US designates LeT’s political front Milli Muslim League, its officials as terrorists

The United States on Monday designated Lashkar-e-Taiba’s political front, the Milli Muslim League (MML), and seven of its top officials as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.The designated officials are president of MML, Saifullah Khalid, Muzammil Iqbal Hashimi, Muhammad Harris Dar, Tabish Qayyum, Fayyaz Ahmad, Faisal Nadeem, and Muhammad Ehsan.They were named for acting on behalf of LeT, a Pakistan-based terrorist group that was designated in December 2001, the US said in a statement.

The MML was formed in 2017 by LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks and who carries a US reward of $10 million for his arrest. He inaugurated the front’s first office in Lahore in December, and has said the League will contest elections in 2018.

Earlier on Monday, Pakistan’s election commission directed MML to get a clearance from the interior minister for its registration as a political party, and it was not clear if Islamabad, which has claimed to be opposed to the mainstreaming of jihadi outfits, will deny the certification.

“(US) treasury is targeting the Milli Muslim League and a group of seven global terrorists who are complicit in Lashkar-e Tayyiba’s (another spelling for Lashkar-e-Taiba) attempts to undermine Pakistan’s political process,” said treasury undersecretary Sigal Mandelker in a statement on Monday.

The official added: “The Milli Muslim League is not a recognised political party; further it relies on the leadership of Lashkar-e Tayyiba for guidance and direction. We will continue to target terrorist organizations like Lashkar-e Tayyiba, even when they attempt to cloak themselves as political parties or hide their extremism behind other facades. Those working with the Milli Muslim League, including providing financial donations, should think twice about doing so or risk exposure to US sanctions.”

Pakistan’s actions will be under close scrutiny in Washington DC as it is already on notice from the Trump administration for continued failure to take decisive action against terrorists based on its soil such as LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Haqqani Network.It is also slated to go on the gray-list of the Financial Action Task Force, a secretive inter-governmental body that monitors and targets money laundering and terrorist financing, in June, in a move proposed and pushed through by the United States.

The United States has been extremely annoyed by Islamabad’s handling of Saeed and the LeT. When he was released from house arrest last year, the Trump administration threatened “repercussions” for bilateral ties if he was not immediately re-arrested and prosecuted.As Islamabad hemmed and hawed and blamed the country’s judiciary, Saeed has remained free. He regularly mocks the US and challenges it to arrest him and continues to bear outsized influence on Pakistan’s conduct of relations with India through public calls and threats.

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