Milli Muslim League (MML), actively backed by Hafiz Saeed –the Chief of proscribed organisation Jamaat-u-Dawa (JuD)– is keen on contesting the coming general elections. So far the Election Commission has not registered the party as a political party. However, Saifullah Khalid, the president of the party has hinted to field its favoured candidates independently if ECP rejects their registration application.
As the party is determined to field independent candidates across the country, a significant question emerges; what else can the ECP do to hinder the aim of MML and candidates backed by it?
Considering its past performance – not much. In the recently held by-elections on different constituencies independent candidates enjoying the support of MML contested the elections. The ECP lacked the resources to keep a watchful eye on the activities of the party during an election that it could focus its complete attention on. There is little evidence to suggest it can prevent its injunctions from being ignored come a nationwide Election Day, 25 July 2018, or even during the similarly extensive campaigning period before it.
Nevertheless, it is evident that MML is utilising all the available resources to get itself registered with ECP as a political party. A few days ago Islamabad High Court had already issued a notice to ECP for not complying according to its directions that ordered the commission to register the MML as a political party.
Despite this bleak situation it is important to know that the reasons for keeping MML off the party list are getting stronger. The party is in publicly in contacts with radical religious parties like Jamiat Ulema Islam Sami-ul-Haq and Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) – an umbrella organisation of many right-wing and religious parties – who have a history of association and promotion of violence and militancy.
While there is not much in the hands of the commission to bar the party from throwing its support behind independent candidates, the bar of stopping the party and their candidates from contesting the elections will lie on the shoulders of the caretaker government and law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, as has been demonstrated by the recent removal of parliamentarians from office, candidates found having drawn support from banned political parties could be retroactively removed
It is true that constitution grants everyone the right of association. However, in the case of MML, all the relevant departments need to consider the reply of Interior Ministry based on a report of an intelligence agency given to ECP where it found hard that “MML would tread its own path, completely at variance with its mother organisation.”