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LeJ militant arrested: Report in The News, Oct 25, 2017

An alleged operative of a banned militant outfit was among 10 people arrested by the Sindh Rangers on Tuesday.

A Rangers spokesman said a member of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), identified as Mohammad Zulfiqar, was arrested in a targeted raid in the Jackson area.

A search operation was also carried out in the same area and two political activists, identified as Syed Muhammad Javiad alias Tarzan and Adnan Shabir alias Manjan, were arrested. Both were said to be affiliated with MQM-London.

The Rangers also apprehended four street criminals – Suleman alias Kako, Muhammad Bilal, Muhammad Kashif and Shahid alias Shikari – who were wanted for bank robberies and muggings in the Saudabad area.

Three drug dealers, identified as Abdaal, Zeeshan and Mohammad Karim, were arrested from Gulbahar, Saudabad and Jackson.http://thenews.com.pk/print/239421-LeJ-militant-arrested

October 25, 2017   No Comments

Interior ministry asks ECP not to register MML

by Zahid Gishkori in The News, Sept 29, 2017
ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has recommended the federal government not to allow proscribed organizations to take part in active politics after getting negative feedback from Pakistani diplomatic missions abroad over participation of the Milli Muslim League (MML) in NA-120 by-polls in Lahore.

The diplomatic reactions received by many Pakistani missions in Middle East, Europe, the UK, the US and Canada led the MoFA to write to Ministry of Interior (MoI) advising to keep an eye on such organizations either proscribed by Pakistan or the United Nations Security Council through its resolutions.

“Recent political activities of the group [Milli Muslim League] have also been officially objected at diplomatic level—Ministry of Foreign Affairs has highlighted our international obligations and commitment to national action plan and recommended that Ministry of Interior should take up the matter of registration and activities of MML and its association with proscribed organizations with the Election Commission of Pakistan to avoid any negative consequences for Pakistan and therefore recommended that MML application for registration should not be supported for registration,” read the content of letter written by the ministry of interior to the ECP.

Officials familiar with this latest development told this correspondent: “The relevant institutions of the state are of the view that elements/personalities identified with the proscribed organizations may not be given a role in politics because it would be inappropriate and will have severe implications for Pakistan in the domestic as well as external context.”

“The Ministry of Interior has taken up the issue with security agencies. The reply of one agency is awaited; while the other agency has intimated that indulgence of proscribed/under observation organization in the political process with an aim to win legitimacy is a serious issue, thereby neutralizing the gains of the National Action Plan. Given the clamour, philosophy, outreach and modus operandi to operate, it is difficult to believe that the MML will tread its own path, completely at variance with its mother organization. In view of the above, the registration of MML is not supported,” reads the letter exclusively available with The News.

Further in its letter, the ministry asked the ECP not to register the MML as a political party. The party headed by Saifullah Khalid had applied for registration with the electoral body after which the ECP sought comments from the Interior Ministry through a letter written on August 24, 2017. Then again a reminder was also sent by the ECP on September 11 to the ministry of interior which sought help of two intelligence agencies — Inter Services Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau — and Foreign Office of Pakistan.

The MoFA in its response also quoted the letter of ECP written to Foreign Office as stating: “The same is also substantiated vide your letter date 24th August, wherein Mr Saifullah Khalid, President Milli Muslim League has claimed that the leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed — were ideologically affiliated with each other — (i.e. MML). There is evidence to substantiate that Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), the JuD and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) are affiliates and ideologically of the same hue. Lashkar-e-Tayyaba has been proscribed since 2002 whereas FIF and JUD placed under restrictions since January 2017 and later extended up to January 2018 under Anti Terrorism Act 1997. They have also attracted sanction under the United Nations Security Council Resolution No 1267 and dealt accordingly.”

But MML’s top leadership in is still hopeful that the ECP would consider registration of this new party claiming “they submitted all the required documents and party’s workers are truely patriotic.”

Officials dealing with this issue in the ECP told this correspondent that the polls body is going to take up this issue this week and mostly probably will follow recommendations of MoI, MOFA and a secret agency which opposed MML affliation with ECP. www.thenews.com.pk/print/233327-Interior-ministry-asks-ECP-not-to-register-MML

September 29, 2017   No Comments

Extreme right’s electoral ambitions: by Umair Rasheed in Daily Times, Sept 28, 2017

The writer is a journalist and a researcher based in Lahore.
Three religious groups — from different schools of thought — have expressed willingness to contest next general elections in the country. Two of them have already fielded independent candidates in the NA-120 by-poll to test the waters, as the issue of their registration with the Election Commission of Pakistan remains unsettled for now. The third — Pakistan Ulema Council — has just recently announced its intention to contest the elections.

How does this change the electoral dynamics in the country?

NA-120 result has confirmed that the extreme right has on average no more than about five and 10 percent vote bank in cities across the country. But the election outcome has also showed that — given the electoral system continues unaffected — there is hardly any worry for this share to swell further.

The reasons are primarily political but also economic. In urban areas, mainstream parties have organisational structures that have over the years enabled their leaders to strengthen their ties with constituents in return for making state institutions deliver goods and services needed for continuance of everyday life without much turmoil. Similar patron-client relations dictate the logic of electoral politics in vast swathes of rural and suburban Pakistan. The key difference being that electables or constituency-level politicians serve as patrons, instead of party organisations. This makes it hard for new comers to attract voters without investing in effective organisations or building movements around socio-economic issues of the electorate.

Take the PTI as an example: it could only win one national assembly and a provincial assembly seat from Lahore in 2013 despite all the hue and cry surrounding its tabdeeli slogan. The protest politics on rigging allegations between 2013 and now has enabled the party to shorten the PML-N’s winning margins and convert what were strongholds in 2008 and fairly safe seats in 2013 into competitive constituencies ahead of 2018. But the crucial factor in this has been the PTI leader’s persistent campaigning against the ruling party and the Sharif family on the issue of corruption. The issue resonates with vast segments of the urban middle class professionals and its deployment by the PTI has been a factor in bringing many more voters to polling stations in Lahore and other cities in 2013 compared to previous elections.

Among the two new entrants, only the Jamaatud Dawa’s political wing has expansive organisational structure that allows it to dispense goods and services in areas where state institutions remain either absent or ineffective. But importantly, this structure has been serving as a substitute or a complement to the state. It does not, and is unlikely to, enable the JuD leaders to serve as intermediaries between state institutions and the electorate — a task performed fairly easily by mainstream parties and electables. This leaves the JuD with only the work its philanthropic wing [Falah Insaniyat Foundation] has done to canvas for votes. It is extremely unlikely that this charity work alone will enable the JuD men and women to achieve anything similar to what PTI has achieved between 2007-08 and 2017 in just a year.

It will be even more difficult for the barelwi party — Labaik Ya Rasoolullah (LYR). First, it does not have anything even remotely close to the JuD’s organisational structure. Second, its political imagination remains confined to a singular issue that does not resonate much with material conditions of the electorate. And thirdly, LYR needs to be seen as just one among several organised expressions of barelwi school of thought. And there is hardly any evidence to suggest that LYR is dominant among these tendencies. The established clerics and their seminaries and organisations have been active in electoral politics all along under the Jamiat Ulema Pakistan banner. They’ve either contested elections on their own or have allied with mainstream parties like the PML-N. It is the upstarts like Khadim Rizvi and Ashraf Jalali who have turned towards electoral politics following the mobilisation done over confessed assassin Mumtaz Qadri’s conviction and death sentence. This still leaves barelwis associated with missionary organisations like Dawaat-e-Islami and those with the lucrative economy around mehfil-e-sama and mehfil-e-naat. In his speeches during NA-120 campaign, LYR leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi made it a point to denounce this particular expression of barelwi thought. He made passionate statements against those [barelwis] ‘whose love for the prophet was limited only to naat recited for monetary compensation’.

The PUC’s organisational strength derives from its network of mosques and madrassas. This network is useful mostly for expressing street strength and has not been used to manage electoral campaigns. Additionally, the PUC is a coalition of clerics from multiple schools of thought and its concerns have mostly been related to foreign affairs and keeping the public opinion in favour of the Saudi monarchy.

Finally, if allowed to contest elections, all three of these parties are likely to design their campaigns around anti-India and possibly also anti-US slogans with frequent references to persecuted Muslim groups in the Middle Eastern region and Myanmar. There will be frequent references to an imagined liberal lobby out to reform blasphemy laws. This rhetoric has been deployed in electoral politics of this country time and again but, purely on its own, it has never delivered much in terms of election victories. The other contributing factors are related to secular concerns of the electorate and the three parties appear unlikely to present themselves as viable options for settling those concerns.

None of the foregoing is to deny the fairly obvious fact that a vast segment of the country’s population harbours extreme and intolerant disposition on issues like blasphemy laws and Ahmadi community’s rights. But not all of these Pakistanis seem anywhere remotely convinced to enter electoral politics on these singular issues alone. Additionally, intolerance is a social problem requiring political solutions that can pave the way for a pluralist society. These solutions will come out of measures like re-imagination of the education system such that critical thought is encouraged and an empirically correct reading of national history is promoted. Other measures will involve dismantling of militant factions of religious or political parties and the twin processes of reinstating the monopoly of state institutions over means of violence as well as — the more difficult and important task — ensuring perfect oversight of the executive agencies equipped with these means by institutions that represent the will of the Pakistani people.

This agenda against intolerance and for pluralism will necessarily mean that the electoral arena cannot be opened to those canvassing in the name of confessed assassins sentenced to death by a court of law or those accused of crimes against humanity. But this standard should also be extended to those canvassing for former military dictators. For if Qadri and Hafiz Saeed have violated domestic and international laws, the latter have abrogated the country’s Constitution. And their interventions in affairs not meant for them have directly contributed to the social problem of intolerance that has produced men like Qadri and Saeed.

So the debate on the issue should not be about banning or allowing these groups to contest elections. It should, instead, be about the standards to be met by any group — religious or otherwise — with electoral ambitions.http://dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/28-Sep-17/extreme-rights-electoral-ambitions

September 28, 2017   No Comments

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