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A terror leader’s political ambitions  

Hafiz Saeed addresses a rally in Lahore (File)

UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed’s Milli Muslim League will rock the political equations in Pakistan. Saeed’s terror outfit JuD owns 200 acre centre in Muridke near Lahore, schools, colleges and a charity network including Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF). The JuD has an annual budget of $ 50 million….writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

Hafiz Saeed addresses a rally in Lahore (File)

 Milli Muslim League (MML), recently launched by the United Nations Security Council-designated terrorist outfit Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD), is the latest version of the 112-year old Muslim League and an addition to Pakistan’s religious political parties which condemn democracy as an un-Islamic system thrust on this country by infidels yet swear by it to have political weight. Apparently what rattled the JuD into launching a political party was the frequent reference to its activists as “non-State actors” by the government after the house-arrest of its Chief Hafiz Saeed and four of his associates on January 31 this year.

Saeed told the Pakistani Urdu newspaper “Umaat” in an interview that labelling JuD activists as “non-State actors” pushed them to launch this party. This labelling hurt them as they always considered themselves as the cat’s (the Pak Army’s) whiskers and therefore, a mainstream entity. On the eve of Pakistan’s 70th year of creation, the MML announced it would contest the 2018 elections. The party will contest the Pak National Assembly seat No. 120 (NA-120) in Lahore against Kalsoom Nawaz, wife of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who had vacated this seat after his disqualification by the Supreme Court on July 28. For fighting the election, the MML will have to swear by the (semi)-secular constitution of Pakistan and declare its assets. But it is Hafiz Saeed, who controls the leadership of the newly-launched party. The JuD owns 200 acre centre in Muridke near Lahore, schools, colleges and a charity network including Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF). The JuD has an annual budget of $ 50 million.

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed

The formation of the party formally announced on August 7 by JuD leader Saifullah Khalid, who has been made its President.  He praised Hafiz Saeed but made it clear he was not in the party’s leadership. But the decision to launch a political party had already been announced by Saeed therefore the claim that he is not in the leadership makes no sense. Khalid said the party would struggle to make Pakistan a real Islamic and welfare state implement Pakistan’s ideology in accordance with the 1973 Constitution and the vision of founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal.

But as if to cancel all that, Khalid said the new party would follow the ideology of the JuD.  The JuD ideology is based on Ahl-e-Hadis thought and concentrates on Jihad. The proponent of JuD ideology Hafiz Saeed has said: “We consider Jihad as Islamic policies. Muslims have always participated in politics on the basis of Jihad.  Territories were conquered, nations were built and Muslims came into power through Jihad”. The JuD has laid a network of madrasas in Pakistan for the propagation of Ahl-e-Hadis faith.

JuD’s choice of naming its party Milli Muslim League is notable. In the past 70 years, groups, individuals and even Army dictators have sought refuge in the name of Muslim League, the party which created Pakistan, to pretend respectability. Gen Ayub Khan had his Muslim League made up of turncoat Leaguers. Gen Ziaul Haq took the support of the Muslim League, then headed by Pir of Pagaro and Jamaat-i-Islami, headed by his mamo (mother’s brother or cousin) Tufail Mohammad in 1978 to give respectability to his illegal power. Later, he held party-less elections and helped the Muslim League form the government in 1985. In 2002, Gen Pervez Musharraf coerced the leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) to join his benami Quaid Muslim League (QML).  When out of power, he set up his own Muslim League (APML) while facing high treason and murder charges.

In the past 70 years we have seen the name of the Muslim League used as a mask of respectability by political opportunists in Pakistan. Take the case of the present Pakistan Muslim League led by the Nawaz family or termed in the press as PML (N). Nawaz Sharif wrested its leadership from its then President Mohammad Khan Junejo (a Sindhi) in 1985 with Gen Ziaul Haq’s connivance. Now it has become obvious that he intends to use the party to establish dynastic rule in Pakistan.

The mask of the Muslim League has also been used by military dictators who abolished democracy and the Constitution of Pakistan to establish their indefinite personal rule.  Thus JuD / Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT)’s condemnation of democracy as incompatible with Islam cannot disqualify from wearing the mask of the Muslim League and seeking entry into Parliament of Pakistan.

There are some respectable Members of Parliament who condemn democracy as something un-Islamic yet swear by it.  One may recall here Jamaat-i-Islami Amir Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Jamaat-ul-Ulema-i-Islam’s conventions in Pakistan to synchronise Army officers’ failed “Jihad” to eliminate the democratically elected government and the entire military leadership in 1995.  These two parties, although having members in Parliament, and Gen Zia-created Sipah-e-Sahaba of Pakistan (SSP), campaigned to project the rebel Army officers as parties and true Muslims and to describe democracy as an un-Islamic system given by infidels.

Some of the attendees take group photos during the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Summit and Expo in Islamabad, Pakistan (Xinhua/Liu Tian) ****Authorized by ytfs****

There are doubts about the new-born MML making to Parliament. JuD’s Salafi commitment may come in the way. Also, its military backing is no secret. But possibly reaching Parliament may not be JuD’s immediate goal because it fundamentally does not believe in democracy. Just now getting registered as a political party may be an achievement enough. This will bring it in contact with small religious political parties which are registered but have little or no representation in the Parliament.

Going by Saeed’s interview with Ummat it is not difficult to conclude that the JuD intends to play some role in the country’s affairs, especially those relating to Kashmir and relations with India in accordance with the ideology of Pakistan, without facing the ‘non-State actors’ taunt. Some hardliners in Pakistan interpret this ideology to mean no peaceful relations with Hindu India.  In his different statements Saeed has said Pakistan’s aim should not be to snatch Kashmir alone but other parts too. He thinks once his registered political party is in place he and other JuD workers will not be arrested as ‘non-State actors’.

The decision to launch MML was taken by JuD Shura in January when Saeed and his four associates were house arrested. The Shura hinted that the new party was the same as JuD when it asked JuD workers to continue JuD work even after the launch of the new party (Jasarat). This means, with the added power of a registered political party, JuD will pursue its Kashmir craze with greater vigour. It may try to send Saeed to Parliament. They say Saeed is the strongest voice in Pakistan in support of Kashmir and also emphasise the only crime Saeed committed is raising the issue of Kashmir. Ummat asked why Saeed should not enter Parliament: he talks of ideology and completion of Pakistan. It is believed in Pakistan that the country is incomplete without Kashmir.

JuD believes that Saeed is very popular man in Pakistan despite his being designated as a terrorist by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in December 2008 and his being under watch of Pakistan’s Interior Ministry. Now the question arises: Will he be out of the application of Articles 62 and 63 which have blighted Nawaz Sharif’s Prime Ministership?