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Islamists get less than 5pc votes in twin cities

May 15, 2013

ISLAMABAD, May 14: Islamists could obtain only 4.72 per cent votes in the nine National Assembly seats of Rawalpindi district and the federal capital in the May 11 elections.

Out of the 1.86 million votes polled for the two National Assembly seats of Islamabad and seven Rawalpindi district, the Islamic and sect-based parties, including Jamaat-i-Islami and the JUI-F, managed to bag only 88,101 votes.

The trend showing that Pakistanis do not vote for religious elements or any party representing their sect has been taken as a welcome sign by many even in the religious circles.

“I am happy to see that people vote for the mainstream without considerations to their religion or sect,” said Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, the chief of Pakistan Ulema Council.

“People have rejected sectarianism and extremism. Look at Jhang, the centre of Sipah-i-Sahaba. The PML-N candidate has won there,” he said.

The two primarily sect-based groups active in the arena of Rawalpindi and Islamabad in the elections 2013 were the Shia Majlis Wahdat Muslimeen (MWM), the newest entrant into politics as it got itself registered only in February 2013.

The other mainly sect-based group was the Muttahida Deeni Mahaz (MDM), which was the only electoral alliance in the general elections, led by Maulana Samiul Haq, chief of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam.

The MDM comprised five small groups belonging to the Deobandi school of thought, including Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), the reincarnation of Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP).

Both the groups were confident of a respectable finish in the elections.

“Islam has been and will remain the most important aspect of Pakistani society and you can see that only the Islamists can bring a change in the system which currently is based on exploitation and interest (riba),” Maulana Samiul Haq had told Dawn prior to the elections.

Among the most decorated and confident candidates of the MDM was Maulana Mohammad Ishtiaq Abbasi from PP-1 Murree, because of his religious standing in the area and his sound background. He belongs to the local majority Abbasi clan.

Due to sound financial standing, he was also the only provincial assembly candidate in the country to have aired his own paid advertisements on TV channels.

Despite all these cards and the expected support from the network of Madressahs in the area, Ishtiaq Abbasi of the MDM obtained only 13,757 votes, making him finish at the fourth slot way behind 21,433 of the PTI candidate, 23,498 of the PML-Q and 51,108 of the winning PML-N.

Besides, the combined votes of MDM with other religious parties, including the JI and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (Noorani), a Barelvi group, come to 20,462, putting it at number four.

For NA-50, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of the PML-N, the winner, bagged 133,906 votes followed by 46,819 (PTI) and 44,713 (PPP).

But the four candidates each from the two Barelvi-based small parties (Markazi Jamiat Mushaikh Pakistan and Pakistan Sunni Tehrik), JI and JUI-F got a total of 16,324 votes.

“The voters are mature and people go for party-based politics, they understand different things,” Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said, cautiously choosing his words not to criticise the religious elements.

Meanwhile, the ASWJ blamed rigging by the PML- N for their poor performance and presented justifications for the low vote cast.

“We are a new entrant in politics in this region and the people were not well aware of our presence,” said Tayyab Hydri, a spokesman for ASWJ.

Incidentally, based on the confidence that his party and ideology has strong presence in Murree area, the late leader of SSP Azam Tariq in the year 2000 when his party used to be in its prime had announced an aggressive plan to promote Islamic norms in the country.

He had also said that the residents would voluntarily establish Islamic cities across the country.

He himself held a public gathering in Murree city in 2000 and announced his decision to establish the first volunteer Islamic city of the country there.

But the performance of this party has been the same in other constituencies too. The MDM candidate in NA-52, Maulana Mohammad Bilal Umar, got 2,104 votes, another cleric of JUI-F obtained 555 votes out of around 252,000 cast.

The election outcome of their main competitors, the Shia-based MWM, has not been any better.

Their main candidate in the region was Allama Asghar Asghari from NA-48 and he could gather around 1,000 votes. The JUI-F ended up with 733 votes, Sunni Itehad Council 39 votes and independent candidate Allama Zaheer Qadri 182 votes.

It may be noted that the area has a large Shia population and there are also followers of Pirs due to the presence of several shrines.

The MWM candidate in NA-55, Saeed Rizvi, despite his age-old interaction with the Shia communities in Satellite Town, Asghar Mall, Banni, Dhoke Ratta and other parts of the constituency got mere 1,023 votes out of the total 177,207 votes cast.

The other religious groups too were around the same figure.

Like the ASWJ, the MWM spokesperson did not acknowledge their election failures and blamed rigging by PML-N and their recent entrance into politics as the reasons for low turnout in their favour.

Incidentally, the prominent figure of the federal capital, Dr Ghazanfar Mehdi, contesting independently from NA-49, had pinned high hopes on Shia population spread from Bari Imam, Bhara Kahu to Tarlai but he got 176 votes.

“This is also a guideline for the incoming government that the Pakistanis have expressed loudly that they do not want sectarianism or religious extremism,” said Maulana Tahir Ashrafi.