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Analysis Politics Religion

General elections 2018 and infiltration of religious parties: What should be done?

On the eve of general elections 2018, religious parties with all blood, sweat and tears, have jumped into the fray. MMA has been reorganized. It is mostly eyeing on KP.

Radical cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, raising slogans of ‘Labaik Ya Rasool Allah’ is also vying for votes from the platform of Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan. On November 2017, Tehreek Labbaik enjoyed full or partial support of state institutions. It deftly contrived the use of religious card. Leaving aside the sermons of love and peace, the adherent of Sufism and devotees of shrines were using the language that was not their culture. They were using abusive words in their sermons. It was a new look of militancy.

Meanwhile, although Hafiz Saeed failed to get his Milli Muslim League (MMI) registered with Election Commission of Pakistan, yet he is likely to field his candidates anyway.

PTI has also put on religious guise which is thickened by recent activities of its leader, Imran Khan.

Participation of radical forces in elections is a part of electoral strategy of the establishment which is hell bent upon slicing off a considerable chunk of traditional vote bank of PML-N. Now these religious forces have emerged as electoral apparatus of establishment more than being the security assets that they previously used to be.

Rightwing forces are on the rise in Pakistan. Their vote bank and social muscles are swelling. Now, as the left and progressive front is almost on the legs, we witness the contest of Right vs Right.

A street vendor now calls his customers Haji sahib instead of ‘Chacha ji’

Religious influence has ushered in everywhere in public life. Now a street vendor calls his customers Haji sahib. This religious discourse is in vogue. In the past, the vendor would call his customers ‘dear uncle, brother or sire’. Hijab and burqa are markedly worn in urban areas. A large number of people participate in religious gatherings.

Youngsters wear beards. Dominating political thought in the society is expressed through many forms. Cricketers prostrate in the ground after scoring a century. The victory in the Champions Trophy under the leadership of Sarfraz Ahmad is attributed to his being Hafiz e Quran. On TV shows, he is asked to recite Naat instead of talking on cricket.

The wave of new radicalism is sweeping across the land. This metamorphous of fascism is actually a continuity of erstwhile religious extremism. Its twin barrels are discharging mental as well as physical attacks. It is molding public thought into spawning fascism.

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The induction of political term ‘Rightwing’

The political term’ rightwing’ was crafted in the Parliament of France established after the French Revolution (1789). On the left side of the Speaker would the pro-laborers who advocated real democracy and fundamental rights and they were anti-monarchy.

While on the right side of the Speaker were pro-monarchy parliamentarians who stood by autocracy and regression. They were adherents of the orthodox and antithetical to real change. When the Speaker addressed to the pro-monarchy parliamentarians, he used to say that now the Right would speak. In this way, this term became popular. It reflects a particular state of mind.

Today, duel is between Rightwing and Ultra-Rightwing

Today, two political terms are used: Rightwing and Ultra-Rightwing.

We can include PML-N and other chapters of Muslim League and PTI in the rightwing. Pakistan People’s Party started its journey with a leftwing program. But with the passage of time, it has been morphed into a kind of rightwing.

All politico-religious parties are included in ultra-rightwing. These parties see all issues with religious specs and play religious card for political gains. They voice for democracy but it is their dualism. If they ever form the government, they will impose theocracy as their religious obligation. Militants, racists and fascist are also included in these rightwing extremists.

Rightwing political parties are in action in electoral field. Here they rave on corruption and money laundering. On both sides of the line, looters and thugs form the ranks but they brazenly address each other with the same titles.

The leadership of rightwing parties is able to hoodwink due to participation of common people in their ranks. They paint themselves as public parties.

Rightwing is chiefly against common citizens. It favors market economy, endorses privatization, and most of them belong to feudal or capital segments. They use state power to multiply their assets by imposing anti-people agenda.

In rightwing political parties, common people are seen in majority. They join hands with anti-laborers religious parties and aristocrats due to various reasons. Common people adopt their views. Such segments of society become a tool in the hands of the leadership to befool more masses, as they can pretend to be public parties. The mushroom growth of madressahs has played its due part in this backdrop.

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Present-day is called the era of regression and anti-revolution. It is painful to see that the influence of feudal lords and religious parties is pressing the working class hard, making their life difficult. In the days to come, if nothing is done, the situation will only aggravate.

These groups own the media too

In general elections 2018, these parties and groups are likely to form the government. They dominate media. It is not because of their vibrant ideas but because they own the media or bring about its monetary benefit. They are veterans of bargain, they are well-versed in the tricks of this system and they exploit them to reach their ends.

Among religious parties, Jamaat Islami and JUI top the list. They are among the richest political parties. They provide cover to militants and strengthen their political muscle through madressahs. Most of the madressahs propagate fanaticism. They are an important link in the chain of suicide attacks.

A massive funeral landed them on the platform of politics. The then Interior Minister Ch Nisar helped swell up the funeral

The expansion in the vote bank of these religious parties is being anticipated before the elections. These parties can get considerable votes from all provinces.

Tehreek Labbaik is proving more threatening than other religious parties. This faction surfaced after the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Salmaan Taseer. A massive funeral launched them onto the platform of politics. It is said that the then Interior Minister Ch Nisar allowed the funeral to swell, allowing them three days to prepare for it. Muslims belonging to Sunni faction joined this funeral from all parts of the country. Besides, Captain (r) Safdar, the husband of Maryam Nawaz, kept on lauding the killer, only to feed its growth.

Religious fanaticism is the demon nursed by the state but now it has gone out of control

Religious fanaticism is a reality which can’t be connived at. It emerged with the backing of the state but now they are active autonomously.  This is the demon which Pakistani state nursed with the help of American imperialism, but now it has gone out of their control. Religious fanaticism not only propagated diverse kinds of extremism but also offered shoulder to political parties to win and gain popularity. The alarming bells being rung in the streets and public places ravaged with suicide attacks, bomb blasts and target killings, are now reverberating the in parliamentary politics.

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The organization planted by some elements of the state for Jihadi activities in other countries and fully backed up as a second tier of security line, is now all geared up to make its presence felt in parliamentary field. It is not a temporary surge, nor has it been launched merely to teach Nawaz Sharif a lesson in a particular constituency. It has fielded candidatesin many other parts of the country for the coming elections.

PTI and PML-N, both had contacts with religious fanatics

Both rightwing parties, PTI and PML-N have not only flirted with extremist parties but also connived at their activities, providing them political oxygen to fill more blood in their veins.

Today the rise of rightwing forces is the biggest challenge for leftists. It is their do-or-die moment, but Left does not seem to have any serious debate or strategy to ward this virulent situation off.  It is the need of the hour that all progressive, social democrat and civil organizations, small famers, serfs, labor unions, progressive trade unions, social groups and political parties of left should devise a joint policy and a way of action. They should strengthen the hand of resistant forces against the status quo. They should aid them on socialist bases which could challenge feudalism and exploiting powers.

This task can be executed through study circles, lectures, workshops, seminars, conferences and public gatherings. Instead of creating rift due to intrusive historical controversies, the Left should observe the demands of the time and jell its forces. In this antirevolutionary age, bygone analysis of revolutions will not work, but practical measures will be seen as a guideline.

We need comprehensive and collective action to foil the Rightwing. We need to tell the people that the rise of Rightwing will plunge the country to war, civil-war and bloodshed. The seed sown by a military dictator Gen Ziaul Haq has culminated into a towering tree.

We are already quite late, it is time of urgency to wake up and do something.

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Farooq Tariq

The author is Spokesperson of Awami Workers Party and General Secretary of Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee

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