Pakistan is well-known for getting cosy with extremists. Whether it’s the Haqqani Network, Mullah Omar, or Osama bin Laden, militants find sanctuary in Pakistan with or without official sanction. However, it’s one thing to let them hide in the hinterlands, and another to give them seats in parliament. On Thursday, Pakistan’s electoral commission ruled that Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, leader of a banned organization accused of targeting Shi‘as, has won a parliamentary seat. The New York Times has the report:
At the conclusion of a dispute that started with last year’s general election, the commission ruled that Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, the leader of the banned group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), should represent the Jhang district in Punjab Province.Jhang has a long history of sectarian violence, and Mr. Ludhianvi’s group, formerly known as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, is considered the ideological umbrella organization behind much of the violence against Shiites in recent decades.
Sectarian violence has risen in Pakistan over the past few years, and Pakistan’s Shi‘as have been the primary victims. Shi‘a clerics, doctors, and public figures have been attacked, and militants have frequently targeted the predominantly-Shi‘a Hazara ethnic group in the west and north-west regions.Pakistan has done little to discourage this disturbing trend. Its relations with Iran, home to the world’s largest Shi‘a population, have grown tense in part due to attacks on the Iranian consulate allegedly committed by Ludhianvi’s organization. The ASWJ has also led protests at the Iranian consulate in Karachi and attempted to ban an Iranian stall at a book fair. The election of this extremist to parliament is a sign that the government will do little to ensure the safety of its Shi‘a citizens.