Two days after former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf (Retired) declared on a TV show that he is open to forming a coalition with Hafiz Saeed, founder of the Islamist militant group that carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the chief of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group’s political affiliates have confirmed that the alliance in “under consideration.”
“It will be on the agenda in the next meeting, where we will discuss all possibilities of the coalition,” said Nadeem Awan, the Information Secretary of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the political front of the LeT, while talking to Asia Times.
Pervez Musharraf had called himself the “greatest supporter of LeT” last month, after announcing a 23-party “grand alliance” called the Pakistan Awami Itehad (PAI). Awan said he appreciated Musharraf’s reiteration of his support for JuD and mentioning the political coalition, but added that any final decision would be made by Hafiz Saeed in consultation with the leaders of the Milli Muslim League (MML), the proscribed group’s political front which is planning to contest the 2018 election.
“Hafiz Saeed is discussing all potential options with the MML leadership, and the final discussion will be taken after consultation with the seniors. JuD is just a charity that is working for welfare in Pakistan,” the JuD Information Secretary said.
MML was launched in August this year, ahead of the NA-120 by-election in Lahore. While the MML couldn’t get itself registered in time for the voting in September, the candidate that it backed, Shaikh Yaqoob, won 5,822 votes. The MML-backed Liaqat Ali Khan also contested October’s NA-4 by-election in October.
The MML’s registration with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is still pending after a letter sent by the Interior Ministry to the commission in October maintained that “there is evidence to substantiate that Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Falah-i-lnsaniyat are (MML’s) affiliates and are ideologically of the same hue.”
Talking to Asia Times, MML’s Finance Secretary and Spokesman Ehsanullah said, “Not only General Musharraf’s coalition, any party that will boost our bid for the 2018 election, will be considered.” Ehsanullah, however, maintained that the potential alliance with Musharraf’s coalition would have “special significance.”
“We want all true patriots to form one alliance against the anti-Pakistan elements that have been ruling the country,” he said. “We have had enough of the so called leaders who are elected here, but are following the interests of our enemies.
“They speak against Pakistan in the Parliament and act against national interests, just to please their masters. We want everyone on board who wholeheartedly supports our stance on Kashmir.”
On November 24, Hafiz Saeed was released from 10-month detention after the Lahore High Court ruled on Wednesday that there was “insufficient evidence” against him to prolong his house arrest. Following his release, JuD accused the Pakistani government of being “dictated by India.” On Saturday, Saeed confirmed that he will be contesting the 2018 election through MML, with the aim to “highlight the Kashmir cause internationally.”
The rise of the MML, and the Tehrik Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) that laid siege to Islamabad for three weeks last month is attributed to the military establishment’s bid to contain the civilian leadership. The Pakistani government meekly succumbed to their demands drawing string criticism and furious editorials.
A coalition between groups headed by Musharraf and Saeed epitomizes this cooperation.
While neither Nadeem Awan nor Ehsanullah openly acknowledged any backing of the Army, the latter said, “these things aren’t hidden from anyone.” Some political observers see this as further proof that the Pakistan Army is using Saeed’s political foray to control the political narrative. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been drawing huge crowds, indicating support for his party. This seems to be of concern to the Pakistan Army, which is keen to ensure that it remains in control of Pakistan’s political narrative.
The JuD and MML leaders attribute the civilian government’s overtures towards improving ties with India as the reason why ‘its downfall had become inevitable.’ “No patriot would tolerate the Pakistani government abandoning Kashmir and being subjugated by India. That is what is bringing true nationalists together,” said Ehsanullah.