Spiritual guides (pirs) are embedded deep within Pakistan's electoral culture. No, we are not just referring to Imran Khan; several other power hopefuls have approached their pirs for blessings and benedictions ahead of the upcoming polls.

According to a study quoted in Ashaar Rehman's opinion piece in today's Dawn, there are 64 shrines with direct political connections in Punjab alone.

Rehman says that while these spiritual guides' political influence may eventually wane due to large scale urbanisation, for now they still hold value for our political leaders.

The observers deep in the districts say the pirs are holding on for the moment – in Multan, in Jhang, at so many places in Sindh, in their stronghold all over Pakistan. In the long run, however, they have a far bigger struggle at hand to stay relevant, with the urban model juggernaut promoted by the media threatening to gobble them. — Asha’ar Rehman

Read the full column here.