Amidst pressure from the international community to crack down on terror groups operating from its soil, Pakistan-based terrorists are forming political parties to give cover to their outfits.
Weeks after Jamat-Ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed formed a political party, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, a “global terrorist”, is set to launch one, a trend that has left Indian intelligence agencies alarmed.
A few days ago, Khalil is learnt to have briefed the Pakistani media that his party would be named “Islah-e-Watan”, security sources said.
Khalil was the founder of Kashmiri militant outfit Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and was put on the US state department’s list of “specially designated global terrorists” in 2014. Khalil, who also was one of the founders of Harakatul Jihadul Islami in 1980, is the man who signed the fatwa issued by Osama bin Laden calling for jihad against the West.
Khalil was arrested in 2004 on charges of providing assistance to Pakistani militants in Afghanistan but was released a few months later. He then founded another outfit called Ansar Ul Ummah but it was soon disbanded, officials said.
Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, launched his party, Milli Muslim league, on August 8. Saeed has been under house arrest since January after years of living freely in Pakistan. The party will continue to follow the ideology of JuD, which the US says is a front for LeT.
The trend to form parties comes in the wake of US imposing sanctions on JuD and Pakistan-based extremists as part of their plan to disrupt their leadership and fund-raising networks. According to intelligence officials, launching a political party gives these terrorists a cover and also mainstreams their group.
“It not only helps them regroup in the wake of pressure from the West on Pakistan but also gives a legal face to their ulterior activities.
Once a political party is launched, all members of the banned outfits switch to being a member of a legal political party,” an official explained.