Hafiz Saeed’s proxy bags the third position in Pakistan by-election

Alarm bells should already start ringing in Washington and New Delhi after the current NA 120 results in Lahore. Following the decision given by Supreme Court of Pakistan to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from public office, a by-election was triggered in National Assembly – 120 constituency.

This much hyped election was won by Kulsoom Nawaz, the wife Nawaz Sharif. Kulsoom, the Pakistani Muslim League (N) candidate defeated Dr Yasmin Rasheed of Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaaf party of Imran Khan by 14,646 votes.

But this shouldn’t be the main story of the election. All should be concerned that Yaqoob Sheikh, an independent candidate has bagged the third position in a most unprecedented move.

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Though independent, Yaqoob had the backing of Milli Muslim League (MML), a political party set up by terror organisation Jamat-ud-dawa’s (JuD) leader Hafiz Saeed who is considered the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai Terror attack.

The party was formally announced just this August and has not yet been recognised by Pakistan Election Commission. This as a result compelled Sheikh to run independently, backed by the party.

Sheikh himself is no stranger to controversy as he was named a specially designated global terrorist by the US in 2012 for his alleged role in leading fundraising and operations for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

His election campaign banners even featured images of Hafiz Saeed which directly points towards him trying to gain political mileage via the JuD chief. The results were shocking. Sheikh bagged the third position in the race with about 5822 votes and even surpassed the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) candidate Faisal Mir. All this despite the fact that he did not get enough time for campaigning.

It might be safe to presume that this is the beginning of ‘mainstreaming’ of terror outfits into political parties as part of new policy by Pakistani establishment. Ever since Donald Trump warned that there will be ‘no tolerance’ for safe terror heavens, followed by BRICS declaration of naming Pakistan based terror groups to be curbed upon, Islamabad is under tremendous pressure to put a stop to these terror outfits.

Indications are that both Islamabad and Rawalpindi have formulated a ‘rehabilitation’ plan which would involve filtering the less extremists out of extreme extremists, labelling them as ‘moderates’ and bringing them into politics. It’s a repackaging of ‘Good Taliban, bad Taliban’ theory and this time its more formal.

It is undoubtedly a lose-lose situation. If Pakistani people garland these terrorists with political success, they might be encouraged to turn more right wing, more radical and possibly become a newer version of Taliban. Remember Afghanistan in 70s vs 90s?

If they get moderate success, they would choke the political system of Pakistan by promoting more radicalisation, and would force other political parties to take an ultra-right shift. In case they lose badly, they might use their terror methods to win seats.

Imagine a candidate who defeats them only to get shot dead, after any illogical allegation of blasphemy. In any case, there is no guarantee that they would not continue their activities against India and chances are that their support for terrorism would be more strengthened once they are part of establishment. Not withstanding the fact that the current establishment is already covertly supportive of terrorism, but their direct presence would worsen the situation.

This is a very dangerous sign not just for US and India but also the whole world. US expects to wind-up its war in Afghanistan, which would be seriously threatened by Pakistani terror outfits entering politics and destabilising the region as terrorists in power may be calling shots. These highly fanatic people, who have no regard for human life, could impose terror on minorities across their state. Ethnic cleansing against Shias and Ahmadis may increase.

India needs to be more vigilant, as these terrorists are right across the door and now camouflaging as politicians. It may be considered too hypothetical but chances of a Pakistani suicide bomber posing as a politician and carrying terrorist activity in our country on an official visit cannot be ruled out. A fanatic Talibani disguised as politician holding nuclear buttons is equally if not more dangerous than Kim Jong Un holding it.

We cannot let Pakistan escape from its responsibility to eradicate these terror outfits once and for all. It cannot continue to treat them as assets and pretend to be fighting them at the same time. Pakistan cannot claim victim-hood on terrorism simply because it has let it grow in their backyard, that too for its own personal agenda. The world must nip this Pakistani coined ‘rehabilitation’ in the bud before its too late.

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