LAHORE - The general elections 2018 were never a fight between the left and the right. It was all the way struggle for supremacy of the right bank vote and mainly in the Punjab. In this struggle the political landscape changed. Whether it changed for the good remains to be seen and one many not have to wait for it very long, considering the rapidly changing politics.
Meanwhile, minorities are disappointed that no one from their representatives has been included in the federal, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa cabinets. PTI claims to have acquired the status of PPP that is having elected representatives in all the provinces. However, PPP has managed to give a berth to a minority representative in the Sindh cabinet. PTI has yet to show even a symbolic gesture of giving any public office of importance to a minority member.
In the 2018 general elections, the target of the right wing vote bank was important as the left has almost disappeared from the country. PPP that used to show leaning towards the left has in the last one decade disillusioned its voters. The opportunity came for the right wing political aspirants when the then law minister Zahid Hamid amended the declaration form according to which the members of the parliament were required to take oath that as Muslims they believed in Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as the last prophet of Allah Almighty.
This led to countrywide protests in the form of rallies and demonstrations urging the government to expose the culprits. Some believe Zahid Hamid was made a scapegoat as the parliamentary committee consisted of 30 MPs from all the political parties that had signed the draft of the proposed amendment.
The scenario resulted in three new religious parties running the elections. The first was Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) headed by Khadim Hussain Rizvi. The second was Milli Muslim League headed by Saifullah Khalid and supported by Hafiz Saeed. The third was Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party under Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi. This party denies any link with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Besides these parties, there was revival of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal after a decade.
The religious parties were routed in the general elections. MMA won some seats, but lost most of the seats where they had fielded candidates. The question, however, remains what the agenda of these new parties will be after the elections. Will they continue to pressure the new government with new tactics? Will their activities put more pressure on the minorities already feeling insecure? MMA has fielded Maulana Fazlur Rehman to contest for the post of President of Pakistan.
Things are already going in the wrong direction and Prime Minister Imran Khan has to end the apprehensions of minorities, especially Christians in Punjab and KP. A week after Khan was sworn in as prime minister, an Ahmedi place of worship was ransacked in Faisalabad by the supporters of TLP. Earlier, TLP supporters had targeted Ahmedi place of worship in Sialkot. Last week a Christian girl Binish was targeted in Karachi and thrown down from the second storey of a building. A 55-year-old man, Yousaf Masih, was tortured and killed in Okara. Christians have often been the target of false blasphemy cases. Stopping abuse of law would be hard target for the new government.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leadership mostly comprises educated people and this appealed to the religious minorities, especially the Christians in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. From 1970s onwards these people used to vote for PPP. Later, many of them shifted to PML-N. Since the 10-year rule of PML-N did not witness any worth mentioning welfare or development project for minorities, many Christians were disappointed with the situation. Also the incidents of Youhanabad, Badami Bagh and Kasur were not cleared by the PML-N Christian leaders. Christians voted for PTI in a large number, but the new government has so far been silent about them.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has huge tasks ahead. He has moved very smartly by putting the government machinery to full steam. His austerity drive is appreciable. He will, however, have to stop the politics of emotions, especially of the religious parties and some elements within his own party as well.
Prime Minister Khan will have to save the country from being blacklisted by international watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force. The FATF sword is hanging on Pakistan and the only way out is to strongly implement anti-terrorism measures to ensure that Pakistan’s name is removed from the grey list. He will have to take action against some outfits and people.
In the end, it may be pointed out that there has been record migration of Christians in the last one decade. Most of my close friends have gone abroad in search of greener pastures and to escape what they call suffocating environment. In the new Pakistan, let us hope some of the sons of the soil will return to the native land to contribute to the nation building.