Polarisation of religious vote not a good omen for mainstream parties

LAHORE – Polarisation of religious vote bank ahead of the coming elections has set a new dimension which will have implications for major political parties.

People saw emergence of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and Milli Muslim League on country’s political landscape in September this year, a development which added to the worries of political parties especially the PML-N which seems to have lost the support of its right-wing base.

A recently formed Brailvi parties alliance with the nomenclature of Nizam-e-Mustafa Muttahida Mahaz, is yet another addition in the list of religious groups aspiring to get their share of votes in the next general election.

Not only this, new alliances of religious parties are also in the making. After the formation of Muttahida Majlise Amal, a group of six religious parties mainly dominated by JUI-F and Jamaat-e-Islami, another religious alliance led by Maulana Sami-ul-Haq is also in the offing. Pakistan Awami Tehreek of Dr Tahirul Qadri and Majlse Wahdatul Muslimeen also exist as religious entities with political ambitions.

One thing is clear that none of major political parties will be the direct beneficiary of religious votes in the next elections unless any of these groups makes alliance or seat adjustment with them.

In the given scenario, the ruling PML-N seems to be the major loser of right-wing vote in Punjab followed by the PTI. However, Imran Khan’s party will have the blessings of right-wingers with the anticipated support of Maulana Samiul Haq.

Also, the polarization among the religious parties will greatly hamper their ambition to make their presence felt in the country’s elected houses. It will only be through making alliances either among them or with mainstream parties that they may achieve their political targets. And, if united, their combined strength may prove a decisive factor in the victory or defeat of candidates in most of the constituencies.

Allama Khadim Rizvi led Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a political wing of Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasoolallah, proved its strength in recent by-poll of Lahore and Peshawar. The Brailvi organisation scored around 20,000 votes in both constituencies. The party announced not to make alliance with any of political or religious parties in next election although efforts are being made by Brailvi clerics to enter into alliance with it due to its rising popularity on Khatme Nabuwat issue. The TLP is actively using issue of Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Punjab governor Salman Tasir, hanging a popular slogan to strengthen its support across the country.  

The Milli Muslim League, a Jamaat-ud-Dawa backed political party, although yet to be registered with the Election Commission Pakistan, but the candidates it backed in Lahore and Peshawar elections secured more than 10,000 votes. The MML is likely to make alliance with JUI-S chief Maulana Sami-ul-Haq-led Pakistan Defence Council, a conglomerate of different small religious and political organisation including PML-Zia of Ijaz-ul-Haq and Shah Zain Bugti’s Jamhori Watan Party.

Religious parties belonging to Brailvi school of thought in November formed Nizam-i-Mustafa Muttahida Mahaz with former federal minister for religious affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi as its temporary head. Since Gadi Nasheens (heads of shrines) always played important role in elections, their unity will certainly impact election results. The central executive (Shoora) of the Mahaz will decide about any electoral adjustments ahead of 2018 poll.

Revival of Muttahida Majlse Amal, a conglomerate of religious parties belonging to Brailvi, Deobandi, Ahlehadith and Shia schools, is also being considered a major development in uniting right wing vote.

JUP-Imam Noorani of Pir Ijaz Hashmi is currently a part of both Nizam-e-Mustafa Muttahida Mahaz and MMA. But the party insider said it will leave the Mahaz soon.

Similarly, JUI-S of Maulana Sami is no more part of the MMA.

Out of total 84 million registered voters in 2013, JUI-F was polled 1.47 million votes, a 3.2 per cent of the total, JI received around one million, a 2.2 per cent of the total.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Nazryati of Maulana Asmatullah Khan was polled 100,000,

JUP received 68,000 votes, Majlse Wahdatul Muslimeen 41520, Sunni Ittehad Council 38,000, Sunni Tehrik 25,000 and Islami Tehreek 26,00. Although religious organisations total vote percentage was around six per cent in previous general election, their recent activism and efforts to merge into alliances will most likely to be proved a decisive factor in next polls.

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