Are Terror Groups In Pak Going Official? Intelligence Agencies Think So

Intelligence officials say 172 candidates of Hafiz Saeed's Milli Muslim League, a radical Islamist party led by the LeT chief, are in the fray.

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Hafiz Saeed casts his vote during the Pakisan election


New Delhi: 

An unprecedented 460 candidates in fray for today's elections in Pakistan are affiliated with terror groups or belong to religious fundamentalist groups. Citing the data, Indian intelligence agencies that are keenly watching the election across the border, suggested that it might be an indication that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence is slowly trying to mainstream such organisations.

Indian agencies are also worried about the total information blackout in Pakistan. "No Indian or foreign journalist has been given visa to go and cover the elections," an officer said. Their Election Commission is not making information public either. "As of now, it appears that it will not be a clear mandate and in that scenario, these rogue elements will play a crucial role," said an officer.

Intelligence officials say 172 candidates of Hafiz Saeed's Milli Muslim League, a radical Islamist party led by the Lashkar -E-Taiba chief, are in the fray. The Mumbai terror attack mastermind decided not to contest at the last moment, but his son and son-in-law are very much in the running.

There are candidates from the Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek, another hardline Islamist party. Around 180 candidates belong to Tehreek-E-Laibak, another radical outfit.

Officials of the Research and Analysis Wing said sectarian groups such as the Ahle Sunnat Wahl Jamaat (ASWJ) - banned by the United States and Pakistan - are also fielding candidates under the banner of the little-known Rah-e-Haq party.

The ASWJ, which has 100 candidates in fray, was banned for allegedly being the political wing of the militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which has been allied with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, and is responsible for the killing of hundreds of Shias.

"These parties are all right-wingers and their stance on policies will adopt a hardline view," explained a senior officer in cabinet secretariat.

According to RAW officials, many extremist candidates were taken off Pakistan's terrorism watch list by the caretaker government that's in place to oversee the elections. "Election authorities there say they have simply followed court orders, but it is clear that the courts were influenced by the country's all-powerful military," said another officer.

Under the circumstances, the increasing prominence of Hafiz Saeed is a worry for Indian agencies. "International pressure on Pakistan restricted his movements and now, he is trying to enter political space and instead of an offender wants to become a lawmaker," said a senior government official. "When he floated political party last year in September it was clear that he wanted to enter the political space and wanted to change his role," he adds.

A change in leadership, if the radical element wins, will have a direct bearing on the Line Of Control and the International Border. "Our security forces have been bearing the brunt. Batmaloo incident is an example. Terrorists attacked forces just 100 metres away from IGP Kashmir Office. And it indicates their brazenness," a senior officer handling Kashmir told NDTV.

India is also worried about Pakistan's proximity with China and Russia, as the outcome of the election would also have an impact there. "As of now economy of Pakistan is in shambles. Their GDP is in 70 per cent debt, so equations with these two countries will not only affect Pakistan but will have a direct bearing on India," said a source is Cabinet Secretariat.



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