Beware JuD’s electoral ambitions

Aug 9, 2017
The Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), in a press conference, has announced its entry into mainstream Pakistani politics. That’s right. Ten years on from the Mumbai attacks this group, in its latest reincarnation, will be contesting the 2018 elections under the banner of the Milli Muslim League (MML). Let us hope that the Election Commission of Pakistan puts paid to this misadventure and quick smart.
Failure to do so will spell bad news for all: Afghanistan, its occupying power America and especially for Pakistan. Hafiz Saeed, the man who has at one time or another led the JuD and its armed wing Lashkhar-e-Taiba has long had a $10-million bounty slapped on his head by the US. Which may or may not suggest that he will remain under house arrest here in Pakistan until the general elections are over and done with.
This may go beyond the state simply wanting to keep him ‘safe’.
This week’s press conference was significant for other reasons. Namely, the group’s apparent breaking away from its traditional civilian patrons. MML President Saifullah Khalid couldn’t have been clearer about from whom his party was seeking to wrest power. Inevitably, there was the usual anti-western rhetoric. But amid the cheap shots was the pointed tough talking against those corrupt politicians whose sole priority was the “politics of minting money”. And then came the sharpest blow of all: the MML is against dynasty politics. This is because, in the party’s own words, those leaders who wish to bring in their sons or daughters after they relinquish power are vulnerable to external pressures.
It appears that the MML may be readying to contest on the anti-corruption platform while vowing to transform Pakistan into a true Islamic welfare state. It may well find a not so fragile vote bank, especially given its intention to join hands with like-minded parties. And it is the ruling set-up that has inadvertently thus empowered this group.
The possibility of such an outfit going mainstream and legit is alarming. Not least because there is the small matter of whether or not it was, in its past reinventions, created by Pakistan’s security establishment. At a time when we should be fostering peace with our neighbours this proves a dangerous gamble. For Hafiz Saeed is disdained both in India and Afghanistan. Thus the implications of him being one day free to take up the political mantle is wrought with catastrophe.
While there is some value in keeping certain groups in the mainstream to better keep an eye on their machinations — we would warn that allowing militias to turn into legitimate political actors gives a wrong signal to the world — especially the neighbours — and will have grave implications for the future of politics in the country.
We should not be fooled by the MML seemingly taking on board Donald Trump’s calls for Pakistan to put to bed once and for all its ‘paradoxical’ policy of (selectively) taking on militants operating within its borders. And none of us should be taken by surprise at the rapid reaction force on this front.
Daily Times, August 9, 2017

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