0323 GMT February 20, 2018
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday adopted the decision over links between the MML and a militant leader with a $10-million US bounty on his head.
A four-man panel rejected a request by the MML to register the group as an official political party, said Haroon Khan, a spokesman for the ECP.
Khan said according to recommendations by the Pakistani Interior Ministry, the MML had links to Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) and Hafiz Saeed, its founder, who is currently under house arrest. The LeT is believed to have orchestrated the attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008, which left 166 people dead.
The US offers the huge bounty in return for information that could lead to the conviction of Saeed, who heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). Washington says the JuD is a front for the LeT. Much to the dismay of the US and India, Pakistani officials have rejected calls for leveling charges against Saeed over the past years.
The MML said it would challenge the ECP decision.
“An attempt is being made to keep patriotic forces away from politics,” said Saifullah Khalid, the head of the MML.
Consumed by years of unsuccessful anti-militant drive, Pakistan, sources say, has a general plan to de-radicalize militant-linked organizations and integrate them by bringing them into politics. The ECP announcement on the MML would be a serious blow to such efforts that are believed to be led by the Pakistani military’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency.
Officials in the army said last week that such an integration policy would be based on seeking a constructive role for militant-linked groups.
“It is in my knowledge that the government has started some discussion over it, that is, how do we mainstream them,” said Major-General Asif Ghafoor, a Pakistani army spokesman.