Right wing parties in Punjab growing, can act as spoilers

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Umer Farooq
ISLAMABAD
The rise of two new religious political parties including Milli Muslim League (MML) and Tehrik-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in the electoral politics has increased fears that they would act as a spoilers for one of the major political parties in the central and northern Punjab, where most of the national assembly seats are located.
The MML has connections with Jihadi organisations and its ideology is based on a sectarian creed that appeals to a very narrowly defined religious group.
The candidates of the MML, which has been denied registration by the ECP due to its alleged links with banned outfit Jamaatud Dawa led by Hafiz Saeed, will be using the platform of the Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek (AAT) to contest the polls.
The AAT has fielded 43 candidates in Punjab and seven in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), which makes the total number of its candidates 50.
TLP on the other hand, rose to prominence by the last year’s Faizabad Dharna in Islamabad.
The TLP headed by Khadim Rizvi is the only party, which has fielded more than 100 candidates in the province of Punjab alone. The number of its candidates is even more than those fielded by the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA). The total number of TLP candidates in these 117 constituencies stands at 103, which means that the party has fielded candidates on 87 per cent of the total constituencies in the province.
“TLP and MML have the role of spoiler in Punjab…. They will not be able to take any seats from the traditional players…, but they will be acting as spoiler for major political parties in a big way” said Zaigham Khan, says a senior political analysts.
Analysts, however, are of the opinion that the TLP is likely to divide the anti-Nawaz Sharif vote bank more than it would divide the pro-Nawaz vote bank in central Punjab.
“Anti-Nawaz vote bank is represented by PTI…, TLP has a sectarian character and it was expected that Barelvi vote will go to Imran given the latter’s new found inclination towards the school of thought after his marriage,” said Zaigham.
Analysts see the process of consolidating the Barelvi vote bank in Punjab by TLP as an impossible task,“ Barelvi vote bank is a fragmented vote bank…, besides, people don’t vote on the basis of their Barelvi sectarian identity,” says Zaigham Khan.
The TLP has been allotted election symbol of ‘crane’ by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
There is hardly any doubt about the fact that the issues of orthodox beliefs being raised by TLP have appeal across religious divide in Pakistani society.
And some political analysts say that the TLP has attracted the dormant religious vote bank in the by-elections in Punjab and Peshawar, “They are basically cutting into the religious vote bank, which is not sharply divided along party lines at the grassroots level,” said a political analyst.
However, there is every chance this religious vote bank will be divided along party or sectarian lines in the coming elections with the revival of the five party religious alliance — Muttahida MMA, led by two Deobandi organisations-Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F). And MMA leadership is quite adept at exploiting religious issues to attract voters.
Political analysts, however, say that traditional religious parties like JI and JUI-F has been reduced to non-entity status in Punjab.
“JUI has fixed constituencies in KP and Balochistan and JI has fixed constituencies in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) where their candidates can win elections” said Zaigham Khan.
The revival of the MMA, an alliance of five religious groups-is specifically planned to project a joint face of religious forces in the electoral politics of KP against all the secular political parties in the forthcoming elections for provincial assembly seats.
The two leading lights of this alliance of JUI-F and JI think that they can repeat the performance of 2002 general elections when they defeated all the secular parties to form provincial government in KP.
JUI and JI leadership have agreed among themselves that they can achieve the goal of securing a majority in KP-assembly in the forthcoming general elections, after ditching their respective coalition partners.
While JI was part of coalition government led by PTI in KP, JUI-F had a share in the government in the federal government with PML-N.
There is no chance that the alliance could win any seats from Punjab — a province which is expected to witness a tough contest between PML-N and PTI.
Analysts say that the revival of the MMA is specifically intended to target the provincial politics of KP.
Sometimes back the two leading parties of the alliance — JUI-F and JI agreed among themselves that if they put up a joint face in the forthcoming elections of provincial assemblies, they could easily secure a majority in the province.
A JUI-F insider told ‘Daily Morning Mail’ a joint study carried out by members of JUI and JI have reached the conclusion that together both could win a majority in the provincial assembly.
According to this understanding in the 2013 elections JUI-F and JI lost at least 18 to 25 constituencies of provincial assembly primarily because their votes were divided as their candidates were contesting against each other. This led to victory of PTI, PPP and PML-N, said a JUI-F insider.
In the last provincial assembly JUI-F had strength of 16 seats in the KP assembly, while Jamat-e-Islami had strength of eight seats in the provincial assembly.

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