US places Hafiz Saeed’s MML on foreign terror outfits list


–List specifically names seven MML leaders as ‘terrorists’

–MML official says US has ‘no right to interfere in internal Pakistani matters and label political forces and individuals as terrorists’


ISLAMABAD: The United States has placed Milli Muslim League (MML) and Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (TAJK) on its list of foreign terrorist organisations, linking it with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that the US and India blame for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The US added the Milli Muslim League and Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (TAJK) as aliases of Lashkar-e-Taiba, and specifically named seven MML leaders as “terrorists”, said the statement, issued on Monday.

Controlled by LeT founder and Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) head Hafiz Saeed, who has a $10 million US bounty on his head, the MML rose to prominence after fielding a candidate in a September 2017 by-election to fill a seat vacated by deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The party had bagged more votes than expected, around 5 per cent of the total cast votes.

The LeT is accused of Mumbai attacks as well in which at least 166 people had lost their lives. However, Saeed has repeatedly denied involvement in the attacks.

“These designations seek to deny LeT the resources it needs to plan and carry out further terrorist attacks,” the US State Department 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,” the statement added.

Reacting to the US move, an MML leader said the party will call a meeting on Tuesday to analyse the situation besides holding a discussion on Kashmiris’ quest for freedom. All decisions will be taken in accordance with the law, he said.

Commenting on the listing of the TAJK as an LeT affiliate, the MML leader said Pakistan had proscribed the TAJK earlier, adding that Hafiz Saeed’s move to declare 2017 as the year of Kashmir had left India vexed as he blamed the US -India nexus for the move.

Continuing to blame the US acting on India’s behest, the leader said the matter remained pending before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The hearing is scheduled for May 2, but the US declared the MML an LeT affiliate before the case was even heard.

MML Information Secretary Tabish Qayyum said that the American move undermined Pakistan’s national sovereignty and constituted a blatant violation of human rights. The US has no right to interfere in internal Pakistani matters and label political forces and individuals as terrorists,” he said.

Depriving people of political freedom will disrupt the democratic process, Qayyum added as he demanded evidence for such allegations.  He also accused the interior ministry of having prejudice against the MML.

In October 2017, Pakistan’s electoral commission barred the Milli Muslim League from contesting elections, saying the party had links with militant groups and could not be registered with the commission. In March 2018 the Islamabad High Court ordered the election commission register the party.

Under pressure from the United States, the United Nations and international institutions to crack down on terrorist financing, Pakistan drew up secret plans last December for a “takeover” of charities linked to Saeed. Saeed has since taken the government decision to court.

Saeed was placed under house arrest in January 2017 after years of living freely in Pakistan but a court ordered his release in November 2017.

Saeed’s freedom in Pakistan, where he holds public rallies, has been a thorn in Islamabad’s relations with India and the United States.


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