Washington: In a major move ahead of the general elections in Pakistan, the US on Friday designated Milli Muslim League (MML), the political front of Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ud Dawa(JuD), as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO).
In a simultaneous move, seven members of MML central leadership body have been designated as foreign terrorist. 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 Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which according to the Trump administration, continues to operate freely inside Pakistan.
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.
The election commission had earlier rejected the MML’s application for registration as a political party after the interior ministry objected to its ties to banned militant outfits.
The state department said the move was aimed at denying the LeT the 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)…Friday’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.
“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.
Among other consequences of the designations, LeT’s property and interests in property subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the group.
“LeT continues to operate freely within Pakistan, holding public rallies, raising funds, and plotting and training for terrorist attacks,” the State Department said.
The LeT was designated as a FTO and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group on 26 December, 2001. Its leader, Saeed, is also designated as an SDGT.
To avoid sanctions, LeT has repeatedly changed its name over the years, the state department alleged.