The general elections of 2018 will bring surprises of its own, and one of the strangest ones has come early; reports indicate that the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) is looking to form an alliance with Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) to secure a greater share of seats in the next elections.

All three parties are poles apart – the PPP’s stated political leanings are towards the left with a more liberal social perspective, while JI is a hardcore religious party and PAT is a party demanding change in all facets, from the system of governance to economic theory and the rule of law. However, at face value, the only party lacking a proper ideology with a fixed direction in these three is PPP; JI’s religious ideology and PAT’s anti-status quo have been unwavering since their inception. PPP stands to lose the very general link to the liberal socialist ideology it had espoused at its formation, but the others are more steadfast in their beliefs and might force PPP to concede more ground than it is looking to give.

Political alliances in Pakistan often do not take ideologies into consideration, most are motivated by pure opportunism and even personal contacts. This situation is no different. But at the same time, there are not many obvious gains either that PPP could get in this alliance. JI is always a good party to have in one’s corner – PTI’s alliance with the party in KPK is proof, but conversely, the concessions the party has had to make towards a more regressive social policy stratagem in the northern province should also serve as a lesson for any moderate or liberal parties looking to share votes with religious ideology-centric parties.

The alliance is odd, not least because of the fact that ideologically the parties are poles apart, but the simple fact that if nothing else, an alliance with other political parties should help the party in question secure more seats in the assemblies. Jamaat-i-Islami has never really managed to secure a substantial number of seats in any parliament historically – on its own it has never been able to form government – and PAT has yet to make its mark on electoral politics – with Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri swooping in to organise a mass protest against the sitting government (interestingly, it did so during the PPP government’s reign as well) whenever he feels it is necessary. There is still some time to go before the elections of 2018, and if this is the direction PPP wants to take – and announces it before voting begins – it might stand to lose even more of its established and liberal voter base.