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Political parties playing the religion card to woo voters in Chakwal – Pakistan

CHAKWAL: Instead of any future manifesto for development or reforms, PML-N and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) politicians involved in Chakwal’s upcoming by-election appear to be relying on the religion card to woo voters.

The PP-20 by-election is scheduled to be held on Jan 9.

The key PML-N supporter in the district is the Tehreek Khuddam Ahl-i-Sunnat Waljamaat (TKASW), founded by the late Maulana Qazi Mazhar Hussain. The TKASW is the main representative of the Deobandi sect in Chakwal, and is currently led by Qazi Zahoorul Hussain Azhar, the founder’s son.

The hardliner organisation regularly holds religious gatherings in various parts of the district, to which PML-N leaders are invited as chief guests. PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq also frequents Madni Mosque, the headquarters of the organisation located in the heart of the city.

With the PML-N under criticism from Barelvi leaders over the controversial amendment to the Election Bill, the TKASW has decided to back the ruling party’s candidate, as it has done for years, but at a price.

The organisation has decided to back PML-N candidate Chaudhry Sultan Haider Ali Khan, who arrived at Madni Mosque a few days ago with MNA Tahir Iqbal, MPA Zulfiqar Ali Khan and others, and was presented a written statement by the TKASW that he was asked to read out.

By reading the statement, he assured the audience: “By the grace of Allah I am a Muslim belonging to the Sunni sect. I admit Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as the last prophet. I declare Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Qadiani and his followers as non-Muslim. Furthermore, I condemn the recent amendment regarding Khatm-i-Nabuwat, although I think it was not done intentionally.”

Mr Khan vowed that he would consider it is his obligation and honour to quit the government if it dared to introduce any legislation against Islam or against the finality of the Prophet and the sanctity of his companions.

After reading the statement, the 32-year-old aspirant for the provincial assembly seat went a step ahead to appease the leaders and workers of the TKASW.

“As my brother Zulfiqar Ali Khan highlighted that Ahmadis are currently holding key posts, I feel proud that our party’s Capt (retired) Safdar sahib talked about this issue on the floor of the National Assembly for the first time.”

He said if Allah gave him an opportunity to reach the assembly, he would also raise this issue.

“The need of the hour is to remove Qadianis from public posts; rather they should be banished from the country,” Mr Khan added, as he sought guidance from the TKASW chief.

Earlier, MPA Zulifqar Ali Khan also called to remove Ahmadis from public posts. Leaders and workers of the TKASW hailed their speeches.

Unfortunately, it is not just the PML-N that is playing on religious sentiments.

The PTI is also using religion as a key weapon to woo voters. In every corner meeting, party leaders say the PML-N intentionally introduced the controversial amendment.

“The voters have to decide whether they stand with those who changed the Khatm-i-Nabuwat law or with the lovers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH),” said PTI’s candidate Raja Tariq Mehmood Afzal at a recent corner meeting in the Chak Umra village.

“Yes, religion is being used as a card,” a PTI leader admitted.

The PTI has also managed to win the support of Shia voters, as the PPP withdrew its candidate in its favour. The Shia community has been voting for the PPP or for Sardar Ghulam Abbas, the former district nazim, who is now a key leader of the PML-N.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2018

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