Hafiz Saeed’s new political party to contest Pakistan’s general elections

Hafiz Saeed

Lahore: Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the Mumbai 26/11 terror attack and the founder of the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), has launched a new political party in Pakistan, named Pakistan Markazi Muslim League (PMML). Saeed, who is a UN-designated terrorist with a $10 million bounty on his head by the US, has been in jail since 2019 along with some other leaders of the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a front organization of LeT, after being convicted in terror financing cases.

PMML, whose election symbol is a chair, has fielded its candidates for most of the national and provincial assembly constituencies in the general elections to be held on February 8, 2024, in Pakistan. PMML president Khalid Masood Sindhu said in a video message that his party is contesting to serve the people and make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state. He said that his party is not for corruption, which is a major issue in Pakistan’s politics.

Sindhu himself is a candidate from NA-130 Lahore, from where Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is also contesting. Sharif, who is currently in London for medical treatment, is facing corruption charges and disqualification in Pakistan. Saeed’s son Talha Saeed is contesting from the NA-127 seat of Lahore. Sindhu, however, denied that his party had any connection with Saeed’s organization. He claimed on Monday, “PMML has no connection with Hafiz Saeed.”

This is not the first time that Saeed has tried to enter Pakistan’s politics. In 2018, he formed another political party, Milli Muslim League (MML), which was the political face of JuD. MML had fielded candidates on most of the seats, especially in Punjab province, where Saeed has a strong base of supporters, but was not successful in winning even a single seat. MML was banned by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for its links with terrorist groups.

Hafiz Saeed

The emergence of PMML as a political force in Pakistan’s elections has raised concerns among the international community and the civil society in Pakistan, who fear that it will legitimize the terrorist activities of Saeed and his associates. Saeed is responsible for the 26 November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, in which 166 people, including six American citizens, were killed. He is also accused of involvement in other terrorist attacks in India and Afghanistan. His party’s agenda of making Pakistan an Islamic welfare state is also seen as a threat to the secular and democratic values of Pakistan.