New Delhi: Pakistan’s ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) courted controversy Thursday after reports that it had allegedly inducted Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, the founder of the terrorist organisation Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM).
Khalil’s supposed induction was immediately picked up by Indian news media organisations as a sign of Pakistan’s refusal to crack down on terror organisations. Prominent networks such as Times Now, News18 and Economic Times ran the story.
The story appeared to have its origins in a 2018 Facebook post by senior PTI leader Asad Umar. Umar, in his post, had claimed that Khalil had joined PTI, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party.
Khalil himself, however, later clarified in July 2018 that he had only extended outside support to Umar for the 2018 Pakistan elections and had not actually joined PTI.
“We are not joining the PTI. We just announced to support Asad Umar in NA-54,” Khalil had said.
Not a first for PTI
While Khalil’s induction may be fake news, PTI has been accused of cavorting with terror groups in the country.
It was reported in 2016 that the party had donated public funds worth $2.7 million to a religious seminary, Darul Uloom Haqqania, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The seminary is referred to as the “go to university for learning jihadi terrorism” and its founder Sami ul-Haq considers himself to be the father of the Taliban.
The alumni of Haqqania include former Taliban chiefs, Mullah Omar and Mullah Mansoor, as well as Jalaluddin Haqqani, the former chief of the Haqqani Group.
PTI had then defended its decision on the grounds that it was for meant for the seminary to include mathematics, science, and English in its curriculum.
Prime minister and PTI chief Imran Khan had also reportedly said that Taliban should be allowed to ‘open an office’ in Pakistan.
Khalil was listed as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” by the US State Department in 2014.
HuM under Khalil was allegedly responsible for the 1995 kidnapping of five western tourists in Kashmir, hijacking of Indian Airlines’ flight IC 814, the bombing of the US Consulate in Karachi, kidnapping and killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl, and several other terrorist attacks in Kashmir.
Khalil was one of the alleged signatories in the famous 1998 fatwa released by Osama bin Laden, asking for the “International Front Against Jews and Crusaders”. A 2011 report by The New York Times, showed that bin Laden’s most trusted courier was in contact with HuM.