Militants back ex-cricketer's party ahead of Pak polls

Militants back ex-cricketer's party ahead of Pak polls

Pakistan's opposition politician Imran Khan, chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, addresses his supporters during an election campaign in Karachi, Pakistan. AP/PTI file photo

A US-designated terrorist group has announced its support for Imran Khan and his party in nationwide elections on July 25, the latest controversial outfit to back the former cricket star's bid to lead the country.

The al Qaeda-linked Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) announced their support for Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in a Facebook post-Tuesday along with a photo of the group's leader posing with a PTI candidate.

"Maulana Fazal ur Rehman Khalil along with hundreds of his followers have joined PTI and announced their support for its candidates," wrote PTI hopeful Asad Umar.

Umar later edited the post saying Khalil and other clerics had only announced their support for PTI.

A PTI spokesman also confirmed Wednesday that Khalil was backing their party in elections but will not be joining their ranks officially as a party member.

Khalil, an Islamabad-based cleric, is accused by the United States of plotting terror attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India and of nurturing close links with Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan's northern city of Abbottabad during a raid by US special forces in 2011.

The US State Department describes HuM as "a Pakistan-based terrorist organisation that seeks the annexation of Kashmir into Pakistan and poses a direct risk to U.S., Afghan, and allied interests in Afghanistan".

Pakistan earlier this year amended its anti-terror laws to ban those listed as terrorists by the United Nations from running in elections.

Former cricketer Khan -- who led Pakistan to World Cup victory in 1992 -- has repeatedly called for holding talks with militants, earning him the moniker "Taliban Khan" in Pakistan.

Khan was also lambasted by critics for entering into an political alliance earlier this year with Sami ul Haq -- the so-called Father of the Taliban whose madrassas once educated Taliban supremos Mullah Omar and Jalaluddin Haqqani.


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