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RELIGIOUS PARTIES IN GENERAL ELECTIONS

  • Dr Syed Hussain Shaheed Soherwordi
  • Dec, 2017
  • 84
  • National

Mainstream Islamist parties act politically with a mind to nonpolitical considerations. Most religious parties remain tied to religious movements through informal links and overlapping memberships

During general elections in Pakistan, every major political party advocates popular policies and catchy slogans like roti, kapra aur makan(bread, clothing and shelter) in order to win public support. In other words, they try to win elections to implement their preferred policies. In both cases, the aim is to govern. Religious parties are no different. They are also obsessed with gaining power. In Pakistan secular parties are capable of winning general elections. Religious parties always form either a coalition government as a junior partner or a minor supporter of a majority party in the parliament. During different elections in the past, they are either weak or nonexistent across much of Pakistan. However, their full inclusion into democratic process is critical to any meaningful process of democratization in the country. Their normal electoral slogans are: Islamic system, Islamic revolution, and Shariah etc.

Islamist parties rarely contest the total number of available parliamentary seats. Instead, they usually contest for less than 50 % of all available seats. This trend shows that they always want to establish a pressure group for the ruling majority party in the Parliament. When they raise the slogan of shariah or Islamic revolution, one fails to understand how a religious revolution can be heralded with less than 50% participation. Of course, the end winning product is further less than 50 %. This would mean the religious parties are looking for an Islamic revolution with minority? This in itself is a negation of majority rule- Democracy.

Islamist parties are good at winning when they want to. However, their ideology is an stumbling block in their way to victory. Winning is not what they want. They want a victory of majority with their sole dependency on their minority support which is a dichotomy. Jamat-e-Islami (JI) is a party which does not have its roots in common men. It’s a closed-disciplined party with every member as a staunch member of the party. They believe in Islamic Shariah in the country. It’s stated that in every constituency in Pakistan’s parliamentary elections, JI has a vote bank of 8000-10000. If it’s so, how come it will win elections with ‘full majority’? How will a JI sponsored shariah will come in Pakistan? How come JI will form the government based on Quran and Sunnah?

Few other religious parties are willing to win elections by any means necessary. Most make temporary tactical compromises in order to better their chances for future victory. Jamiat-e-Ulma-e-Islam(JUI) is one of such cases. JUI is ready to have an electoral alliance with any liberal or secular party for its own gains. They are more interested in being part of a government- as junior partner. It has been in the history that they always tried to remain with the ruling party. However, at the end of the elected term, they opt for opposition benches to go back to the electorate for seeking a fresh favorable mandate.  JUI always raised slogan of Islamic system in Pakistan. However, this slogan was restricted to the electioneering only. No effort was made to take up the issue of Sharia in Pakistan in the Parliament. During MMA government of 2002-08 in the KP, JUI government completely failed to bring a friction of Sharia or Islamic System in the province. One can understand the fact that the MMA was elected during 2002 not for the Islamic System but for showing solidarity with the religious parties who openly opposed the US moves of invading Afghanistan just after 9/11 events. However, their modus operandi of governance was just as liberal as any other non-religious party’s government.

Islamist Parties exhibit several features that set them apart. To begin with, they do not necessarily need to rule to fulfill their slogan- Islamization of society. Contrary to the experience of Western Europe’s socialist parties, which could make society “socialist” only if they held power- and perhaps not even then, really, society in Pakistan can be made “Islamic” even if Islamists consistently lose elections. This has arguably already happened in Pakistan where voters may be even more conservative than Islamic parties themselves. Tableeghi Jama’at (TJ) can be cited as an example. They are more orthodox and conservative than religious political parties. That is one of the big reasons that till to-date, the religious political parties have failed to attract votes of the TJ for themselves. However, followers of the TJ cast their votes randomly. Few other religious political parties like Jama’at-tud-Dawa, and the parties based on sectarian divide also favor their own...

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