It is a testament of the toothless nature of the ECP that extreme religious parties and their ideologies are being mainstreamed in the elections. Forerunning such far-right Islamic groups are the Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan and Milli Muslim League. While both parties are philosophically opposed to each others beliefs, both are backed by proscribed extremist outfits.

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TLP, the political face of the Sunni-Barelvi Labbaik-Ya-Rasool-Allah movement and ‘avengers’ of the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, stands to be the more ominous of the lot. The coercive ideology of the party, as set in its recently unveiled manifesto, is clear in its platform that seeks little to do with the rights of the people or their socio-political welfare and more with a radical Islamisation of the polity and ultimately ‘defending’ the Khatm-i-Nubuwwat laws. Where the Khatm-Nubuwwat laws are a sacrosanct and entrenched proviso of the constitution, the party’s ideology stands to misconstrue the intent of the laws to alternatively inculcate intolerance and violence against non-Muslims in a multi-ethnic nation state, a fact that makes it more instigative than other religious groups. Strategically, blasphemy is TLP’s selling point, defining its campaigns against Ahmadis, inciting violence against minorities, and delegitimising other political parties. TLPs foreign policy seeks to ‘organise like-minded Islamic countries’ entailing an Islamic-bloc with radical Islamic governments and isolation from the rest. Their manifesto further includes imposed lessons in morality like banning the co-education system and promulgating misogynistic doctrines. TLPs fascist ideology is antithetical to our constitutional values that envisages a tolerant and pluralistic society, one which progressive political governments after the Zia era, guided by civil society have been striving for.

Concurrently, Milli Muslim League, political face of the contentious Jamaat-ud-Dawa and led by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is also fielding its candidates under the umbrella of another political party despite being rejected by the ECP. MML’s selling point remains a raucously Kashmir-driven (anti-India) agenda. Along with the anti-Shiite ASWJ also being granted nomination, and the more tempered Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), it is disturbing how dogmatic parties are being increasingly given space in the political showground.

If the establishment continues to legitimise TLP and its slightly less antagonistic contemporaries MML and ASWJ, mainstreaming sectarian and nationalist ideologies that propagate persecution of minorities, support of the draconian blasphemy laws and hostility towards India - sentiments that resonate with the underbelly of the subversive Pakistani identity- these minor groups will be able to collectively amass enough of a vote-bank ultimately allowing them to undertake decisive measures in national politics and policies, in line with their malignant agenda changing the course of Pakistan’s socio-political future.