Something must be in the air choking up PML(N) Ministers everywhere. Just as Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi glibly stated that there was no proof that he was in any way responsible for the petroleum crisis, the PML(N) Minister for Defence Production, Rana Tanveer Hussain said he saw no reason to ban the Jamaat-ud-Daawa (JuD). Incidentally, his government had announced four days ago, that the organisation would indeed be banned alongside a number of others. Hussain’s primary justification for his vote of confidence for the JuD was that it was a charitable organisation and not a militant one. India and the United States have long considered the “charity” JuD run by Hafiz Saeed, as a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant outfit, and the US has placed a $10 million bounty on information leading to Saeed’s arrest. It is particularly significant that the Minister made his views on JuD clear in New Delhi, where the LeT and Hafiz Saeed in particular is considered responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attack.

Perhaps the most worrying thing is not the ambiguity within the PML(N) top ranks with regards to extremist organisations and individuals, but the fact that many people in government and indeed, around the country, share this view. The JuD’s ultimate victory is its response time and visibility in times of crisis. The state has left a large and convenient vacuum for “charitable” organisations like the JuD to fill; most recently with regards to the September 2014 floods and the refugee influx after Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan. Present and efficient, with medical supplies, tents, rescue boats and personnel, the JuD played an important role in saving lives with many flood-hit villages across the Punjab reporting that JuD response teams arrived hours before the military did. Against these facts, it is inevitable that ordinary Pakistanis will be sympathetic to the JuD and be happy to overlook its alleged militant affiliations. The question is, if Mr. Tanveer Hussain’s views are sidelined and the JuD indeed banned, will the state be able to reclaim the role it has surrendered to them?