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Islamic parties fell prey to real issues

Islamic parties fell prey to real issues

Author: Shobhan Saxena
Publication: The Times of India
Date: February 20, 2008
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Islamic_parties_fell_prey_to_real_issues/rssarticleshow/2798540.cms

The Red Caps are back in the Frontier. In a remarkable display of resilience and commitment to its secular values, the Awami National Party (ANP), which bore the brunt of suicide bombers in the run up to the elections in the country's most volatile province bordering Afghanistan, swept to power in NWFP on Tuesday as it completely overwhelmed Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) in its stronghold.

So powerful was the Pashtun nationalist party's resurgence that the MMA affiliate, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islami, lost his own seat in his hometown of Dera Ismail Khan, despite the fact that women were stoped from voting in many parts of the province.

To add insult to injury, the Islamic party also lost votes and seats in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), dubbed by some as the nursery of Islamic fundamentalism.

But, the election result in NWFP has not only changed this image, it has also changed the political scenario in this region that will have impact on the entire country. Speaking to the media from Dera Ghazi Khan, Maulana Rehman sounded dejected and blamed the media for negative campaign against his party.

"If the verdict is for small responsibility for us, we accept," said the MMA leader, who himself has been on the hitlist of radical elements in the province.

It seems the Maulana doesn't have much of a choice as the Pakistani people have completely rejected religious parties in this election.

"They never had any base in this country. In 2002, they managed to come to power in NWFP because of the support from the military regime. Though they had won 60 seats that time, their percentage of vote was as low as 6%," says Prof Mehdi Hasan, one of the top analysts in the country.

"Now the MMA has paid the price for aligning with Musharraf," Hasan says. In NWFP, Maulana fazlur Rehman accepted that the Pakistani people have given a verdict against Musharraf. "We will look into our policies," he added.

Experts like Hasan believe that the religion-based parties have been rejected in this election. "This time people wanted change on the basis of real issues. In such a scenario, when violence is tormenting people and inflation is making their life tough, the slogans of religious parties will not make sense to people," says Masood Agha, a Karachi-based political commentator.

The election results from NWFP and other three provinces prove this. Not only has the MMA lost power in the Frontier, its performance in the National Assembly is nothing much to talk about. In the terror-filled atmosphere of NWFP, Pakistan's biggest alliance of religious parties has lost the battle to a secular and progressive party. It's a good sign of change in the traumatized nation.

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