Lahore: Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed on Saturday confirmed that his banned outfit Jammat-ud-Dawah (JuD) will foray into Pakistan’s political scene by contesting the 2018 general elections under the banner of Milli Muslim League (MML), which is yet to be registered with the country’s Election Commission.
Saeed, who was under house arrest since January this year, walked free on 24 November after the Pakistan government decided against detaining him further in any other case. “The Milli Muslim League is planning to contest next year’s general elections. I also dedicate 2018 for Kashmiris who are struggling for freedom,” Saeed said while meeting a group of columnists at the JuD headquarters in Chauburji.
The JuD, a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group that carried out the deadly 2008 Mumbai attack, formed MML at the time when Saeed was detained in Lahore. The founder of LeT also vowed to continue supporting Kashmiris. “I want to tell India that I will continue to support Kashmiris no matter what kind of difficulties are there. India wants us to stop raising voice for the Kashmiris. It is building pressure on the Pakistani government. I want to tell Pakistan that back channel diplomacy only caused harm to the Kashmir cause,” he alleged.
Saeed, who is accused of having masterminded the November 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, was placed on the terrorism black list by the United Nations under UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in December 2008. The US too has designated him as a global terrorist and has announced a reward of $10 million for information leading to his arrest and conviction. Saeed also claimed that his detention in Pakistan and Hurriyat leaders in India was part of an international agenda.
“This had been done to harm the Kashmir cause. India is angry over my release from the house detention. I warn India if it does not stop atrocities against Kashmiris then this struggle will rise further and it will face the music,” he alleged.
Last September when Saeed was under house arrest in Lahore, the JuD entered in the political arena and contested the by-poll from Lahore’s NA-120. The National Assembly seat had fallen vacant after the disqualification of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case. His wife Kulsoom Nawaz had won that seat. Sheikh Yaqoob, a JuD-backed candidate who secured 6,000 votes, had announced that the JuD which has the blessing of Saeed would contest the 2018 elections. Yaqoob was placed on a US Treasury sanctions list of those designated as leaders of terrorist organisations in 2012.
Saeed and his four aides – Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Hussain – were placed under house arrest in Lahore on 30 January under anti- terrorism act. The JuD has been declared as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US in June 2014. India had expressed outrage over the judicial board’s decision to release Saeed, calling it an attempt by Pakistan to mainstream proscribed terrorists and a reflection of its continuing support to non-state actors.
Saeed has now filed the petition to de-list him from the UN list of designated terrorists. He was put under house arrest after the Mumbai attack, but he was freed by a court in 2009. Nine of the Mumbai attackers were killed by police while lone survivor Ajmal Kasab was caught and executed after a trial.