News / Asia

Pakistan's Religious Parties Vie for Votes in National Elections

Pakistan's Religious Parties Vie for Votes in National Electionsi
May 03, 2013 10:35 AM
Pakistan is a deeply conservative and traditional society, and religious political parties easily rally thousands in support of their causes. But so far these groups have not been able to translate their street following into solid political power. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on their prospects in the upcoming May 11 national elections.
Sharon Behn
Pakistan is a deeply conservative and traditional society, and religious political parties easily rally thousands in support of their causes. But so far these groups have not been able to translate their street following into solid political power. 
Jamaat-e-Islami is one of several conservative religious parties in Pakistan. The May 11 ballot will be the first time it vies for votes on its own.
Party official Khurshid Ahmad said Jamaat-e-Islami appeals to Muslims who want clear, ethical governance and to get away from the U.S.-led war against terrorism.
"Islam deals with the worldly issues as much as it deals with the spiritual issues. So there is no dichotomy between private morality and public morality and the Islamic vision is that one should accept God in totality," he said.
In a country rife with corruption and a faltering economy, the message has appeal.
Islamic law student Mudassar Abbasi said he supports anyone who would implement the Islamic tenets in Pakistan's constitution -- but he does not think religious parties will fare well in the vote. 

"If the religious party [were to come] in power in coming election, the result will be that Pakistan will be more stable and less corruption," Abbasi noted. "And the basic rights to every citizen will take easily."
Religious parties are hoping to improve on the eight seats they held in the last 342- seat national assembly.
But Moeed Yusuf, South Asia Advisor with the United States Institute of Peace said the prospect of enacting Sharia law -- conservative Islamic law as laid out in the Quran -- lacks broad appeal.

"Political Islam or politicization of religion, has an emotive appeal in Pakistan, it doesn't have a political appeal, this is a very interesting distinction. You can bring the people on the street - if you are the religious party you can have a million people marching on the street," he stated. "When it comes to going to people and saying vote for me because I am the best governor, you won't find many takers for it."
Many shopkeepers in this small village on the outskirts of Islamabad are voting for the former ruling Pakistan People's Party. Others here are supporting the new opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI.
Shahid Riaz is a PTI supporter who said religious parties are too narrow in their approach.

"I think with my mind, they cannot change the economy, and they think only about the religious matters, I think, and we want democracy and better economy in Pakistan," added Riaz.
Yet politician Imran Khan appears to have found a religious angle to his platform with broad support.
His PTI party is running strong second in the polls. The pillars of Khan's campaign: an Islamic welfare state that is no longer part of the war on terror.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs