While its degree of complicity in the Mumbai 26/11 butchery is yet to fully unravel, Hafeez Saeed’s Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD) and his own political ambitions have suffered a major setback in Pakistan’s election year. In point of fact, the United States has designated JuD’s political front, Milli Muslim League (MML), as a “foreign terrorist organisation”.
No less crucially, seven members of the MML’s central leadership have been labelled as foreign terrorists. This verily punctures the electoral ambitions of MML.
That the setback has been effected in distant USA carries a resounding message to the civilian establishment in Islamabad as much as the GHQ in Rawalpindi for not much was expected from the lame-duck government in Pakistan.
The US has also added Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (TAJK) to the list of terrorist groups. TAJK is said to be a front of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which, according to the Trump administration, continues to operate freely inside Pakistan.
In the wider perspective, Tuesday’s announcement by the State Department mirrors the unabated terrorism across the Radcliffe Line. The department is explicit on the point that the move is aimed at denying LeT the resources it needs to plan and carry out further terrorist attacks.
Markedly, the diplomatic reprisal against the fountainhead of terror comes three months ahead of the general elections and 24 hours after the Election Commission of Pakistan asked the MML to produce a clearance certificate by the Interior ministry for its registration as a political party.
Indeed, the plot had thickened ever since Saeed’s terrorist outfit had thrown its hat into the electoral ring. Ergo, the implications of the State Department’s counter-mobilisation are as diplomatic as electoral not the least because barely a couple of months ago the MML was allowed by the judiciary to contest the National Assembly elections.
From across the Atlantic, the US has thrown a spanner in the terrorist outfit’s electoral works. The Election Commission had earlier rejected the MML’s application for registration as a political party after the Interior ministry objected to its ties to banned militant outfits.
“The US is targeting the MML and a group of seven global terrorists who are complicit in LeT’s attempts to undermine Pakistan’s political process,” was the response of America’s Treasury Under Secretary, Sigal Mandelker, asserting that the MML is not a recognised political party and it relies on the leadership of LeT for guidance and direction.
The US move has almost immediately caused a flutter in the electoral roost with the government in Islamabad saying it will contest a court ruling that had allowed MML to contest the national elections, scheduled to be held in July this year.
Pakistan’s Home minister, Ahsan Iqbal, is reported to have acknowledged that “taking action against terrorist groups is an international obligation and the government will fulfill it”. MML’s electoral prospects stand virtually scuttled post the US State Department’s robust intervention. Altogether, well might India enjoy a quiet chuckle.