The Ministry of External Affairs today said that the United States’s decision to designate Hafiz Saeed’s political party Milli Muslim League (MML) as a terrorist outfit has substantiated India’s stance that Pakistan permits terror groups to operate freely on its soil.
“India welcomes the action taken by the US for designating the Milli Muslim League as an alias of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan based terrorist group and its functionaries who are acting on behalf of LeT. It vindicates India’s position that Pakistan has not taken sufficient action against terrorist groups and individuals,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at a press briefing.
The US State Department today placed the MML, floated by JuD chief Hafiz Saeed last year, on its list of foreign terrorist organisations. It also designated seven members of MML’s central leadership as foreign terrorists. The US also added Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir (TAJK) to the list of terrorist groups. TAJK is said to be a front of the LeT, which according to the Trump administration, continues to operate freely inside Pakistan.
India said the US action took cognizance of the fact that terrorists and entities are allowed to change names and continue to operate freely from territory under Pakistan’s control.
“The designation is a rejection of the attempts being made in Pakistan to mainstream terrorist individuals and entities; and highlights Pakistan’s failure to fulfil its international obligation to dismantle terrorist sanctuaries, and disrupt terror financing,” said Kumar.
The State Department said the move was aimed at denying the LeT resources it needs to plan and carry out further terrorist attacks.
“Both MML and TAJK are LeT fronts created to circumvent the sanctions against it (LeT)…Today’s amendments take aim at LeT’s efforts to circumvent sanctions and deceive the public about its true character,” said Nathan A Sales, Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the Department of State.
The LeT was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group on December 26, 2001. Its leader, Saeed, is also designated as a SDGT.
To avoid sanctions, the LeT has repeatedly changed its name over the years, the State Department alleged.
“Make no mistake: whatever LeT chooses to call itself, it remains a violent terrorist group. The US supports all efforts to ensure that LeT does not have a political voice until it gives up violence as a tool of influence,” Sales said.
The move comes a day after the Election Commission of Pakistan asked the MML to produce a clearance certificate by the interior ministry for its registration as a political party.
General elections are scheduled to be held in Pakistan in July.
In October 2017, Pakistan’s electoral commission barred the MML from contesting elections, saying the party had links with terror groups and could not be registered with the commission.
Under pressure from the US, the United Nations and international institutions to crack down on terrorist financing, Pakistan drew up secret plans last December for a “takeover” of charities linked to Saeed.
Saeed has since taken the government decision to court.