Only in Pakistan can the front group of a nationally and internationally banned terrorist outfit, a group whose amir is a globally recognized terrorist kept under house arrest by the state itself, be audacious enough to announce the formation – and induction – of a brand new, perfectly legal political party. Just another political party birthed by a militant organization widely believed to be linked to global jihadist organizations like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, about to join mainstream politics in Pakistan – nothing to see here, business as usual.
The terrorist organization is Lashkar-e-Taiba, the front group is Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and the news is astounding: early on Monday, Dawa declares the launch of a political party, Milli Muslim League. Pause.
Isn’t this the same Jamaat-ud-Dawa that was blacklisted by the US State Department in 2014 under the allegation that the “LeT has repeatedly changed its name in an effort to avoid sanctions [and had] created Jamaat-ud-Dawa as a front organization”? Never mind, who cares about the US government, it keeps on taking 123movies down, too, and that keeps popping up under various different URLs to avoid “sanctions” and nobody seems to care. But isn’t the LeT banned by the Pakistani government, too, and wasn’t it co-formed by Abdullah Azzam, the co-founder of globally recognized “villainous” terrorists, Al-Qaeda? And isn’t its current chief, Hafiz Saeed, being kept under house arrest since early 2017?
The answer is yes. And another, more painful one, is: a majority of Pakistan doesn’t seem to care.
The most unfortunate part of this announcement is not the fact that JuD is forming a political party of its own, nor is it the fact that the Pakistani government seems limp in the face of this development, lying back, powerless to stop it. The most unfortunate deduction of this announcement is the fact that such organizations, their leaders, their missions, and their statements, has currency amongst the masses of the country.
If we were to find out that a huge chunk of the country’s population would actually sympathize with men like Hafiz Saeed – as they did with Mumtaz Qadri, a different case but a similar mentality entailing it – and agree with his statements like his arrest was “not aimed at me [Hafiz Saeed], but is an international conspiracy aimed at sabotaging the Kashmir struggle”, it would not be very surprising. Just as it wasn’t when banned sectarianist, anti-Shia outfit, ASWJ’s candidate Masroor Jhangvi won a seat in the Punjab Assembly in the by-election as recently as December, 2016.
And much like its sectarianist counterpart, JuD, too functions under the guise of “charity”, in order to evade law enforcement agencies. Though, one must wonder, with the establishment’s hand firmly behind their backs – as evidenced by Cyril Almeida’s (in)famous Dawn Leaks – whom do these militant organizations have to fear?
Indeed, despite the civilian government’s much-needed push against militant outfits, the military and intelligence establishment – with apparent moral, diplomatic, and presumably financial support from China – has proven reluctant to crack down hard on terrorist organizations that have been leeching on the country’s resources and youth since the days of Zia. And it is this reluctance that can be held solely and completely responsible for creating an environment suitable enough for declarations like Monday’s.
What National Action Plan?
So what of the Radd-ul-Fasaads, Zarb-e-Azbs, and the “#ThankYouRaheelSharif”s and the rigorous clean ups in the north western parts of the country?
Do they amount to nothing? Credit must be given where its due, however one good deed does not undo hundreds of bad ones, especially when the former predates the latter.
The establishment’s continued support of terrorist organizations functioning inside Kashmir, under the naïve belief that their move actually supports the cause of Kashmiris, is hurting Pakistan (as well as Kashmir) many times more than Zarb-e-Azb benefited it. For, in supporting these militant organizations, the establishment is supporting mass radicalization of the Pakistani masses, especially the Pakistani youth, which if continued, would not be wiped out by a thousand Zarb-e-Azbs.