IT would be correct to say that the seats tally is not a reliable indicator of the strength of the latest entrant in the national election scene, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan.

The TLP has surprised everyone by taking two provincial seats in Karachi but the signs of its real potential are spread over areas of consistent performance in Punjab and in Sindh, especially in the cities.

Read: Religious parties fail to make their presence felt

This outfit has notched up a benumbing 2.2m votes in its first general election. It is impossible to analyse which parties it has hit the hardest. A rather narrow frame applied to the problem would show that since both the leading parties in the election, the PML-N and PTI, are described as right wing, the TLP, as a faith-based group, would cut across their votes indiscriminately.

But last Wednesday’s election is more proof of how hazardous it is to apply old standards to unprecedented developments. The TLP symbolises a real threat for all those who have been in the political arena long before its leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi made his first motivational speech.

Not least, they are challenging the older religious-political parties, such as those that are grouped in the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal.

The MMA hasn’t quite lived up to the pre-poll projections in KP, but then this Jamaat-JUI-F combine was not slated to make a huge splash in the province this time round. It is believed that the PTI has to a large extent incorporated those elements that have made it acceptable to the moderate, right-of-centre voters, to the disadvantage of the MMA parties.

Also, Imran Khan is right now at the peak of his popularity, particularly in KP, where he has not just overwhelmed the Jamaat and the JUI-F, but has also reduced the ANP, PML-N, and the PPP to a bare-minimum presence.

This rise of the PTI in KP, where the religion-based parties had or still have a big following, is chiefly responsible for these parties not scoring well in the 2018 election.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that the maulanas have lost all clout in the country’s politics. Together, the TLP and MMA took some 4m votes, whereas the vote count of the PPP, which came third with 43 seats, stood at 6.8m.

The TLP on its own crossed the 40,000 mark in many constituencies and it featured prominently in the coup against Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in Lyari, once a PPP stronghold. This was no mean achievement for the new anti-status quo force.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2018

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