It is a measure of the Pakistan government’s woeful lack of sensitivity towards world public opinion that it has allowed a terrorist group which had been declared by the US as a terrorist organization and is deemed to have been behind the deadly Mumbai terror attack of 2008, to contest elections in the country slated for next year. Last month, Jamaat-ud-Dawah, a front for the Lashkar-e- Taiba militant group that carried out the series of terror strikes in Mumbai announced that it was launching the Milli Muslim League. Sheikh Yaqoob, a JuD-backed candidate who was defeated by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s wife Kulsoom from a parliamentary seat that fell vacant after Nawaz was disqualified by the Supreme Court, said the new front “will field candidates in every constituency of the country in next year’s election.” Yaqoob was placed in 2012 on a US Treasury sanctions list of those designated as leaders of terrorist organisations. The chief of Jamaat ud-Dawah, Hafiz Saeed, is on India’s ‘most wanted’ list. Saeed and his four aides – Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Hussain – were placed under house arrest in Lahore on January 30 under Pakistan’s anti- terrorism act but that was clearly an eyewash. The JuD chief also carries a USD 10 million American bounty on his head for his role in terror activities.
Reports say the plan to mainstream militant groups has the blessings of Pakistan’s army. According to retired Lieutenant General Amjad Shuaib the foray into politics by Hafiz Saeed’s Islamist group is following a blueprint that Sharif himself rejected when the military proposed it last year. Another Islamist designated a terrorist by the US, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, has plans to soon form his own party to advocate strict Islamic law. Both Hafiz Saeed and Khalil are proponents of a strict interpretation of Islam and have a history of supporting violence – both were reportedly signatories to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa declaring war on the US. Slowly but surely, the US is veering round to the view that it may be forced to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism. The Pakistanis are flexing their muscles, hoping to cash in on China’s support. They see cutting off US access to Afghanistan as enough to deter the US but the American position is hardening.