Hafiz Saeed’s group Jamaat-ud-Dawah, which the United States has accused of being a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, has entered Pakistani politics.
The group has been accused of being the mastermind behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
In November 2008, a series of terror attacks were carried out in Mumbai by 10 members of Lakshar-e-Taiba, a terror outfit based out of Pakistan. There were 12 coordinated shootings and bombings that took place across the city. This was one of the deadliest terror attacks in India’s history. A total of 164 people were killed and at least 308 were injured.
Jamaat-ud-Dawah was previously called Tehreek-eAzadi-Jammu & Kashmir. It was rebranded as a “charitable organization” and the name was changed. Saeed is the founder of LeT and the emir of JuD. For many years he roamed freely in Pakistan. During this period, the United States had offered $10 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Saeed.
It was only in late January 2017, Pakistan placed Saeed under house arrest. The country has also put JuD on the 'under watch' list.
Pakistan has often been accused by other nations for sponsoring terror outfits – a charge it denies.
The political party started under JuD has been called Mili Muslim League. Its President Saifullah Khalid spoke to Reuters noting that the party was seeking an immediate release for Saeed. He said, “We have decided to make a new political party, so that Pakistan is to made a real Islamic and welfare state. 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.”
Saeed’s political party will be opposing Kulsoom Sharif (Nawaz Sharif’s wife) in the NA-120 by-election.
India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay has condemned Saeed’s political aspirations. He has said, “It is both ironical and disconcerting to notice that such an individual is perhaps wanting to hide his blood-stained hands behind the ballot ink or the person who has traded in bullets to take human lives is trying to hide behind ballots. They have been carrying out terrorist activities not only against India but against others in the region and it has been a matter of concern not only for us but for the entire region and beyond.”
Our assessment is that this is Saeed’s maneuver to get legitimacy in Pakistan and the world. However, such a development should be universally condemned and blocked. It will be detrimental for the relations between India and Pakistan if Saeed wins the elections and becomes a political leader.