Pak terrorist Hafiz Saeed enters politics with new party

Hafiz Saeed, founder of the banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba has entered politics in Pakistan by forming a new party on the lines of his Jamaat-ud-Dawah, which is a front for the anti-India LeT that staged the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The new political party, Milli Muslim League, aims at giving militants better cover amid pressure from the international community on Pakistan to crack down on LeT and JuD.

For all practical purposes,  the Milli Muslim League party will follow the ideology of the JuD, which is a front for the banned LeT and is run by Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 attacks that killed 166 people.

''We have decided to make a new political party, so that Pakistan is made a real Islamic and welfare state,'' said Milli Muslim League president Saifullah Khalid.

Tabish Qayoum, a JuD activist who will work as spokesman for Milli Muslim League, said the group had filed registration papers for a new party with Pakistan's electoral commission.

Saeed, however, could not attend the launch event as he is under house arrest in Lahore, while names of other senior JuD leaders will not figures in the new party to avoid problems at the electoral commission.

''It is now the need of the hour to get your message to the grassroots,'' Reuters quoted Qayoum as saying.

''We demand an immediate release of Hafiz Saeed. Once he is released we will seek his guidance and ask what role he wants in this political party,'' said party chief Khalid.

In the past, Saeed has often denounced democracy and the electoral process, saying it is not compatible with Islam.

There is a $10 million US bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Saeed, even as Saeed has always denied involvement in the Mumbai attacks of 2008.

Saeed has been under house arrest since January after years of living freely in Pakistan, mainly on fear that he may be harmed by the US the way it killed Osama bin Laden.

The US state department's country report on terrorism for 2016 issued last month said the LeT and its wings continued to make use of economic resources and raise funds in Pakistan.

The new party is intended to provide cover for the militant outfits as well as terrorists owing allegiance to these fronts.

Pakistan continues to harbour Islamist militant groups and use them as proxies to wage war on neighbours even as Islamabad denies having any links with the terrorists.