LAHORE: A Pakistani charity linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks is backing a new political party which will contest next year's general election, an official said yesterday. The official-a senior leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which is listed by the United Nations as a terror outfit-said the newly formed Milli Muslim League Party had the "full" backing of the charity's chief Hafiz Saeed.

"The party will have full support and backing of Hafiz Saeed. However, this party will maintain an independent posture while contesting the next parliamentary election slated for 2018," the senior leader told AFP on condition of anonymity. JuD is considered by the US and India to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the militant group blamed for the attack on India's financial capital that killed more than 160 people.

Earlier this year Saeed, who has a $10 million bounty on his head, was placed under "preventative detention" by authorities. Before entering house arrest, Saeed led a high-profile public life and regularly delivered fiery anti-India speeches. JuD has operated freely across the country and is popular for its charity work, especially in the wake of natural disasters.

Saeed is believed by the US State Department to be one of the masterminds of the Mumbai attacks. The horror of the Mumbai carnage played out on live television around the world as commandos battled the heavily armed gunmen, who arrived by sea on the evening of November 26, 2008. It took the authorities three days to regain full control of the city and New Delhi has long said there is evidence that "official agencies" in Pakistan were involved in plotting the attack. Islamabad denies the charge. India blames Pakistan for sending militant groups, including LeT, to foment unrest in the part of Kashmir controlled by New Delhi. Pakistan and India both control parts of Kashmir but claim the whole of the territory and have fought two of their three wars over it since independence in 1947. - AFP