Hafiz Saeed too joins poll fray amid tough contest

Lahore: A new Pakistani political party controlled by Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed is backing a candidate in a parliamentary by-election on Sunday, a former general describing it as a key step in a military-proposed plan to mainstream militant groups.

The Milli Muslim League loyal to Saeed, whom India and America accuse of masterminding the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, has little chance of seeing its favoured candidate win the seat vacated when the Pakistan Supreme court removed Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister in July.

But Saeed’s foray into politics follows a blueprint that Sharif had rejected when the military proposed it last year, Lt Gen (retd) Amjad Shuaib said.

Three Sharif confidants confirmed that Sharif had opposed the “mainstreaming” plan, which senior military figures and some analysts see as a way of steering radical groups away from “violent extremism”.

Polling started in the NA-120 seat in Punjab province of Pakistan on Sunday. The seat was left vacant by Nawaz Sharif’s ouster in the Panama verdict.

The polling is underway in the Lahore constituency, reported the Dawn.com.

Long queues could be seen outside the polling stations as people started coming out to cast their vote as early as 8am.

A total of 44 candidates are contesting for the National Assembly seat from Lahore.

Pakistan Army personnel are supervising the polling process, the news. The polling will continue until 5pm.

Only the voters are being allowed inside the polling stations by Rangers and army personnel. All the stations in the constituency have been declared “sensitive”. To facilitate the registered voters, the ECP linked the 220 polling stations with Google Maps.

Among the candidates are Jama’at-i-Islami’s (JI) Ziaur Rehman Ansari and the newly formed Milli Muslim League’s independent candidate, Sheikh Mohammad Yaqoob.