ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Religious parties - some new, others long-established - are fielding more than 1,500 candidates for national and provincial assemblies in Pakistan’s general election on July 25.
Following are details of some of the main Islamist groups taking part.
Milli Muslim League (MML)
- PARTY LEADER: Saifullah Khalid, supported by spiritual leader Hafiz Saeed
- LEGAL STATUS: Banned in Pakistan for its association with spiritual leader Hafiz Saeed, who is on a U.N. terrorism list in connection with 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. Saeed denied involvement in the attacks.
- ELECTION STATUS: Candidates registered under the name Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek are campaigning with Saeed’s image on their posters and election materials.
- CANDIDATES: 260. 73 for National Assembly and the rest for provincial assemblies.
- RELIGIOUS SECT: Ahl-e-Hadith, also known as Salafi branch of Sunni Islam.
- BACKGROUND: Hafiz Saeed’s charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) formed the MML party in August 2017. The United Nations says the JuD is a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), or Army of the Pure, which the United States and India blame for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Saeed has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head.
Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP)
- PARTY LEADER: Khadim Hussain Rizvi
- LEGAL STATUS: Registered with Election Commission.
- ELECTION STATUS: Candidates contesting under the TLP banner.
- CANDIDATES: 566, 178 of for National Assembly, the rest for provincial assemblies.
- RELIGIOUS SECT: Barelvi school of Sunni Islam.
- BACKGROUND: The party emerged out of a protest movement in 2016 against the state’s execution of Mumtaz Qadri, a bodyguard of the governor of Punjab province who gunned down his boss in 2011 over his call to reform Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
Khadim Hussain Rizvi, an Islamic preacher paralyzed from the waist following a road accident, heads the party.
In its first ever election in September, 2017, the party surprised Pakistani political elite with a strong showing by securing nearly 8 percent of total votes cast in a by-election.
Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ)
- PARTY LEADER: Maulana Mohammad Ahmad Ludhianvi
- LEGAL STATUS: Banned for being the political wing of sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which has been allied with al-Qaeda and Islamic State and responsible for the killing of hundreds of minority Shi’ite Muslims. The party denies links with LeJ.
- ELECTION STATUS: Candidates are running under the name of Pakistan Rah-e-Haq party, or as independents.
- CANDIDATES: More than 150.
- RELIGIOUS SECT: Hardline Deobandi Sunni branch of Islam.
- BACKGROUND: The banned ASWJ is another name for the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), founded in 1985, which belongs to Deobandi school of Islam, which in turn was carved out of pro-Taliban Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI) party. It considers minority Shi’ite Muslims heretics.
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)
- PARTY LEADERS: Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, Sirajul Haq and Allama Sajid Naqvi.
- LEGAL STATUS: Most of the parties in the religious alliance are long-established and legally registered with the Election Commission, except for the Shi’ite Tehreek-e-Islami, which is a new name for the banned Tehreek-e-Jafria Pakistan (TJP).
- ELECTION STATUS: Candidates from two major parties and more than a dozen small religious groups are contesting under the MMA alliance.
- CANDIDATES: 595. 191 for the National Assembly, the rest for provincial assemblies.
- RELIGIOUS SECT: Deobandi, Ahl-e-Hadith, Barelvi of Sunni Islam and one Shi’ite group.
- BACKGROUND: The MMA was founded prior to the general election in 2002, which was conducted under military ruler General Pervez Musharraf. It comprised more than two dozen extremist religious parties from various sects.
The alliance won enough seats to form the government in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and promoted a harsh brand of sharia, or Islamic law.
Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Alex Richardson