Election campaign in Pakistan is gearing up; all the right leaning political parties are holding mass gatherings in constituencies with traditionally right leaning voting trends. PTI is roaring in both urban and rural areas of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhawah. JUI (F) that has historically been popular in certain parts of Pakistan is now organizing huge public gatherings in places like Lahore which has till recent times, been a stronghold of either centre right or centre left. Rising support for right wing exclusivist parties in centre right Punjab is certainly an alarming situation for the forces of tolerance and moderation. Leaders of far right openly expressing their disgust for music and culture, they are also advocating the confinement of women within four walls and vow to impose their brand of ‘Shariah’.

Twenty years ago it was out of question for ultra rightist to hold big public gatherings in urban Pakistan with few exceptions but today the reality is different. The thought which opposed the creation Pakistan, is now becoming popular and manifesting itself in huge public gatherings. This situation is a direct consequence of State’s policy to radicalise Pakistan in the 80s through very effective web of religious seminaries across Pakistan. The policy has now borne fruits and has produced large quantity of indoctrinated youth on regular basis, who believe in religion based concept of nationalism.

Cultural bonds have weakened and so have nationalistic forces in Pakistani politics, the policy is a success story for Pakistani establishment. The ultimate beneficiaries of the policy are ultra right political parties. Religious symbolism is being effectively used in election campaign, quotations from history, sayings of Arab philosophers of middle ages to poetry, whatever may work to win votes is going be utilised by propaganda wings of right wing political parties. The likely shift of electorate from left to right in large numbers is expected in the upcoming elections. It is hard to determine whether this shift would ultimately break status quo or further strengthen it, regardless of outcome, elections are going to create lot of interest and excitement.


Australia, April 1.