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Pakistan Army pushed for ‘mainstreaming’ militant groups

Yaqoob Sheikh from Milli Muslim League.

Yaqoob Sheikh from Milli Muslim League.   | Photo Credit: MOHSIN RAZA

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Ex-PM Nawaz Sharif was vehemently opposed to the plan

The Milli Muslim League party loyal to Hafiz Saeed has little chance on Sunday of seeing its favoured candidate win the seat vacated when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was removed from office by the Supreme Court in July.

But the foray into politics by Mr. Saeed’s Islamist charity is following a blueprint that Mr. Sharif himself rejected when the military proposed it last year, retired Lieutenant General Amjad Shuaib told Reuters.

Three close Sharif confidants with knowledge of the discussions confirmed that Mr. Sharif had opposed the “mainstreaming” plan, which senior military figures and some analysts see as a way of steering ultra-religious groups away from violent jihad.

Saeed’s religious charity launched the Milli Muslim League party within two weeks after the court ousted Mr. Sharif over corruption allegations.

Yaqoob Sheikh, the Lahore candidate for Milli Muslim League, is standing as an independent after the Electoral Commission said the party was not yet legally registered.

Another Islamist designated a terrorist by the United States, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, has told Reuters he too plans to soon form his own party to advocate strict Islamic law.

The military’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency first began pushing the political mainstreaming plan in April 2016, according to retired general Shuaib, a former director of the Army’s military intelligence wing.

Then-Prime Minister Sharif was strongly against the plan, according to Shuaib and three members of Mr. Sharif’s inner circle.

Mr. Sharif wanted to completely dismantle groups like JuD. Disagreement on what to do about anti-India proxy fighters was a major source of rancour with the military, according to one of the close Sharif confidants.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 5:43:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/pakistan-army-pushed-for-mainstreaming-militant-groups/article19699613.ece

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