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Wednesday December 08, 2021

Disturbing alliances

July 19, 2018

Election season always throws up unexpected alliances of convenience as political parties scramble to maximise their opportunities to pick up. Even allowing for the messy reality of electoral politics, there have been some seat adjustment deals and coalitions formed that ought to disturb everyone. According to reports, the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, a militant group operating under the Awami Khidmat Panel that was banned until very recently, has secured the support of both the PML-N and the PTI for a National Assembly seat. A PPP member running as an independent for the seat has also extended his support to the ASWJ. Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi too is said to have recently visited the offices of the ASWJ and secured the militant group’s support for his National Assembly seat in Islamabad. Now – in a disturbing turn of events – the PTI has sought out and received the support of Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil. Senior party leader Asad Umar met with Khalil, who is the founder of the Harkatul Mujahideen and has been classified as a global terrorist by the US for his partnership with Al-Qaeda and involvement in dozens of terror attacks. The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, which shut down Islamabad earlier this year, has been organising massive rallies while the MML – the political front of globally proscribed Jamaat-ud-Dawa – has been permitted to field candidates.

On their own, none of these extremist parties has the support base to come close to winning national or provincial assembly seats. But by making alliances with willing mainstream parties, they create space for themselves and get to spread their noxious ideology. All political parties have a sordid history of seeking support from extremist groups but that was supposed to have changed after years of horrific attacks like the one on the APS in Peshawar in 2014. Even now, the ideological bedfellows of these groups are carrying out attacks on candidates of political parties, most recently in Mastung. There is plenty of blame to go around for this state of affairs. It beggars belief that these parties were allowed to field candidates in the first place despite their well-documented history of violence and hate-mongering. Then for all mainstream political parties to actively seek out their support not only betrays a moral bankruptcy but also shows exactly what such mainstreaming will lead to. At a time when the Financial Action Task Force has placed us on a grey list for not taking action against militant groups, our political parties are making the case against us by allying with such groups. They may justify their actions by citing the need to win seats but if this is what it takes to prevail in the elections then their victory will be a bitter one indeed for the country.