India hails U.S. move against LeT arm

Hafiz Saeed  

India has welcomed the U.S.’s decision to designate Milli Muslim League (MML), the political arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan led by Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed, a terrorist organisation, calling it a “vindication” of India’s position that Pakistan’s action against terror groups is ineffective.

“[The US’s move] is also cognizance of the fact that terrorist individuals and entities are allowed to change names and continue to operate freely from territory under Pakistan’s control. The designation is a rejection of the attempts being made in Pakistan to mainstream terrorist individuals and entities,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Thursday, a day after the U.S. announced its decision to declare the MML and the Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Jammu and Kashmir (TAJK), an LeT front organisation working as a charity, terrorist organisations.

Appeal at global fora

India had raised both issues at the global Financial Action Task Force plenaries in 2017 and February 2018, which also led to Pakistan’s grey listing.

The U.S. order, designating the two organisations as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) under Section 219 of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order 13224, came concurrently with designations for the main leaders of the organisations, some of whom expect to stand for elections in Pakistan in 2018.

U.S. Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the Department of State said that they “take aim at Lashkar e-Taiba’s efforts to circumvent sanctions and deceive the public about its true character. Make no mistake: whatever LeT chooses to call itself, it remains a violent terrorist group. The United States supports all efforts to ensure that LeT does not have a political voice until it gives up violence as a tool of influence.”

The U.S. move comes on the back of a number of decisions taken by the Trump administration to put Pakistan on notice on the issue of terror groups operating there. In November 2017, the U.S. had criticised the release of Hafiz Saeed, convicted in India on terror charges, after 10 months under house arrest in Lahore, as well as the Supreme Court order that allowed the MML to be registered for the upcoming general elections.

In January, the Trump administration decided to withhold all Coalition Support Funding and some Foreign Military Financing to Pakistan because of its lack of action against terror groups, especially the Haqqani network. In February, the U.S. pushed through a proposal to greylist Pakistan at the FATF.

The U.S. decision will give a fillip to talks between Indian officials and U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice Wells in Delhi on Wednesday and Thursday. Ms. Wells was in Pakistan over the weekend for discussions on Afghanistan and the U.S.’s specific expectations on Pakistan actions against designated terror groups.