Pak Continues To Be In Political Tumult

By R C Ganjoo

Pakistan’s political culture is now outmoded. As a result, it has caused a serious threat to the integrity, economic development, and overall progress of Pakistan.
It goes without saying that in Pakistan in the present political environment, the political parties have become fiefdoms but subsequently trying to save the entire concept of democracy.
It was observed in the February 8 elections in Pakistan that gave a severe blow to Pakistan’s Islamist parties. A major Islamist party that experienced a humiliating defeat mainly Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s, the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F). The other Islamic political parties that actively participated in the February 8 polls were Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), the Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM), the Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party, the Pakistan Markazi Muslim League, and the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Nazriati but failed to achieve their goal. What are the root causes that the Islamist parties are on the way to being irrelevant in Pakistan’s electoral politics? It was observed that the influence of religio-political parties in Pakistani politics was silently returned through democratic assertiveness.
In Pakistan’s political system, there are significant numbers of religio-political parties. Out of the 167 parties registered with the Election Commission, roughly 25 have Islamist or sectarian names, reflecting their religious affiliations.
Imran Khan’s supporter retired Lt-Gen Naeem Khalid Lodhi in his nine-point proposal, called for a ceasefire between all the warring parties in the country and a period of calm reflection. He suggested bringing down the boiling temperature by letting the incumbents stay in office for two years under protest of just black armbands and avoiding more dramatic, potent, or disruptive such as public demonstrations
He also called for the closure of court cases, an end to the imprisonment of PTI leaders, and a cessation of harsh verbal exchanges between rivals. His party leader had other ideas and named the army chief as the person responsible for his continued imprisonment, claiming that if anything were to happen to him, or his wife, the most powerful man in the country would be directly responsible. He also called on his supporters to stand up and be counted or be content with a life of ‘slavery’.
In the February 8 elections, Islamist parties received almost 12 percent of votes in the country, according to a report by Gallup Pakistan. After PTI-backed independent candidates, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) respectively, the fourth largest party in the country was TLP (Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan,) with 2.8 million votes. Party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, his sons, and other prominent leaders lost to PTI-backed candidates. Only Fazl’s brother, Maulana Ubaidur Rehman, managed to retain his provincial assembly seat. This loss in its traditional base gave a major blow to the party. JUI-F leaders privately attributed the poor performance and the rise of the opposing PTI to public dissatisfaction with inflation and the government’s crackdown on the PTI. JUI-F and JI received 2.1 million and 1.3 million votes respectively, and their combined votes are slightly more than the TLP. According to Bilal Gilani, the director of Gallup Pakistan, “The average vote for Islamic parties is around 5 percent. So, vote-wise, they have done well. However, the ability of Islamist parties failed to convert votes into seats and saw a setback both in 2018 and in the 2024 polls.”
The rise of PTI under Imran Khan was a blow to the electoral fortunes of Islamist parties. Firstly, PTI effectively positioned itself as the outsider, challenging the status quo traditionally associated with both the PML-N and PPP, and some Islamist parties, including the JUI-F and the JI. Secondly, PTI focused on a broader national agenda that transcended purely religious themes. Imran Khan , a champion of liberalism, simultaneously appealed to Islamic values, such as his references to the state of Medina and anti-Western sentiment. This strategy proved successful in his favour. Khan skilfully used the “Medina state” as a model for social justice, which vibrated with voters seeking a society based on Islamic principles without noticing the extremism and sectarianism of some Islamist parties.
Political experts do acknowledge that people in Pakistan have a disconnection between religious values and real politics. According to experts, political parties prioritise pragmatism and compromise moral principles, leading to a perception of deceitful tactics and a disconnect from religious ideals. This was also observed that religious scholars should avoid politics entirely and focus solely on offering spiritual guidance.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the conduct of recent elections, the JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman criticised the flaws in the electoral system. Like other Islamist parties, members of the Jamaat-i-Islami have been questioning the party’s future relevance due to consistently poor electoral performances.
Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) has decided to launch an anti-government movement without the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). According to media reports, JUI-F leadership had expressed displeasure over the recent statement of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur regarding the Feb 8 election rigging
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief has advised the ruling parties to relinquish the government and pass the baton to PTI while announcing a ‘million march’ against election rigging. He warned that any attempts to obstruct their protest would result in trouble.
The JUI-F chief said that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari should step aside and let the Imran Khan-led party take the helm as it has the majority in the National Assembly.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the author.

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