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Islam and Politics ( 19 Apr 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The Pakistan Elections Scenario: Rise of Sectarianism and Extremism in the Offing



By Mujahid Hussain, New Age Islam

20 April 2013

As the Pakistan elections are coming near, Al Qaeda, Taliban and other smaller terror groups of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi are increasing their acts of terror. Their main targets are PPP, MQM and Awami National Party. It seems, these parties would have borne enough brunt before the elections are held. Another significant development is that the parties which are not on the radar of the terrorists are not even condemning their acts of terror. Either they having their support or are treating their acts of terror as advantageous for them in the sense that other’s loss will be their gain. Nawaz League which is almost certain of winning in Punjab is being accused of close proximity with the terror outfits of Al Qaeda and Taliban. Tahreek e Insaf’s position in this regard is not clear because it is neither taken as totally opposed to nor totally supportive of the terrorist groups.

Small religious groups like Jamaat e Islami and Jamiat Ulema e Islam will not be able to get any foothold in Punjab except that, perhaps, Jamiat Ulema e Islam (F) will be able to win its traditional seats.

Former President Perwez Musharraf is under house arrest after his bail application was rejected. His house was declared a sub jail for a day and now he has been moved to police headquarters.  Although Perwez Musharraf has updated his Facebook page with a message that such incidents will create differences between different national institutions, till date nothing untoward has happened and his institution ‘the Pakistan Army’ has still not reacted to this episode. Undoubtedly, Pakistan army has so far always been with its former high ranking officials and has always seen to it that they are not harmed either by the civil governments or the judiciary.

As far as Musharraf’s ‘homecoming’ is concerned Jihadi forces’ reaction is also still awaited. Adnan Rasheed, an al Qaeda leader, had video-graphically threatened to ‘assassinate’ Pervez Musharraf, the day he had landed in Pakistan. The whole world had watched this.

It will be difficult to say that Musharraf will have to be in jail forever because of  the serious nature of accusations against him. But he is close to the royal family of Saudi Kingdom and “the family’s” influence on Pakistan is overwhelming. He will possibly be released on conditions and will be asked to continue his own manufactured exile. More so, in the light of the present situation, it will also be easier for Musharraf to accept exile.

It will be wrong to think any religious or political leader or organisation of Pakistan will conduct themselves with civility as they are always in search of a way to be in the corridors of power. To fulfill this desire they keep taking sides as the time demands. 

Religious leaders of Pakistan, who are the most sophisticated orators, have always been in search of power. Hence to expect any kind of moral conduct from any Shaikh ul Islam or Qaed of Pakistan will be nothing but a day dream.

Expectations of Muslim League (N) coming into power once more in Pakistan is higher because the number of PPP’s well wishers is almost zero. It also has to bear responsibility for the myriad problems the state is beset with.

Imran Khan who proclaims himself to be the natural metaphor of changes in Pakistan has almost no hope of winning in the traditional politics of the country. He can at the most get some seats in Pakistan’s legislative Assembly. People consider him unfit for any kind of alliance between the parties or groups. He thinks he will change the age-old traditional politics of Pakistan in one go. There will be a democratic revolution in the country which will bring all the other powers and state institutions to earth like a pack of cards. And he will be able to reform and people of Pakistan will get respite from all the problems they are engulfed in. Imran Khan has fallen prey to a dangerous day dream through which he wishes to change the face of Pakistan politics. Two things can be said about him. Either he wants to establish a dictatorship or he does not understand the intrigues of his more illustrious colleagues in Pakistan politics who cannot be made so easily ineffective in the power game of Pakistan.

Whatever be the outcome of these elections, it is almost certain that because of the particular mentality of the politicians, the powers of sectarianism and religious terrorism will get stronger than before and internal situation of the country will remain crippled for long. The principal reason is Pakistani political parties’ habit of keeping mum when they need to speak and for getting an upper hand on other political parties by playing into the hands of fully-armed terrorist, extremist and sectarian organisations.   This tendency has crept in Pakistan politics during the last decade.

Politicians have always been on the receiving end of the struggle between the political parties and powerful institutions. Political organisations have to face the same public at periodic intervals and thus bear the brunt of their anger. On the other hand, most responsible officials of state institutions are faceless entities and do not have to seek approval of the public either.

Our intellectuals and political pundits are calling May elections a ‘milestone’ in the politics of Pakistan and they think this is bound to give the country a new direction. But, I have some apprehensions. No party is determined to solve the problem of the country caused by the rise of sectarianism and extremism. Or, at least at the moment, I do not see this happening in any form.

Mujahid Hussain is Brussels Bureau Chief of New Age Islam.  He is  author of nine books including the recently published book ‘Punjabi Taliban’. He has been writing for various newspapers as an investigative journalist for the last two decades. His writings cover a wide range of issues involving Pakistan. In recent years, local, regional and international affairs relating to terrorism and security have been the subject of his study.