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New party linked to Hafiz Saeed to run in Pakistan general elections

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NEW DELHI: Pakistan Markazi Muslim League, a new political party believed to be linked to the banned organisations associated with Hafiz Saeed, will be participating in the upcoming general elections on February 8, as per reports.
According to a BBC Urdu report, the party has nominated candidates with ties to Hafiz Saeed, either as relatives or as members of banned groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, or Milli Muslim League in the past.
Hafiz Saeed, who is considered by India to be the mastermind behind the Mumbai attacks, has been sentenced to 31 years by Pakistan’s anti-terrorism courts on charges of financing terrorism and is currently imprisoned in Lahore. He was designated as a “global terrorist” by the UN on December 10, 2008. Pakistan has also banned organizations like LeT, JuD, and their affiliated parties and institutions.
Analysts who monitor religious parties in Pakistan claim that the Markazi Muslim League is the new political face of Saeed’s JuD. However, a party spokesperson has denied any affiliation with Saeed’s organizations. Hafiz Talha Saeed, son of Hafiz Saeed, is running for elections on behalf of the Markazi Muslim League from the National Assembly Constituency NA-122 in Lahore. Hafiz Nek Gujjar, Saeed’s son-in-law, is contesting from the Provincial Assembly constituency PP 162.
In 2018, individuals associated with Jamaat-ud-Dawa attempted to participate in the elections through the Milli Muslim League party, but their registration was rejected by the Election Commission of Pakistan. Subsequently, the candidates ran under the banner of an unknown party called ‘Allahu Akbar’ Tehreek, which did not achieve significant success in the elections.
Although the Milli Muslim League is not officially banned in Pakistan, the US Treasury Department, with the State Department’s approval, declared the party banned in 2018 and labeled seven individuals associated with it as “international terrorists”. Four of these banned individuals are now running as nominees of the Markazi Muslim League in the Punjab and Sindh assemblies.
Regarding the US designation of some Jamaat members as terrorists, the spokesperson said that “No country has the right to declare people as terrorists without proof or legal procedures.”
In response to questions about the participation of former JuD members in parliamentary politics, Pakistan’s caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said that the caretaker government does not make major policy decisions, especially regarding general elections. He added that the Election Commission of Pakistan is responsible for allowing registered parties to contest elections.
Meanwhile, Nadeem Ahmad Awan, a candidate for a provincial assembly seat, clarified that his party has no connection with Hafiz Saeed but acknowledged his involvement in charitable activities and past membership in political organizations including JuD and Falah-i-Insaniya Foundation.
Hanzala Imad, the Press Secretary of the Markazi Muslim League, also denied the allegations of party support from Saeed. He said, “none of our candidates is involved in any illegal activity and is not a part of any banned party.”

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