5 Reasons why a terrorist’s son won the by-election in Pakistan
While the world is busy debating the success of Donald Trump in USA, an extremist Muslim cleric won by-election in Pakistan. This is Punjab assembly’s seat PP-78 vacated by ruling party PML-N’s women Member Provincial Assembly (MPA) who was disqualified by Election Commission of Pakistan for concealing her assets. It’s an alarming situation not only because the winning candidate is an extremist backed by banned militant organization but also because he’s beaten the mainstream political parties; PML-N, PPP and PTI by heavy margin.
Newly elected MPA Maulana Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi is son of infamous militant group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan’s slain founder Haq Nawaz Jhangvi from Jhang district of Punjab province. The organization was banned after 9/11’s war on terror in early 2000s but they renamed it to “Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat” (ASWJ) and continued their activities. ASWJ (اہلسنت والجماعت) was also banned later but they are still “allowed” to perform “peaceful” activities all over the country. SSP (سپاہ صحابہ پاکستان), ASWJ and LeJ (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) militants have been involved in different terrorist attacks on Shia Muslims, Law Enforcement Agencies, Christians and other minorities in Pakistan. Where SSP and LeJ (لشکر جھنگوی) are launching armed attacks against the state and minorities, ASWJ is active on social media and lobbying with politicians to enter in legislative assemblies so they can pass a law declaring Shia sect as ‘infidel’ and even stricter laws for apostates (ex-Muslims). However, their motto remains the same i.e. “Shias are Infidels” (شیعہ کافر ہیں) which is adding fuel to fire of sectarian violence. And this is not the first time a hardline militant winning elections. Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party (PRHP), a political front of banned ASWJ had bagged 49 seats in 2015’s Local Government Elections in Pakistan’s biggest port-city Karachi.
Muhammad Jibran Nasir, a secular Pakistani politician and civil rights activist, revealed in his article “Sleeping with Sectarianism” that more than 4700 Pakistanis have been killed in sectarian violence between 2001 and 2016. If you don’t know much about Pakistan, you may have few questions in your mind like; does the state sponsor sectarian militants and why are they being elected despite having links with banned organizations?
The answer to such burning questions might not be that easy but I've found these 5 simple reasons why a terrorist like Masroor Jhangvi can be elected in Pakistan.
1: Legal Loopholes and Poor Enforcement: Although he is not an “official” member of ASWJ or LeJ but he’s allegedly controlling these banned organizations. You can easily find his controversial religious speeches on internet where he’s provoking followers against Shia Muslims. Election Commission of Pakistan strictly forbids anyone having links with banned organizations to contest in elections.
ASWJ’s chief Ahmed Ludhianvi was declared ineligible for contesting PP-78’s by-elections and then he started backing Masroor Jhangvi. Everyone knows that he is Haq Nawaz Jhangvi’s son (the founder of SSP) and actively participating in hate speech but the legal loopholes and poor law enforcement let him participate in election.
2: Low Voter Turnout: Lax laws only helped him to contest, but how did he manage to win against 3 popular political parties? One of the many reasons is low voter turnout. The overall turnout was just around 30% where it was more than 55% in 2013’s general elections.
This is because corrupt politicians and bad governance failed to fulfill common man’s basic demands so fewer people chose to vote, others don’t bother to visit a polling station. If the turnout were more than 50%, PML-N could have won that seat again.
3: Political Opportunism: Although we call it, “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” yet most of the politicians are not religious extremists. Nonetheless, they are short-sighted politicians and they always go for political opportunism.
This time, three major political parties Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf despite realizing that they’re facing a hardline sectarian cleric, did not make an alliance causing split vote bank. Furthermore, many political parties including the ruling PML-N and opposition parties PPP, PTI have made alliances with banned ASWJ in past making it a stronger political force of Pakistan.
4: Illiteracy: We have one of the worst education systems in Pakistan. As per Federal Ministry of Education, the average literacy rate in Pakistan is around 60%. It’s even worse in small cities and rural areas like Jhang where an extremist cleric has been elected.
These militant organizations take full advantage of illiteracy because it’s much easier to convince illiterate people to vote for the radicals.
5: Islamic Radicalization: Hundreds of radical Islamic schools were made during military dictator Zia-ul-Haq regime. And even after he died in a plane crash, the number of Madrassas kept growing and now we have 35,000 Islamic religious schools (Madrassas) with over 3 million students as of 2015.
These “schools” only teach Koran and centuries old Islamic books where each sect has a different Hadith (book of Islamic ideologies). The Madrassa “graduates” go to mosques and most of them are involved in hate speech against non-Muslims, apostates and even the Muslims from other sects. ASWJ has good number of Madrassas in Jhang district and all over the country. They have massive support of students and their families which is one of the many reasons behind Jhangvi’s success in recent by-elections.
Is ASWJ a local or global threat?
Unlike ISIS, ASWJ is mainly focused on anti-Shia militancy. Their aim is to make Pakistan a KSA like Sunni Muslim state. However, in 2006, they had organized Islamic demonstration outside London’s Danish Embassy.
ASWJ has been working in UK to radicalize Muslim youths against British Government. They are ISIS sympathizers and also provide safe houses to Harkat ul-Mujahideen (حرکتہ المجاہدین) a terrorist group in Indian-administrated Kashmir.
Therefore, the United Nations should mount pressure on Pakistani government to take strict action against ASWJ and other banned militant organizations for safer and peaceful world!