Article published on the 2008-05-10 Latest update 2008-05-28 15:13 TU
A pro-boycott rally in Lahore, February 2008 - the call not to take part in the poll split the MMA
(Photo : Claude Verlon/ RFI)
‘‘I need to vote in the name of God and the system he has made for the Muslims,’’said Tariq, a voter outside a polling station in a middle-class Lahore neighbourhood on 18 February.
“It is mandatory for a Muslim to vote for an Islamic party," he declared.
Asked why few Pakistanis seemed ready to follow his example, he claimed that most of them were confused. “So was I, 'till I finally read and understood my own religion. That’s the sad part of the story.”
The religious parties were the biggest losers in the 2008 election. They were reduced from 53 seats to six and won just 2.2 per cent of the vote.
And they lost control of the one province where they ruled alone, the North-West Frontier Province. And they lost Balochistan, which they had held with a coalition they had formed with Musharraf’s allies.
The defeat was partly a self-inflicted wound. The religious parties’ alliance had split over relations with the president and the PML-Q, with some parties boycotting the election, while others stood for re-election.
The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (United Action Front) was a coalition of Islamic parties, the largest of which were Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and Qazi Hussein Ahmed’s Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI).
They demanded that Pakistan’s legal system should consist exclusively of Islamic sharia courts and resisted trends towards secularisation, like the campaign to transfer rape cases from sharia courts to civil courts. But they also claimed to stand for more social justice.
But JUI proved more susceptible to working with Musharraf than JeI, joining the the PML-Q to form a coalition in Balochistan and breaking the boycott of the election campaign.
The MMA’s rule in North-West Frontier Province soon lost support, especially after the creation of an auxiliary police which was extremely zealous in enforcing its version of Islamic observance.
In February 2008, the secular Pashtun nationalists of the Awami National Party (ANP) formed a coalition with the PPP to rule North-West Frontier Province and took many of the MMA’s National Assembly seats as well.
Pakistan's political parties