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Pakistan bars militant-linked group from forming political party

The undated photo shows the sign of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in Islamabad.

A Pakistani group linked to the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks has been denied permission to register as a political party ahead of general elections scheduled to be held on July 25.

"The Election Commission of Pakistan today rejected the registration request by the Milli Muslim League as a political party," Altaf Ahmad, spokesman for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), said on Wednesday.

Ahmad said a detailed order would be issued later stating the reasons for the commission's decision.

The MML was launched last August to contest the July elections. It was founded by Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) charity, a wing of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). 

The LeT is believed to have orchestrated the attacks in the Indian city in 2008, where over 160 people were killed.

Earlier this year, the United States added the MML along with Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (TAJK) to its list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTO), reasoning that both were fronts for the banned outfit.

The United States offers the huge bounty in return for information that could lead to the conviction of Hafiz Saeed, who heads the JuD. Washington says the JuD is a front for the LeT.

Much to the dismay of the United States and India, Pakistani officials have rejected calls for leveling charges against Saeed over the past years.

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.

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. 

The head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) organization, Hafiz Saeed, addresses a rally in Lahore, Pakistan, December 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Saeed’s freedom had angered the United States and India, which insist that he was the main figure behind the attacks that brought the neighbors Pakistan and India to the brink of war. He has denied involvement in terrorism and the Mumbai attacks. 

Pakistani authorities began seizing the JuD's assets earlier this year, following a vote by members of the Financial Action Task Force, a global anti-money laundering watchdog, to place Pakistan on a list of nations which are not doing enough to combat terror financing. The task force is due to meet again this month. 

Pakistan has repeatedly rejected Indian charges that Pakistani “state actors” were involved in planning and coordinating the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

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