What are the chances of religious parties in Pakistani elections?

Despite much speculation about the integrity of next Tuesday's Pakistani elections, lack of electoral activity and security challenges, it seems that the Anwarul Haq Kakar-led caretaker government is committed to holding the elections on time.

22 religious parties participate in these elections, which have different chances to reach the national parliament, regional councils and participate in the central government.

First of all, it should be noted that in the light of the forced curtailment of the role of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party and the imprisonment of its leader, former Prime Minister Imran Khan, the main competition is for the leadership of the Muslim League party. by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and the People's Party led by former President Asif Ali Zardari.

Apart from these two parties, other parties with regional roots also participate in the elections, such as the “National Muhajir Movement” in Sindh province, and the National People's Party, which has a Pashtun nationalist character, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

As far as religious political parties participating in the electoral field are concerned, the most prominent are:

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Jamaat-e-Islami led by Sirajul Haq, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan led by Saad Hussain Rizvi and Shia Muslim Unity Council party led by Nasir Abbas Jafri.

A rally of People's Party supporters in Karachi (French)

Political milestones… from inception till date

Since the establishment of Pakistan in 1947, religious-oriented political parties have not received electoral results that would enable them to form governments, neither at the national nor regional level.

Perhaps the only exception was the 2002 elections, when 6 of those parties ran under the umbrella of the “Working Council Alliance”, which won 45 seats in the National Council, and was able to form regional governments in the provinces. of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province) and Balochistan.

Observers attributed the success of religiously oriented political parties in the 2002 elections to Pakistani voters' sympathy for them, their support for the US war in Afghanistan, and the overthrow of the Taliban-led government of the Islamic Emirate in 2001. The Pakistani military ruler at that time was General Pervez Musharraf.

These factors then created a situation of popular sympathy towards religious parties, which raised slogans against the US war in Afghanistan and opposed the policies of Pervez Musharraf's government.

Since the general elections in 2013, electoral results in Pakistan have seen a decline in the number of votes received by religious political parties.

In the 2018 elections, 12 religious parties got only 5.2 million votes out of a total of 54.2 million votes.

That day, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party won 12 seats in the Union Parliament, and the “Labbaik Pakistan” movement, which is accused of being close to the Pakistani military establishment, received 2.2 million votes, but was unable to . Reach the National Council or the regional parliament in the Punjab province, which is considered its main stronghold. It won only 3 seats in the provincial parliament of Sindh province.

Voices scatter and priorities change

Observers expect that political parties with a religious nature will not receive a high percentage of votes in the upcoming elections, meaning that they will not be able to send many of their members to Parliament and regional councils for the following reasons:

  • The votes of these parties are likely to be fragmented, as each of them will contest the upcoming elections independently, and will not be united under any political umbrella or electoral alliance, thereby reducing the chances of their candidates winning over candidates from other parties. .
  • With the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, religious parties in Pakistan will lose their card to mobilize the religious class that rejects US hegemony in the region.
  • Pakistani voters focus on economic and security issues, such as leading the country out of the troubled economic situation, inflation, unemployment and rising security challenges.
Religious parties in Pakistan are mobilizing their supporters for elections on February 8 (French)

The luckiest and least lucky:

  • According to researcher and member Abdul Basit Muhammad, perhaps Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Party – Fazlur Rehman's branch has a better chance of gaining many seats in the Union Parliament and parliamentary assemblies in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. International Center for Research on Political Violence.

In an article published on “The Diplomat” website, Abdul Basit expects the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party to get 8 to 10 seats in the Pashtun-majority Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Council and Pashtun-majority areas of Balochistan province.

The chances for the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party to gain many seats in the upcoming elections are enhanced by the fact that it will be able to take advantage of “systematically weakening the PTI party in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.” Sheikh Fazlur Rehman's relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Taliban in Pakistan.

approach the army

There is also speculation that Sheikh Fazlur Rehman, during his recent visit to Afghanistan and after meeting with the Afghan Taliban leader in Kandahar, mediated with the Pakistani Taliban for an undeclared ceasefire with the Pakistani government and he was successful in doing so.

There is no doubt that this move brings Sheikh Fazlur Rehman closer to the military establishment in Pakistan, and strengthens his party's chances of participating in the next government, especially if Nawaz Sharif is able to reach the post of prime minister. .

This is what Muhammad Aamir Rana says in an article in the famous “Dan” newspaper published from Karachi, where he says, “If the speculations about the success of Sheikh Fazlur Rehman's efforts to reach a temporary ceasefire by the Pakistani Taliban are true, then the Jamiat Al-Ulama Party “will demand a significant stake in the next government.”

  • The Islamic group, which was founded in 1941 by the renowned thinker and political leader Abu al-Ala Maududi, has no strong indicators indicating significant progress in its electoral path, although it is likely that some of its candidates will make it. National Council and two regional councils in both Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

This possibility is bolstered by the fact that the Islamic group won 132 of the total 367 seats in recent municipal elections in Karachi city, which has a population of more than 17 million.

  • As for the “Labbaik Pakistan” movement, which is active in the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad in Punjab province and Sindh province, it is likely to play a role in dividing the votes if it is unable to get seats in the parliament. . To writer Aamir Khan.

This spread reduces the chances of victory for candidates of the Muslim League-Nawaz Sharif Party in Punjab and the National Muhajir Movement Party in Karachi and Hyderabad cities of Sindh province due to the presence of supporters of the Pakistan Liberation Movement. Barelvi sect with Sufi tendencies.

Whatever the outcome of the election, voter turnout will be an indicator of the political performance of religious political parties in Pakistan and a test of their popularity.

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