nawaz Sharif is in trouble.

While it can be interpreted as an effort to bring extremist groups into mainstream politics, how far would it change the national political scenario and narrative would be interesting to watch. It will be quite a challenge.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/223799-Why-JuD-opts-for-electoral-politics

August 16, 2017   No Comments

JuD fields candidate for NA-120 by-poll

Report in Dawn, August 13th, 2017
LAHORE: The Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) has also fielded its candidate for the upcoming by-election of NA-120 under the banner of it’s yet to be registered political party, Milli Muslim League (MML).

As the MML has not been registered as a political party, its candidate, Muhammad Yaqoob Sheikh, filed his nomination papers with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as an independent candidate on Saturday.

“We would fully support Mr Sheikh in the by-poll,” MML President Saifullah Khalid told a press conference held in the Lahore Press Club. He said the process of the MML registration as a political party was under way before the ECP; therefore, its candidate would contest the election independently.

MML spokesman Tabish Qayum said the party would hold its maiden public meeting today (Sunday) at Istanbul Chowk on The Mall. https://www.dawn.com/news/1351262/jud-fields-candidate-for-na-120-by-poll

The political face of JuD: op-ed by Muhammad Amir Rana in Dawn, August 13th, 2017
The writer is a security analyst.
THE Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) has transformed its political wing into a political party, so the latter is not entirely new. Long-established but informal and not involved in electoral politics, the political wing of the under-watch militant group has been reincarnated as a political party, the Milli Muslim League (MML), whose registration with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is under process.

The move comes at a time when the country is heading towards a new election amidst political turbulence. Some political analysts see in it an attempt by certain establishment quarters to unite and launch a far-right political alliance to curtail the growing anti-establishment sentiments in mainstream politics. They believe the establishment is dry-cleaning its assets to launch them as part of that larger electoral alliance, which could include groups and parties that were part of the Difa-i-Pakistan Council. This was formed to campaign for the severing of ties with the US and to reject the government’s decision to grant India the status of Most Favoured Nation.

In a low-key launching ceremony in Islamabad, MML leaders said that the party will have two immediate goals: to defy attempts to repeal Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution; and to protect the ideology of Pakistan. The second goal is apparently set to support the Kashmiri freedom struggle. This is the modus operandi of all far-right parties — to garb their real agendas in ideological objectives with a view to seeking broader national support and outclassing their opponents.

However, security analysts see the move in the context of growing international pressure on Pakistan for not taking enough action against the Security Council’s designated terrorist groups allegedly operating in the country. In particular, the concerns of the Financial Action Task Force, an international watchdog tracking terror financing, have become more serious. The FATF is not happy with the government’s stance vis-à-vis JuD chief Hafiz Saeed and the entities linked to him, especially the Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation, the JuD’s charity wing. FATF’s Asia Pacific group is urging Pakistan to take tough decisions against JuD and its affiliated entities. According to reports, banning the Tehreek-i-Azadi of Jammu Kashmir, one of the many groups set up by Hafiz Saeed, and putting him under protective custody were part of government efforts to avoid sanctions on international financial transactions.

Notwithstanding how analysts interpret the arrival of the MML, hardly anyone sees its establishment as part of Pakistan’s reintegration or de-radicalisation efforts. There is no sign that the government has evolved a de-radicalisation policy framework or that it is interested in bringing banned groups into the mainstream. The MML’s establishment thus appears to be an attempt by a militant group to legitimise its actions and avert international sanctions.

Secondly, the JuD and its charities need some breathing space in the country’s mainstream media, and political and intelligentsia discourses, that are increasingly criticising it. The JuD is not happy with the government’s measures to put a ban on the coverage of its activities. On the other hand, the group continues to project itself as the custodian of Pakistan’s ideological interests as a partner of the security establishment. The establishment, too, is not dispelling this impression.

As far as reintegration is concerned, this is a serious affair and is needed to counter terrorism. The contours of a reintegration plan that could be effective in our context have been discussed many times. To recall, a process of independent consultations with different expert groups recently advocated parliamentary oversight of such a process. The findings propelled the suggestion of a high-powered truth and reconciliation commission to review policies that produced militancy and the mainstreaming of those willing to shun violence. This commission may deliberate on whether or not to identify wrongs committed in the past. Expert groups opposed the idea of a general amnesty for repentant groups, and suggested a proper mechanism to study the behaviour of militant groups to decide on the extent of their reintegration.

One may call the formation of MML forced reintegration. External pressures and the changing internal security dynamics have forced the JuD and its masters to exploit the reintegration policy rhetoric. The MML is a JuD political wing and it would be a unique case in our history if the political wing of a militant organisation were to be registered with the ECP as a political party.

Yet, some are hopeful that through the formation of the MML, the JuD will make its formal entry into democratic electoral politics, which it has thus far deemed haram. There is still plenty of literature being produced by the JuD against democracy and the Constitution — or man-made legislation. A brief background of the party’s anti-democratic ideology and practices can be found in a book Qafila Dawat-o-Jihad, written by Ameer Hamza, a JuD founder. Indeed, the JuD has the same worldview and anti-democratic attitude that are espoused by international terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group. Interestingly, to save their cadres from joining the IS, the JuD has published more than 20 booklets against the latter and its ideology of takfir — declaring some fellow Muslims or Muslim rulers to be outside the pale of Islam. These books also include Urdu translations of writings by Saudi scholars.

Participation in the democratic process may provide an opportunity for JuD leaders to further review their narrow social views and ideology. As far as mainstream politics is concerned, the MML will act as a far-right party and follow a pro-establishment agenda. There was space for such a party that can organise and bring scattered far-right elements under one banner. In the past, the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam provided such services. But with time, both have tended to distance themselves from the establishment. Far-right parties cannot damage the electoral base of mainstream parties but can challenge their views on religious, social and regional issues. Perhaps this is one of the purposes behind the MML’s establishment. https://www.dawn.com/news/1351281/the-political-face-of-jud

August 13, 2017   No Comments

JuD founds party to contest next polls

by Kalbe Ali in Dawn, August 8th, 2017
ISLAMABAD: In an interesting shift, the Jamaat Ud Dawa (JuD) on Monday decided to enter mainstream politics from the platform of a new ‘Milli Muslim League (MML)’ party and vowed to implement the ideology of Pakistan in accordance with the 1973 Constitution and the vision of Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal.

The announcement by the representatives of the MML and JuD, a group which has been kept on a government list of organisations for their suspected militant activities, was made at a news conference held at the National Press Club.

MML president Saifullah Khalid said that politics in Pakistan had been corr­upt­ed by those who came to power to serve their own interests and in order to avoid people’s attention from their politics of minting money other issues such as sectarianism and ethnicity were created.

“Pakistan was established as an ideological state and as per the vision of Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal, which was based on the Quran and Sunnah,” Mr Khalid said, adding “even the 1973 Constitution is based on the rule of the Almighty.”

He said millions of Muslims laid down their lives for the establishment of this country and they did so only because of the aforesaid ideology.

“But look at the situation now. A group of professional politicians have occupied the system,” he said, adding these people bought their way into political parties, engineered the formation of the governments and then got back their capital from the public money by using corrupt practices.

He said there was a need to revive the idea of making this country an ‘Islamic welfare state’.

“Those in power want to put this country on the path of liberalism and secularism…because their interests are linked with the West,” he claimed.

The Constitution, he emphasised, called upon those in power to be ‘sadiq and ameen’ but instead of mending their ways these people were vying to repeal Articles 62 and 63.

The MML chief regretted that Pakistan was facing foreign intervention in almost all spheres of life — only because of a weak and corrupt leadership.

He said the MML had no direct links with the JuD and its leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, saying they were only ideologically affiliated with each other as each had their own role to play for the betterment of the country.

“The whole nation acknowledges the sacrifice rendered by Hafiz Saeed, by not only highlighting the Kashmir cause but also extending welfare activities to all the needy and distressed people,” he said and referred to the welfare work done by the JuD in different parts of the country, including Tharparkar, AJK, Punjab and Sindh.

The MML leader questioned the house arrest of Hafiz Saeed. “Is there any case registered against him in Pakistan or has any court in the country convicted him?”

The answer is a no, he said, “yet, he is under house arrest and that shows the weakness of our governments”.

Saifullah Khalid blamed India and the US for conspiring against Pakistan and said there was a need for political leaders to stand up for the country.

“We are against creation of dynasties in politics — and these leaders who want to bring in their sons or daughters after they relinquish power are vulnerable to external pressures,” he added.

Responding to a question about the JuD’s stated policy of being ideologically against the democratic system, he said: “We are in favour of Islamic emirate orcaliphate, but the current democracy is backed by the 1973 Constitution which is based on Quran and Sunnah,” he added, “Not the kind of democracy that is free of all norms and ethics.”

The MML logo and flag was shown and reporters were told that the Election Commission of Pakistan had been requested for its registration.

Mr Khalid announced that they had already launched the drive to organise their party across the country, and said they were preparing to contest the 2018 general elections and did not rule out the possibility of making alliances with what he called like-minded ideological parties.

The most unexpected announcement by the MML president was the importance of women’s role in politics.

“Women have played an important role, even in wars during the life of the Prophet (PBUH). We cannot ignore the responsibilities of women in society as they constitute around 50 per cent of the population,” he added. https://www.dawn.com/news/1350248/jud-founds-party-to-contest-next-polls

August 8, 2017   No Comments

Pak women fidayeen ready to strike India: Intel

By Rajshekhar Jha in The Times of India, June 16, 2017
New Delhi: Intelligence agencies have received inputs that a group of women fidayeen have infiltrated into the country to execute a “spectacular strike“. The attack could be in the form of a suicide bombing or a lone-wolf strike, they have warned.

These fidayeen belong to Jamat-ud-Dawah (JuD) and erstwhile Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and have been handpicked and trained by Pakistan’s ISI in camps of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. According to the inputs received by agencies, there are at least 7-8 women in this group and half of them are believed to have crossed over in the last one or two months.

Talha Sayeed, son of terrorist Hafiz Sayeed, is the commander of this operation, say sources. Among possible targets are refineries, nuclear reactors, metro trains, artillery stores besides army and paramilitary base camps, religious places and embassies.

The threat perception has been verbally conveyed to antiterror squads of Delhi, Mumbai, Punjab and Bihar and some parts of south India. These operatives could be wearing Western attire and have been trained to honeytrap officials to gain entry into important installations, sources say. The women have been given new identities and contacts of ISI’s sleeper cell members who would help them with logistics. Intercepted conversations have thrown up names like Razia, Sangeeta and Rubi. They also mention names like Muhammed Bhai, Ismail, Asgar and Junai. These men may either be accompanying them or could meet them in India, it is assumed.

The mention of JuD and JeM has puzzled agencies.

JeM has been disbanded and is now called Tehreek-eAzadi Jammu and Kashmir.Both outfits have been known to have women-only cells but they are generally not used as suicide bombers. They are mostly involved in honey-trapping officials on social network to extract confidential information.

The current plot was uncovered when Delhi Police busted an espionage racket in which a lead aircraftman named Ranjith KK was honeytrapped by one Damini McNaught in December 2012, whose social media profile showed she was a resident of UK.However, it was later found that the profile was being operated from near ISI’s base in Peshawar and a base of JuD in Karachi. http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/Article.aspx?eid=31808&articlexml=Pak-women-fidayeen-ready-to-strike-Intel-16062017005033

June 16, 2017   No Comments