The chief of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Sunday made a rather novel claim; that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) was introduced in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) to destroy the Pakhtun culture and their love for Islam. PTI, according to him, was the best party to be chosen for this purpose by the secular forces because Western forces want to change the culture of the country. This is an interesting turn in the politics of the province to say the least after the revival of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) for this election season.
During the last four years, Maulana Fazlur Rehman never pointed out the so-called “agenda of the Western forces”. It has only come up near the election season, and it makes the observers question whether the culture that he refers to was under threat or not during this period. Clearly, from the timing of his sudden accusation, it was not; especially if you consider PTI’s decision to form an alliance with Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Sami (JUI-S). If one is to consider the history of JUI-S, the PTI combined with JUI-S is evidently more conservative than the MMA.
As such, there seem to be two forces canvassing in the province to cash in on the religious vote. There is PTI, in alliance with JUI-S and then there is MMA. And both at this point want to establish their piousness over the other. It is going to be an interesting campaign; with Khan claiming that seculars are a threat to the country and siding with the radicals and Maulana Fazlur Rehman accusing PTI in return of being a secular themselves.
PTI might not have considered a right wing challenge while devising its campaign strategy but this will definitely make the show more intriguing. To form a government they now need to consider other parties and alliances as well. At the same time, it is a classic example of the disagreements between the religious parties in Pakistan and a reason of why they are not able to churn out a significant number of votes to form the government. There is no answer to who is more religious and only further politicises religion and reinforces it as a tool of governance. Only time will tell which party will gain ground using the narrative of religion and whether or not this divide will allow other parties to take lead in the process.