ISLAMABAD - Complying with the latest US move that designated Hafiz Saeed’s political front Milli Muslim League as a terror group, the government on Tuesday said it will challenge a court ruling that had allowed the organisation to contest national elections due in July this year.

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said on Tuesday that the government will challenge an interim legal ruling that had allowed the US-proscribed terrorist organisation MML to contest elections in July.

Last month, the Islamabad high court had sided with MML, whose bid to register as a political party was rejected by the Election Commission of Pakistan because of its ties to Hafiz Saeed.

 “Taking action against terrorist groups is an international obligation and the government will fulfill it,” Ahsan Iqbal said in an interview with a TV channel. “This point and some more material will be shared with the court to get it undone,” Ahsan added.

On Monday, the US Department of State amended its foreign terrorist organisation designation of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to include Milli Muslim League (MML) and Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (TAJK), which were identified as LeT fronts.

Additionally, the Treasury Department added seven members of MML’s leadership council to the list of specially designated global terrorists. The designations are the latest in a series of moves by the Trump administration to pressure Pakistan to tackle terrorist groups that openly operate inside the country with the approval and support of both the military and the government, reported US media on Tuesday.

The US first added Lashkar-e-Taiba to its list of foreign terrorist organisations in Dec 2001, after LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammed, an allied terrorist group, attacked the Indian Parliament.

Hafiz Saeed, the founder and current leader of LeT and its various charitable fronts, is one of the wanted terrorists in the world. He is listed by the US as a specially designated global terrorist and has a $10 million bounty for information leading to his capture and conviction. Only Al-Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri and Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi have a higher bounty, at $25 million each. Despite this, he operates openly in Pakistan with the support of the state.

“Today’s amendments show that the US government is not fooled by Lashkar-e-Taiba’s efforts to circumvent sanctions and deceive the public about its true character,” Ambassador Nathan A Sales, the Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the Department of State, said in a statement. “Make no mistake: whatever LeT chooses to call itself, it remains a violent terrorist group. The United States supports all efforts to ensure that LeT does not have a political voice until it gives up violence as a tool of influence.”

Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (TJAK) was formed by LeT founder and leader Hafiz Saeed in Jan 2017 after the Pakistan government banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the last iteration of LeT. “LeT has engaged in terrorist activities under this name, including inciting terrorism, as well as recruiting and fundraising,” according to State Department.

The MML was created by Saeed in Aug 2017 “to serve as a political front for the group,” State Department noted in the designation. “LeT members make up MML’s leadership and the so-called party openly displays Saeed’s likeness in its election banners and literature.”

The Pakistani government blocked the MML efforts to contest elections, however the political party has not been banned and it continues to fundraise to this day.

In addition to listing TJAK and MML, Treasury added “seven members of the MML central leadership body for acting for on behalf of LeT” to the US list of specially designated global terrorists. The seven members were identified as “Saifullah Khalid, Muzammil Iqbal Hashimi, Muhammad Harris Dar, Tabish Qayyuum, Fayyaz Ahmad, Faisal Nadeem, and Muhammad Ehsan.”

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to request for comment.

In its reaction, Awami Muslim League blasted Washington Tuesday for violating the country’s “sovereignty and constitution”, hours after the United States blacklisted the group.

“(The) US has no right to intervene in Pakistan’s internal political matters and label terror allegations against people who themselves are against extremism,” said MML’s Information Secretary Tabish Qayyum. “Such designations are aimed to undermine Pakistan’s sovereignty and constitution.”

INDIA WELCOMES US MOVE

India on Tuesday welcomed the US designating Milli Muslim League (MML), an alias of Lashkar-e-Taiba, as a foreign terror organisation, saying the decision reflects rejection of the attempts being made in Pakistan to mainstream terrorist individuals and entities.

Reacting to the US move, the external affairs ministry said the designation of the MML also shows Pakistan’s failure to dismantle terror sanctuaries in that country and vindicated India’s position that Islamabad has not taken effective action against terrorist groups and individuals.

 

Govt to comply with US move against MML