Posts Tagged ‘MML’

Pakistan Must Not Surrender to Mob Rule

November 17, 2018

AN inflammatory video filmed just after the Aasia Bibi verdict has received well over five million views. Therein you can watch the TLP leadership calling for the murder of the three Supreme Court judges who dismissed blasphemy charges against Aasia; hear that officers of the Pakistan Army should revolt against COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa; see the country’s prime minister being called a “yehudi bacha” (‘Jewish child’); and listen to the call for overthrowing the PTI government.

The orator is Pir Afzal Qadri, but next to him is the founder-leader of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Khadim Husain Rizvi. Famed for his foul mouth and colourful Punjabi expletives, Rizvi does not speak here but periodically raises both hands in enthusiastic endorsement. Once an unknown small-time madressah operator, he rocketed into national prominence last November after paralysing Islamabad for three weeks. He draws his strength from heading khatm-i-nabuwat demonstrations across Pakistan.

Commentary
By Pervez Hoodbhoy

Image result for Khadim Hussain Rizvi, photos,

The founder-leader of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Khadim Husain Rizvi

Had a call for murder and mutiny been made by any other members of Pakistani society, unimaginable punishment would have been meted out. Similarly for other countries: in the United States instigators of bloody insurrection would be locked up for years; in Iran or Saudi Arabia they would be hanged or beheaded; and in China they would mysteriously disappear. And in India? Similar, I suppose.

A similar open call for murder and mutiny by other Pakistanis would meet extreme punishment.

But we in Pakistan are apparently nicer, kinder people. Our normally voluble, judiciary suddenly lost its voice. Unlike with errant politicians, the Supreme Court did not dock TLP leaders for contempt of court. The ever-vigilant ISPR also somehow missed hearing the call for mutiny against the army’s top leadership. Instead, it pleaded for “an amicable and peaceful resolution” of the Asia Bibi matter because it “does not want the army dragged into the matter”.

And the prime minister? Against the ‘enemies of the state’ his fighting words and body style initially drew wide approbation. Some liberals bravely termed this Imran’s finest hour. But the hour lasted an hour and no more; what started with a roar ended with a whimper. The TLP’s flaccid half-apology was accepted, ignoring the lives lost and property damaged by the rioters.

Imran Khan now wants to fight fire with fire. His current talking points are fulfilling ‘Allama Iqbal’s dream’, and remaking Pakistan as the seventh-century state of Medina. His information minister has just announced unprecedented celebrations of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) birthday next week, and a grand khatm-i-nabuwat conference in Islamabad. Invitees will include the imam of the Holy Ka’aba, the mufti of Syria, and various high clerics.

With these new battle plans, Imran hopes to take the wind out of the TLP’s sails by showing its followers and others that he loves the Holy Prophet even more than them. But will it work in the Aasia Bibi case? And will it also work once the next crisis starts (assuming the present one somehow ends)?

As mullah power rises, one cannot be too optimistic. Clerics now believe they can take on any politician or, if need be, generals as well. There is good reason for their confidence. After all was said and done, in 2007 Islamabad’s destroyed Lal Masjid — now grandly reconstructed — defeated the generals.

Consider that the insurrectionists lost about 150 students and other fighters, but head cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz lives more comfortably in 2018 than in 2007. No charges were ever levied against Aziz or others for killing 11 SSG commandos. Meanwhile, Gen Musharraf, the then army chief, glumly passes his days in Dubai. Among other charges, he is accused of quelling an armed insurrection against Pakistan and killing one of Lal Masjid’s ring leaders.

The state’s reluctance to confront clerical power makes its earlier promises ring hollow. Take, for instance, madressah reform. Forgotten is the anti-terrorism National Action Plan that called for financial audits of madressahs, uncovering funding sources, curriculum expansion and revision, and monitoring of activities. That’s a dead duck. Try auditing TLP-associated madressahs.

The security establishment must now ask itself hard questions: has its mainstreaming of religious extremism gone too far? Can extremists actually be moderated by bringing them into the political fold? On the political chessboard, was it a good move to try balance ‘hard’ Deobandi power with ‘soft’ Barelvi power?

Blowbacks do happen: whereas a year ago Imran Khan had cautiously welcomed Rizvi into the anti-Nawaz Sharif camp, others who wanted Nawaz defeated went a step further. They allowed themselves to be recorded on video while handing out Rs1,000 notes to the rioters. Politically, this is very embarrassing because Rizvi and his wild eyed boys have gone their own way.

Certainly, the TLP turned out to be a bad investment. Contrarily, there appears to be a good investment. The largely Deobandi LeT/JuD was encouraged to launch its own political party, the Milli Muslim League (MML). In August 2017, its debut in national politics via the Lahore NA-120 by-elections gained it the fourth position, a surprising show of strength for a new party. MML election posters denounced Nawaz Sharif as a traitor for seeking peace with India and carried aloft pictures of Hafiz Saeed.

Another apparent plus: LeT/JuD has threatened neither army nor government. Its spokesman explained away its low profile during last week’s violent protests saying that JuD has appealed against the Supreme Court decision to free Asia Bibi and would await the conclusion of the legal process before taking to the streets. What a relief!

Some parts of the establishment might see this good behaviour as vindicating its mainstreaming doctrine. But injecting religious leaders and ex-militants into the political mix is a bad idea. When large masses of people react unthinkingly to emotive slogans, everyone is endangered by an explosive, unstable configuration. Ultimately political leaders — and those who secretly engineer political outcomes — also become unsafe. Have we not suffered enough tragic blowback since Soviet times? Pakistan must firmly reject the rule of religiously charged mobs. Instead it should aspire towards becoming part of civilised, cosmopolitan world society. Surrender is not an option.

The writer teaches physics in Islamabad and Lahore

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2018

https://www.dawn.com/news/1446103/dont-surrender-to-mob-rule

Advertisements

U.S.-designated ‘terrorists’ vow to run in Pakistan elections

April 4, 2018

Reuters

KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – A Pakistani political party placed on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations vowed on Wednesday to continue its political activities and participate in upcoming elections.

Image may contain: 2 people, beard

Saifullah Khalid, President of Milli Muslim League (MML) political party, addresses the news conference at Karachi Press Club (KPC) in Karachi, Pakistan April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

The Milli Muslim League (MML) is controlled by Islamist leader Hafiz Saeed, who has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head. The group shot to prominence after fielding a candidate in a September 2017 by-election to fill a seat vacated by deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday termed MML an alias for militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), or Army of the Pure, blamed for a bloody 2008 attack in India.

“We clearly state that on U.S. announcements we will not discontinue our political activities at any cost,” MML president Saifullah Khalid said, reading from a statement in Karachi.

“Milli Muslim League will fully participate in the 2018 elections and will field candidates from across Pakistan.”

Saeed is the founder of LeT, which is also on the U.S. terrorist list and blamed by the United States and India for a four-day militant attack on Mumbai in 2008 in which 166 people were killed.

Saeed has repeatedly denied involvement in the attack.

Images of Saeed appeared on MML campaign posters during rallies held in two major Pakistani cities leading up to by-elections last year.

The party was subsequently barred from participating in polls by Pakistan’s electoral commission, a decision that was overturned by the courts.

“We have confidence in our higher judiciary … MML will be registered and it will emerge as a big national party in future,” Khalid said.

Image Credit: Reuters

FILE PHOTO:Saifullah Khalid (2nd L), President of Milli Muslim League (MML) political party, holds a party flag with others during a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood/File Photo

Khalid termed the U.S. decision a violation of basic human rights and an open intervention in Pakistan’s internal affairs, asking for the State Department to bring evidence before the courts.

“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 U.S. State Department said in a statement.

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

Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Nick Macfie

Related:

US sanctions Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan

April 3, 2018

Al Jazeera

Pakistan has come under increasing international pressure to crack down on armed groups allegedly operating on its soil.

by
Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed denies any involvement in armed activity [Mohsin Raza/Reuters]
Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed denies any involvement in armed activity [Mohsin Raza/Reuters]

Islamabad, Pakistan – The United States has imposed sanctions on Pakistani political party the Milli Muslim League (MML), the political front of armed group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), designating it and its leadership as “terrorists”, a State Department statement said.

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.

“Today’s amendments take aim at Lashkar-e-Taiba’s efforts to circumvent sanctions and deceive the public about its true character,” said Nathan Sales, the State Department’s Counterterrorism Coordinator. “Make no mistake: whatever LeT chooses to call itself, it remains a violent terrorist group.”

An MML spokesperson told Al Jazeera it would challenge the decision and work to “remove misconceptions” regarding its work.

OPINION

Who benefits from Pakistan’s loss of US aid?

Rafia Zakaria
by Rafia Zakaria

“Political association is a fundamental human right,” said spokesperson Tabish Qayyum, who was named in the US sanctions list. “This [designation] is against the US’s own position when it comes to democracy … we have always rejected all kinds of terrorism.”

Qayyum, along with party chief Saifullah Khalid and leaders Muzammil Iqbal Hashmi, Muhammad Harris Dar, Fayyaz Ahmad, Faisal Nadeem and Muhammad Ehsan have been added to the US’ list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

“We want to remove the misconceptions of the United States.”

Increasing pressure on Pakistan

The US and India blame LeT for planning and carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which saw at least 160 people killed in a series of coordinated attacks in the Indian port city.

LeT is also blamed for carrying out attacks targeting Indian security forces in the disputed Kashmir region.

LeT founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed denies any involvement in armed activity but says his group, now operating under the name of its charitable arm, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), supports the cause of Kashmiris who demand independence from India.

READ MORE

Pakistan releases Hafiz Saeed from house arrest

Saeed was controversially released in November, after a court ordered an end to his house arrestunder anti-terrorism laws, saying the government had failed to prove his involvement in armed activity.

Pakistan has come under increasing international pressure to crack down on armed groups allegedly operating on its soil, including LeT, the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network.

In February, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international illicit financing watchdog, said it would place Pakistan on its ‘grey list’ for failing to do enough to curb illicit financing and money laundering.

MML competing in by-elections

MML candidates have competed in several by-elections since its formation in August last year.

At the time, MML chief Saifullah Khalid said that while Saeed had no role in running the party, he was its ideological leader.

Saeed, LeT and JuD are all subject to UN sanctions, including the freezing of assets, an arms embargo and a ban on international travel.

READ MORE

Two Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters killed in Kashmir raid

Pakistan’s Election Commission had banned the MML from using Saeed’s image in any election banners or campaign materials, a ban the party has regularly flouted. The party’s official registration with the Election Commission remains disputed. 

In February, Pakistan began seizing hospitals and other facilities operated by the JuD, after expanding restrictions placed on the group.

It is unclear, however, if the seized assets are still being operated by JuD.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s Web Correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/sanctions-lashkar-tayyaba-political-front-leaders-180403060947207.html

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

Freed Pakistani Islamist Mastermind of the Bloody 2008 Assault on Mumbai, Starts New Freedom With Verbal Attacks on India, Pakistan’s Former PM

November 25, 2017

Reuters

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A newly freed Pakistani Islamist accused of masterminding a bloody 2008 assault in the Indian city of Mumbai called ousted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a “traitor” on Friday for seeking peace with neighbor and arch-foe India.

Image may contain: 3 people, beard

Hafiz Saeed speaks with supporters after attending Friday Prayers in Lahore, Pakistan November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

The release of Hafiz Saeed from house arrest raised fresh questions as to whether Saeed might enter politics to run a new, unregistered political party founded by his supporters.

 

India and the United States expressed concern at his release, calling for Saeed to be prosecuted over the Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including Americans.

Saeed, who has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head, spoke at Friday prayers in a mosque in the city of Lahore after being freed from house arrest by a court that said there was no evidence to hold him.

Saeed was placed under house arrest in January while Sharif was still prime minister, a move that drew praise from India, long furious at Saeed’s continued freedom in Pakistan.

In July, a Supreme Court ruling disqualified Sharif from office over a corruption investigation, though his party still runs the government with a close ally as prime minister.

Saeed, however, said Sharif deserved to be removed for his peace overtures with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Nawaz Sharif asks why he was ousted? I tell him he was ousted, because he committed treason against Pakistan by developing friendship with Modi, killers of thousands of Muslims,” Saeed said.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs condemned Saeed’s release, saying it showed Pakistan was not serious about prosecuting terrorists.

A U.S. official said Washington was “deeply concerned” about the release.

“The Pakistani government should make sure that he is arrested and charged for his crimes,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

‘NO ALLEGATION PROVED’

Saeed has repeatedly denied involvement in the 2008 Mumbai violence in which 10 gunmen attacked targets in India’s largest city, including two luxury hotels, a Jewish center and a railway station.

The assault brought nuclear-armed neighbors Pakistan and India to the brink of war.

“I’m happy that no allegation against me was proved,” Saeed told supporters after his release, according to a video released by the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) Islamist charity, which he heads.

The United States says the JuD is a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group, which Saeed founded and which has been blamed for a string of high-profile attacks in India.

Pakistan officially banned the Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2002.

Saeed blamed India for his incarceration in Pakistan, saying “Pakistan’s rulers detained me on the aspiration of Modi because of their friendship with him”.

Saeed has long campaigned in support of Muslim separatists in the Indian-ruled portion of the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir, which Pakistan also claims.

India accuses Pakistan of supporting the LeT and other separatists battling in the Indian part of Kashmir. Pakistan denies that.

While Saeed was under house arrest, his JuD charity launched a political party, the Milli Muslim League (MML), which has won thousands of votes in by-elections.

Senior government and retired military figures say the party has the backing of Pakistan’s powerful military. The military denies any direct involvement in civilian politics.

MML officials have privately said that the party is controlled by Saeed, but it is not clear if Saeed will seek to contest elections or launch a political career.