The removal of Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi from the Fourth Schedule list, ECP’s green signal to Hafiz Saeed’s son and son-in-law and Maulana Azam Tariq and Haq Nawaz Jhangvi’s sons to contest in the July 25 elections are points of concern for those who believe Pakistan is going to face tough time ahead after the Financial Action Task
Force (FATF) placed the country on the Grey List.
Religious parties have fielded a record number of candidates for the National Assembly as well as the provincial assemblies’ elections. These include Hafiz Saeed’s son and son in law, Hafiz Talha (NA-91) and Khalid Waleed (PP-167) respectively, from the platform of Allah O Akbar Tehreek, backed by banned Jamaat-ud Dawa’s political wing Milli Muslim League.
Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Lashkar-e-Taiba have been designated as terrorist organisations under the UN Security Council resolutions 1267 and 1373. However, the Milli Muslim League (MML) does not fall under the resolution because the US Treasury and not the UN have labelled it as a terrorist group.
“We have observed terrorism suspects participating in elections in the past as well,” says senior journalist Mubasher Bukhari. “Former head of Sipah-e-Sahaba, Maulana Azam Tariq, was permitted by the court to take part in the 2002 elections from Jhang, even though he was behind the bars. Chaudhry Abid Raza Gujjar became PML-N MNA from Gujrat in 2013 while he was convicted by the Anti-Terrorist Court under section 302 and his name was in the Fourth Schedule list”.
He adds that the arrest of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is one of the foremost demands of FATF. “Yet, he was released from house arrest last year. This could mean trouble for the country.”
“The criticism is unwarranted and dishonest as every citizen of Pakistan has the right to contest elections,” says Ahmad Nadeem Awan, spokesperson Jamaat-ud Dawa. “The law of the land is supreme and sacred for us. We don’t care about international community’s biased resolutions against us.”
“Agreed, every citizen has the right to take part in elections. But the JuD curses the constitution and democracy,” says analyst Wajahat Masood. “The inclusion of members of these banned parties will mar the democratic process in the country.”
Awan says the courts have dismissed accusations against Hafiz Saeed six times and set him free from house arrest as a “respected citizen” last year.
Although Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat’s (ASWJ) Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi is not a declared global terrorist, he was on the Fourth Schedule list with suspected ties with terrorism. ASWJ was banned in 2012 by the PPP government. This election he is contesting as an independent candidate from NA-115 Jhang 2.
A member of ASWJ, Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi, son of Haq Nawaz Jhangvi who is the founder of Sipah-e-Sahaba, is participating in the elections as an independent candidate. He is being challenged by Maulana Muavia, the son of Mualana Azam Tariq, former leader of Sipah-e-Sahaba in PP-126.
Both Ludhianvi and Masroor Jhangvi were disqualified by the Lahore High Court in 2016 and 2018 respectively. Ludhianvi was declared to be untruthful under the article 62 and 63 of the constitution and Masroor Jhangvi was on the Fourth Schedule list. The ECP has allowed them to contest the polls.
The fourth schedule is a section of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 (ATA). Under the section 11EE (Proscription of Person) of ATA, the federal government may list someone who is suspected of terrorism or has rapport with any terrorist organisation and keep him under surveillance.
“The government has omitted Fourth Schedule section from the nomination form (i) which was obligatory in nomination forms of 2008 and 2013 general elections which is why Jhangvi and Abid Raza were disqualified even after being elected,” former secretary Supreme Court Bar Aftab Bajwa says. “Article 5 of the Constitution delineates that suspected or convicted terrorists cannot be loyal to the state. Articles 62 and 63 are clear on this issue as well. Therefore, when anyone is enlisted in the Fourth Schedule list and his movement gets circumscribed cannot be a public representative. Election Commission should also be held answerable for accepting nomination papers of such candidates”.
Former secretary ECP Kunwar Dilshaad says that the commission doesn’t have the independent authority to disallow a candidate from contesting elections. “It can only do so after consulting the interior ministry. The ministry sometimes shares names of suspects or convicted criminals before the commencement of the electoral procedure. Declining the registration of Milli Muslim League is an example.”