Political mainstream tilted to right, far right of centre
Pakistan’s electoral scene is completely dominated by the right- wing and extreme-right-wing political parties, and left-and –left-of-centre parties are conspicuously missing from the scene.
This would mean that whoever wins in the July 25 parliamentary elections would have a religious or quasi-religious agenda to implement after coming to power in Islamabad.
There is only one left oriented party contesting elections namely the Awami Workers’ Party (AWP) led by senior lawyer, Abid Hassan Minto, which is contesting from a small number of national assembly seats from Punjab.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) — one of the few left-of-centre parties in the country — has been transformed so thoroughly that it no more stands for the workers’ ownership of means of production and is completely dominated by big landlords and feudal in Sindh Province – the only province where it has a chance of winning the elections.
Two major political parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) — apparently have right wing oriented political agenda as amply evident from the use of religious terms and concepts in their election campaigns and elections speeches by their leaders.
However, on a deeper analysis it becomes clear that the top leadership of both the major parties has an opportunistic orientation and is completely devoid of any ideology.
In fact it would not be far from truth to claim that Pakistani political scene has left far behind the ideology-oriented politics of the 1970s when PPP was in the field with the slogan of “Islamic socialism” and right win parties like Jamaat-i-Islami and Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam (JUI) opposing it with a slogan of ‘Islamic Revolution’.
However in the post-Zia period Pakistani political scene started to shun the ideological veneer and adopt an opportunistic and pragmatic style. This was the period of ideological disorientation of major ideological parties like PPP and JI.
During Benazir Bhutto’s first and second term PPP under the influence of worldwide campaign in support of Neo-Liberalism went for large scale privatisation of industry nationalised under her father’s tenure and in the process forgot about the labour- friendly ideology of PPP.
The JI, on the other hand, after a failed attempt at populism in 1990s under the leadership of its late chief, Qazi Hussein Ahmed, went into oblivion after the far right or extremist and militant Islamist like Jamaatud Dawa and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) took over the centre stage in Pakistan’s political scene.
The Post-Zia 1990s also saw the rise of popular political forces with apparently no ideological orientation. This primarily included the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), which was advocating a form of neo-liberal economic order with close association with big business and big money.
These political parties were financed, and were under the influence of crony capitalists, whose fortunes were dependent on State’s generosity. This type of capitalists could now be found in almost every political party existing in Pakistan: They finance the political campaigns of political leaders and when these political leaders form government they expect returns from the governments in the form of state largesse.
The second major party to emerge on this ideological model was Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) under the leadership of Imran Khan. It emerged as a party with no ideology and as an assembly of electables who had moneybags to finance the campaigns of their new leader, Imran Khan.
Interestingly the period from 1990s up until now is full of media reports about scandals related to the influence of money on country’s politics.
“Crony capitalists could now be found in every political party…they are the backbone of every political party in the country,” said Zaigham Khan, a senior political analyst.
Now both the major political parties are advocating a form of neo-liberal economic order where big businesses will offer jobs to the downtrodden. This proposition is based on the fact that both the major political parties are full of crony capitalists who are spending billions of rupees on elections campaigns and would be expecting a return when these parties will form government.
The religious political parties ideologically are in worst forms: Their finances are also in control of crony capitalists who are mostly in the business of sugar mills or real estates.
The traditional right wing parties like the JI and JUI have already been pushed out of the centre stage by new right wing parties like Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and Milli Muslim League (MML) who are advocating a more radical and more extremist view of politics in the country.
The interior ministry had opposed the registration of Milli Muslim League on the basis of the fact that its inclusion in country’s politics will promote violence in the country on account of its close relations with militant groups.
Similarly, TLP is also advocating a highly narrow agenda and its campaign are based on hatred of religious minorities in the country. More sinister are the reports that caretaker government has allowed the extreme right win sectarian/hate groups to participate in the elections 2018.