While the entire population is contemplating the close contest between Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) in NA-120 elections; the factor that is going unnoticed is the rise in support of the extremist parties. Two ultra-right religious parties were contesting the elections from the constituency, and if these elections were a litmus test for the coming general elections, than the support these parties garnered is alarming.

After PML-N and PTI, the party to get the most number of votes was Tehreek e Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY). The party emerged this year and is headed by an Islamic scholar, Maulvi Khadim Hussain Rizvi. While much is not known about the scholar; the thing that everyone remembers him by is his blatant support for Mumtaz Qadri and his speeches, which are intolerant of dissenting views and full of hatred.

TLY managed to get 7,180 votes in the election. These are a significant of votes, which have displaced the position of PPP in the dynamic. This signifies the growing influence of the extremist ideology in the political scene. Although the “religious parties” have never had the majority to form a government, but the vote count signifies a new trend.

The party preceding TLY was the Milli Muslim League (MML). It is a renamed faction of Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD); the banned extremist organisation. MML clearly announced their support for Hafiz Saeed, a known terrorist and criticized the government for “illegally” confining him. Despite them claiming no ties with JuD, their comments are fooling no one.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) did deny recognizing the party and giving permission for contesting the elections, but despite that they did contest and managed to get 5,800 votes. If they have managed to ignore the instructions of the ECP, then it shows how incapable our governmental bodies are.

At the same time, it is a failure of the federal government that while state machinery was being used to get more support for the ruling party, all other priorities were sidelined. We have been claiming to fight off the extremist thought from Pakistan and promising the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), but proscribed organisations are contesting such crucial elections with relative impunity – and great aplomb too. This highlights the failure of our state to effectively tackle these groups and should worry us all in coming times.