Internet users in Pakistan have criticized a well-known film and television actor for a recent tweet he posted, praising the leader of a religious charity that has launched a new political party, but who also is listed by the United States among "global terrorists."
Actor Hamza Ali Abbasi's controversial tweet was about Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, whose religious charity launched the new Milli Muslim League. The party unsuccessfully contested a by-election Sunday in Pakistan's second-largest city, Lahore, for a National Assembly seat once held by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom the Supreme Court ousted in July.
Saeed is currently under house arrest in Pakistan. He has been accused of acting as the "mastermind" of devastating attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people in 2008 — a dozen separate terrorist assaults with bombs and guns over a four-day period that also wounded hundreds of people in India's financial hub. Six Americans were among the dead.
"US/IND say he [Saeed] is a terrorist, I know Hafiz Saeed as a righteous man. Huge respect for Milli Muslim League for getting 4k+ votes," actor Abbasi tweeted Sunday.
Responses to tweet
Some Twitter users responded angrily.
"Yeah great man, recruits poor Pakistani youth and gets them killed in Kashmir and India," Faraz, who said he was in Lahore, wrote in a reply to Abbasi.
"Righteous man? Not just USA/IND, Hafiz Saeed is a UN designated terrorist. If these people are role models, then God save Pakistan," wrote Rahul, a Twitter user from India.
Blogger Fariha Alif said, "Someone cancel Hamza Ali Abbasi's oxygen subscription please."
Saeed is a U.S.-designated global terrorist. He has been accused of orchestrating militant attacks against Indian interests in the region. The U.S. government has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his conviction on criminal charges. Saeed has been under house arrest in Pakistan for the past several months.
Milli Muslim League is the party of Saeed's Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, or JUD, which has been listed as a sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department for more than a decade. JUD contends it is a humanitarian organization without links to terrorists, but it is widely considered a "front group" for Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has been banned for terrorist activity since 2001.
JUD last month said the new political party would make Pakistan "a real Islamic and welfare state."
Analysts have been skeptical about JUD's intentions and promises, and whether it would really cut ties to militant groups. Some suggested the new Milli Muslim League could be a camouflage to mask future nefarious activities.
The Milli Muslim League, which Abbasi referred to in his tweet, was launched days after Sharif was ousted over corruption allegations.
Member of PTI
Besides his career in the entertainment industry, Abbasi is politically active. He has been a member of Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf, or PTI, one of the major opposition parties led by cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan. Abbasi briefly served as PTI's culture secretary in Karachi, the country's largest city, in 2015.
The Pakistani actor also praised Saeed's militant activities in the Indian part of Kashmir.
"Hafiz Saeed doesn't hate India or Indians. He only hates & speaks against Indian Govt's atrocities in Indian Occupied Kashmir," the actor said.