The vote bank of all religio-political parties — well, those that have been in the electoral politics for years and years — has suffered a decline in this election. They have been polled fewer votes in Election 2018 as compared to the previous elections, and the number of seats secured by them at the national level has also gone down. Does this really mean a rejection of the religious right by the people? Well, the performance of newer right-wing parties negates the proposition. Look at the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). The party led by the firebrand cleric, Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, bagged 2.2 million votes and emerged as the fifth-largest party in the election in terms of number of votes secured countrywide. The party gave political stalwarts like Dr Farooq Sattar of the MQM-P and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the PPP a run for their money in contest for the lower house, besides winning two provincial assembly seats.
Another party that influenced the religious vote bank is the Hafiz Saeed-led Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek (AAT), another name for the Milli Muslim League which had been denied registration by the ECP over links with the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa. The AAT failed to win any seat but bagged a considerable 171,356 votes for the National Assembly. The TLP and the AAT combined bagged more than 2.3 million votes, which figure hugely in the total number of votes won by all right wing parties — which is 5.2 million.
The statistics are good enough to show that the wind of change has blown all across the left-right political spectrum. Whether following the left or the right or any of their shades, the voters have rejected the old guards and are now pinning their hopes on the new faces.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2018.