Pakistan

Dangerous signals

Sep 19, 2017
The ruling PMLN may have won the NA 120 by-election. Yet it has nothing at all to celebrate. Not when this was contested on equal footing against the Milli Muslim League (MML). This is the political front of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which, in turn, is said to be the charity wing of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group allegedly behind the Mumbai attacks. The one man who remains a constant, threading together this entity in all its various reincarnations is Hafiz Saeed, accused of ‘terrorism’, carrying a $10million-bounty on his head.
 
It remains nothing more than a technicality that the MML candidate contested the election as an independent. The fact is that the party’s man came in third in terms of the number of votes cast.Crucially, at a time when Pakistan is under international fire like never before over the harbouring of terrorist groups, including, LeT — the latter was seen contesting elections in former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharfi’s constituency, against his wife no less.
 
Meaning that what we have witnessed is the ‘mainstreaming’ of a terrorist group by the civilians. Seemingly, Imran Khan has forgotten how to ride. There can be no other explanation for his moral high horse being put out to graze in a nearby field. This is the same PTI chief, after all, who had his party boycott the 2008 elections on the grounds that an election fought on the back of Gen (rtd) Musharraf’s NRO was itself undemocratic. Yet fast-forward to today and His Imminence apparently has no qualms about a democratic process that allows aUN-designated wanted man to enter the playing field. We suggest that Khan revisit his youth to remind himself of the rules of the game.
 
Indeed, the above only lends credence to claims long held by Khan’s detractors that he is firmly in league with khaki plans. Especially given the claims by Lt Gen (rtd) Amjad Shoaib. The latter announced that the country’s security forces are behind the plan to legitimise groups such as JuD. This may or may not mean that they see this as an alternative to disarming militant proxies. It may or may not also mean that peace with India can never be a serious consideration. The fact that the MML emerged on the political scene within two weeks of Nawaz being deposed is telling. Indeed, the plan is said to have been floated to the latter a year ago, with the then PM refusing to play ball. Which in itself is interesting given that the ruling party is said to have funded the JuD to the cool tune of Rs 83 million, while also giving the group a heads-up about being placed on the UN terror list. Did Nawaz fear losing political ground to the group? Whatever the case, Lt Gen (rtd) Shoaib’s claims need to be properly investigated. As part of this process, Nawaz must be once more recalled to the stand.
 
We have already warned the US about the possible fallout from what may or may not be attempts at weakening Pakistan’s fragile democracy. Now we are turning our attention to the country’s civilian leadership — including all opposition parties. What was recklessly allowed to happen at the NA 120 by-election could just be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. Meaning that this so-called democratic participation could end up seeing us designated as a terrorist state. And if this were to happen then it should be all of the political set-up in the dock. 
 
Daily Times, September 19, 2017

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