Hafiz Saeed in politics: 26/11 mastermind now opens party office
Taking his political plans a step further, UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed has brazenly opened an office of the Milli Muslim League (MML), JuD's political outfit, in Lahore. On top of that, when he visited different areas of the NA-120, a Lahore constituency, crowds cheered and showered him with rose petals. Interestingly, Pakistan's election commission hasn't yet agreed to register MML as a political party.
The formation of the MML and its rise
Saeed's JuD formed the MML in August to "get (their) message to the grassroots". Despite non-recognition, MML candidates Yaqoob Sheikh and Liaqat Khan contested by-elections in Lahore and Peshawar and diverted votes from the ruling PML-N. Many say the purpose of such Islamist parties is to dethrone the civilian government. Earlier, Saeed disclosed his plans to contest the 2018 general elections.
Certainly have concerns about 26/11 mastermind running for office: US
The US expressed concerns about Saeed's decision. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert acknowledged that Saeed was the "mastermind" of the 26/11 Mumbai attack. The US has a $10mn bounty on his head so "we would certainly have concerns about him running for office," she said.
Meanwhile, Musharraf welcomes JuD in "grand alliance"
But Pakistan's former President Pervez Musharraf has said he's open to forging a political alliance with JuD. Musharraf, who is living in self-exile in Dubai, said he "proudly" feels that "LeT and JuD are both very good organizations of Pakistan." "They (LeT and JuD) have religious followers, youngsters who are religious...They aren't terrorists," he said. Last month, Musharraf announced a 23-party alliance for 2018.
What could Saeed's plans mean for India?
The rise of such Islamist parties signal a weakening of the civilian government in Pakistan, which has maintained the LeT is a "liability" they're struggling to remove. Saeed's entry into politics also signals a mainstreaming of jihadists in Pakistan. If such parties and candidates, which have openly fought for Kashmir's "independence", get into the Parliament, efforts at improving relations with India might be hit.