While the theatrics and politicking before polling day run their usual course, the electoral landscape is quietly taking a more subversive hue as political parties turn to openly dally with proscribed religious groups.

The decisive reaction by the establishment and parties in the wake of the recent deadly terrorist attack in Mastung and Bannu, should have been the immediate barring and condemnation of all dogmatic outfits being sanctioned in the polity. Contrarily, in the frantic charade of political of expediency, political parties have instead prescribed for support of the proscribed religious parties. PTI has amassed the allegiance of Fazlur Rehman Khalil, placed on the US terror watch list -a fact PTI member Asad Umar feigns ignorance of. Concomitantly the Islamabad chapter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), an extremist sectarian group, known for anti-Shiite hate-mongering, has announced allegiance to former PML-N Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

For now, the election climate is that of hysterical desperation; victory will be redemptive and defeat, utterly condemning. Where it was expected that such outfits might be able to shore up a sizable far-right vote-bank to gain a presence in the electorate, the two leading political parties, PML-N and PTI seemed to have reached the same conclusion; in a frenzied race to the finish, they need to ensure that the far-right vote-bank is pledged to them, even if they have to prescribe to their hate-based dogma, forsake their own ideology and give fascist and radical elements reign over the interests of the masses and vulnerable minorities.

The state apparatus has gone from initially turning a blind eye to the covert activities of the dogmatic bodies, allowing them to freely circumvent the electoral process, to openly sanctioning them. Parties like ASWJ have been specifically facilitated to contest - removing leader Ahmed Ludhianvi’s name from the fourth schedule and unfreezing his assets to allow him eligibility. Political parties, instead of condemning dogmatic entities, have now ascribed further legitimacy to such banned organisations and their credo.

As the recent mob attack on Jibran Nasir indicates, the religious far-right vote-bank is an intolerant, dogmatic and easily instigated mass, attributes their representatives depend on. Placating them with token religious avowals to buy their support not only legitimises their radical agendas, it grants them the platform to become a tangible and volatile force in the electorate which cannot be mitigated or controlled-one that will accept nothing short of the supremacy of their own dogmatic ideology implemented in the country.