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Pak polls sees rise of anti-blasphemy party

01 Aug,2018

AFP:

A relatively new anti-blasphemy party whose leader has reportedly vowed to nuke the Netherlands should he ever come to power did surprisingly well in Pakistan's elections last week, which were tainted by the rise of extremist groups. Islamic fundamentalist parties fielded more than 1,500 candidates in Pakistan's provincial and national elections that were won by cricket hero turned politician Imran Khan. Here AFP looks at how the main extremist parties fared during Wednesday's polls.

ANTI-BLASPHEMY PARTY

The performance of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), led by radical preacher Khadim Hussain Rizvi, will worry mainstream politicians and human rights activists the most. The group, founded in 2015, entered the national consciousness last year when it blockaded the capital Islamabad for several weeks calling for stricter enforcement of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws. It wants the automatic death penalty for anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or the Prophet Muhammad.

Rizvi reportedly told journalists recently that if he took power in the nuclear-armed country he would "wipe Holland off the face of the earth", over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published there. Fortunately for the Netherlands, TLP failed to win any of the 272 seats up for grabs in Pakistan's National Assembly.

It did, however, capture two seats in the provincial assembly of Sindh. TLP polled over 2.23 million votes in the national assembly elections, its first general election, and more than 2.38 million provincial votes, election commission website data shows.

GROUP LINKED TO MUMBAI ATTACKS

Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek was backed by Hafiz Saeed, the man accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. Saeed has been designated a terrorist by the United Nations and has a $10-million bounty on his head. Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek was formed after Pakistan banned the Milli Muslim League -- the political party of hardline militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is headed by Saeed -- from the election. None of the party's candidates won seats but they did register more than 435,000 national and regional votes.

SUNNI HARDLINERS

Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) is a radical Sunni group that frequently spouts hatred against Pakistan's Shia minority community, considering them heretics. "If we get power in the evening and if a single Shia is alive by the morning in Pakistan then change my name," leader Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi told an election rally. ASWJ is considered to be the political face of sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which has been behind numerous bloody attacks on Shia Muslims in Pakistan. Its candidates ran as independents and were known to have won at least one seat, in the Punjab assembly.

Political commentator Fasi Zaka told AFP that while votes for extremist parties did not translate into many seats in a first-past-the-post system, their sizable vote banks will give them clout in an increasingly competitive political landscape.

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