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Pakistani Extremists on Brink of Entering Parliament


A Reuters reporter’s recent visit to Jhang, in Pakistan’s Punjab region, should be a reality check for any Westerner tempted to celebrate Pakistan’s upcoming elections—the first ever transfer of power from one civilian administration to another—as a victory for democracy.

In most countries the leader of a sectarian group blamed for horrendous suicide bombings and assassinations of innocent Shiites would be in prison, in jail awaiting trial or, at the very least, shunned by the public and the political establishment. But in Jhang, Pakistan, Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi is a hero to the people, a friend to the powerful, and a candidate for parliament.

In 2008, Ludhianvi ran for a seat in the national assembly and lost, narrowly. His rival in that race has been disqualified this year; now no one stands in his way.

Not only is Ludhianvi’s brand of populism and sectarianism appealing to many ordinary Pakistanis from Punjab; he can count on support from powerful civilian politicians too. Rana Sanaullah, Punjab’s law minister and a high-ranking official in Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N party, campaigned with Ludhianvi in 2010.

Pakistan-watchers in the West usually take it for granted that Pakistan’s military aids terrorist groups that fight in India and Afghanistan and are engaged in campaigns to kill Shiite civilians in Pakistan. But as the Reuters article makes clear, Pakistan’s civilian politicians share some of the blame for this. Sharif’s PML-N, hugely popular and influential in Punjab, takes a soft approach to Shiite-hating organizations like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which among other atrocities is blamed for a huge bomb attack that killed 84 civilians in Quetta in February.

Sharif is expected to be the next Prime Minister, and Ludhianvi and some of his colleagues are expected to win seats in the national assembly. Welcome to Pakistan.

[Screen capture of Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi speaking on 6th February 2013]

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  • Jim Luebke

    So Musharraf is in jail, and unfriendlies are likely to be elected to their government soon.

    Is India in any shape to go to war against Pakistan anytime soon? That may not be avoidable, in the all-too-near future.

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