Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Sami (JUI-S) have announced an electoral alliance for the upcoming general elections in 2018 on Monday. Both party chiefs, Imran Khan and Samiul Haq, on Sunday agreed on working out the modalities for forming an alliance in the elections. Meetings would be held to chalk out the plan of action for the future. Sources say that Imran Khan has agreed to give representation to the JUI-S as per its strength in the national and provincial assemblies and also in the Senate after winning the upcoming election. According to the PTI “the JUI-S and our party have ideological similarities on different national issues.”
The strong terms with which both parties have endorsed each other may have come as a surprise, but given the past ideological leanings of PTI this alliance was on the cards. Despite its appeal to the urban middle class, PTI – and specifically its Chairman Imran Khan – has maintained an official policy of religious conservatism and a history of connections with seminaries and clerics of questionable backgrounds. Once mockingly referred to as “Taliban Khan” for his apologist stance towards extremist militant groups, Imran Khan has shed that moniker by emerging into mainstream politics, but this alliance confirms that his ideological underpinnings haven’t changed.
This is reflected in PTI’s policies too. In the last four years in government, JI has been responsible for chalking out the education policy of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the result of their policies modern educational reform has been made impossible. Party chief, Imran Khan, on several occasions has also been seen appeasing the religious outfits in the country in this term.
The KP government allocated a total of Rs300 million for religious seminary Darul Uloom Haqqania – headed by Samiul Haq – which is infamous for being the home of many prominent Taliban leaders. Forming an alliance is major step in mainstreaming such radical parties - which generally do not perform well in general elections on their own.
This is not just an alliance of convenience made to get seats in the coming election, it is an alliance born of similar political and religious ideologies. Forming such an alliance exactly when radical religious groups are besieging the capital – something Imran Khan has remained silent on – should put PTI’s priorities in perspective.