Mainstreaming terrorist outfits in Pakistani politics

Last Updated: Tue, Oct 03, 2017 13:40 hrs
Hafiz Saeed, head of the militant group of Hizbul Sayed Salahuddin, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) political and Islamic party leader Siraj-ul-Haq

Of late, the war of words between India and Pakistan on the issue of sponsoring terrorism has escalated to an all new level. With India and Pakistani envoys and officials trading charges of sponsoring terrorism and terrorist activities in their respective backyards, the two nations seem to be sliding into a known territory of jingoism, hate and animosity.

There is no denying that the animosity between the two nations dates back to decades, or since the division of the nation and carving out of  the two nations. For the last several decades, especially since, early eighties, Pakistan has become the safest haven of terrorists, active throughout the world. while Pakistan has tried to fight its home grown terrorists, especially the ones like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), after strings of daring attacks across Pakistan, the fact that it  has tried to differentiate between terrorists fighting for it and terrorists fighting against it makes its claim of fighting terrorists something laughable.

While it was known all along that terrorist organizations have started exerting influence in Pakistani society, the extent of their influence was not really known. Nonetheless, it became very clear during a by-election in Pakistani city of Lahore.

After the disqualification of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by the country’s Supreme Court, by-election was held in NA 120 seat of Lahore. While Nawaz Sharif’s ailing wife Kulsum Nawaz won by a comfortable margin of 14000 votes in the by-election, it was not the only important outcome of the bitterly fought by-election.

Milli Muslim League a political offshoot of Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), that put up a candidate in the election despite not being recognized a political party by Pakistani Election Commission received almost five times more votes than Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate, the main opposition party in the neighboring country.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Milli Muslim League (MML) hasn’t been recognized as a political party, its banners with Hafiz Saeed’s photographs were put up at every traffic intersection, at every corner and at every important places not just across the NA-120 seats, but throughout Lahore.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was not the only loser in the battle of ballots. Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, one of the main Islamist organizations in Pakistan too seems to have been dwarfed by the ultra terrorist organizations that have massive amount of money and support of establishment (read Pakistani Army). It must be kept in mind that in seventies, the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan was the main political force in the city and was an important player even in eighties and nineties.

A Dawn report says that Milli Muslim League polling camps matched those of Muslim League (N) and cricketer turned politician Imran Khan’s PTI. “A visit to the constituency by Dawn showed that several polling stations of mainstream parties such as PPP and JI wore a deserted look, but the JuD camps were buzzing - a sight never witnessed in past elections. However, voters were hardly seen heading to its camps…Workers of the JuD and its charity wing Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation appeared enthusiastic, hoping their candidate would put up an impressive show laying a strong foundation for Hafiz Saeed’s party for the 2018 general elections”.

Political observers have certainly been stumped by the might shown by Hafiz Saeed’s outfit. While quoting a local political observer, the Dawn report adds “I have been actively participating in election activities for the last two decades or so from the platform of PML-N. During the period, PML-N, PPP, Jamaat-i-Islami and recently PTI set up camps in almost all polling stations of a constituency. But this time, not just me, but almost everyone saw a strong presence of JuD men on election day which is a little surprising for us”.

Hafiz Saeed has been one of the main tools for Pakistan’s terrorist factory to spread tentacles of terror not just in Kashmir, but in other parts of India. He is thought to be the mastermind of Mumbai terror attack, one of the worse in the country. His organization has been funded and supported by the Pakistani Army

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, while writing in The Diplomat says, “Furthermore, the military establishment, that has backed jihadist-backed political groups, would be pleased to see the Milli Muslim League (MML) candidate bag 5,822 votes – over four times that of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), which had formed the federal government before the PML-N – in little over four weeks of existence”.

The Pakistani Army and ISI’s strong support to Hafiz Saeed has been no secret, but what is astounding is the way it is trying to main-streamlining of terrorist organizations in Pakistani politics. Earlier they supported Islamist organizations like Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and different branches of Jamiat Ulama e Islam, besides supporting Nawz sharif. In recent years, Pakistani Army’s support to Imran khan’s political venture, Pakistan Tehrike Insaf, and their solid backing for Khan’s different protests against Nawaz Shahrif government has been an open secret.

It is rather surprising to see the Pakistani Army’s efforts to provide political legitimacy to these terrorist organizations and providing them massive amount of funds to fight elections.

More columns by Syed Ubaidur Rahman:

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Syed Ubaidur Rahman is a New Delhi based writer and commentator. He has written several books on Muslims and Islam in India including Understanding Muslim Leadership in India.

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