War on ‘Blasphemy’ a Top Theme in Islamist-Dominated Pakistani Elections

A Pakistani woman in a burqa casts her ballot on February 18, 2008 in Peshawar, Pakistan. The critical national and provincial elections are expected to further weaken President Musharraf's hold on power. The elections are considered a crucial step in the ongoing process of moving Pakistan from military to civilian …
Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

The looming July 25 general elections in Pakistan have seen hundreds of candidates enter the political mainstream with backing from Islamic terrorist organizations and ardent supporters of the country’s blasphemy law, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) revealed this week.

Those convicted of violating the blasphemy laws that protect Islam against criticism can face life in prison or death. The law is often used to target Christians and other religious minorities, often with very little evidence against them.

Overall, hardline Islamist groups — led by the Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) organization that rose to prominence last November by opposing changes to the blasphemy law — have fielded a whopping 395 candidates for the parliamentary elections across Pakistan, Breitbart News determined using ECP data published by the Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

That means hundreds of politicians affiliated with Islamic terrorist organizations and anti-Christian Muslim hardliners may soon be running nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Citing the incomplete “final list” of contenders announced by ECP on Wednesday, Dawn reports that the ardently anti-blasphemy Islamist group TLP achieved major political party status by fielding 152 candidates.

The Times of India (TOI) reports:

The TLP – whose raison d étre is the protection of the blasphemy law – was formed as recently as in 2015 and yet it has fielded a whopping 152 candidates. By comparison, parties that have been in Pakistani politics for decades have fielded just between 40-75 candidates more than the TLP.

Then there’s the religio-political parties’ alliance – Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA)- which comprises the ultra-conservative, Islamist, religious, and far-right parties of Pakistan that was formed way back in 2002. This lot, headed by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, has put up candidates in 173 constituencies.

Rounding off the Islamist trifecta is an outfit called the Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek (AAT). This is the platform for none other than terrorist Hafiz Saeed’s Milli Muslim League, which has been denied registration by Pakistan’s election commission, due to its links with the banned Saeed-held Jamaat-ud-Dawa. AAT has fielded 43 candidates in Punjab and seven in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, for a total of 50.

TOI left out the anti-blasphemy Islamic extremist party led by Ashraf Asif Jalali, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Islami (TLI), which has put up 18 candidates in Punjab, Dawn notes.

Reuters reported last week that Pakistan’s election commission is also considering allowing Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) — linked to a U.S.-designated terrorist organization — to enter the political fray and field candidates this year.

ASWJ is led Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, recently removed from Islamabad’s terrorist watchlist ahead of the elections.

Together, Islamist hardliner groups — MMA (175), TLP (152), AAT (50), and TLI (18)— have fielded 395 candidates, more than the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N’s (PML-N) 195.

Of those Islamist extremist candidates, 170 (TLP, TLI) are in favor of the country’s blasphemy law often used against Christians, and 50 (AAT) have the support of the Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) organization, a known affiliate of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) jihadist group that carried out the deadly 2008 Mumbai attack.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has fielded the most candidates (225), followed by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) with 218, and the PML-N with 195.

This year’s election race appears to be a springboard for Islamist radicals and alleged criminals accused of murder and rape.

Members of the major political parties, namely PTI, PML-N, and PPP, “face corruption, criminal, rape, dual nationality, money laundering, extortion, loans/bank defaulting, human smuggling and murder charges in Pakistan,” Geo News reported last month.

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