Rise of Religious Parties in Pakistan: Causes and Prospects

Dr. Ashutosh Mishra was Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • April 2003

    Pakistan’s political climate has always been polarized between the civil and the military leaders, with balance of political fortunes tilting in favour of one or the other, from time to time. With the overthrow of Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup in October 1999, the military marched out of the barracks after more than a decade. The new military ruler, Pervez Musharraf started consolidating power and giving supremacy to the armed forces in shaping Pakistan’s destiny through an engineered referendum; appeasement of jihadi and religious parties; marginalisation of mainstream political parties and a series of controversial amendments. These were not new practices in Pakistan’s troubled politics. But what is new in the October 2002 general elections, is that the religious parties and two Provincial Assemblies—those of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Baluchistan—made inroads into the National Assembly in an impressive fashion. A conglomeration of six parties, the Muttahida Majilis-e-Amal (MMA)emerged as a new political force and a political alternative to the PPP and PML-Nawaz (PML-N). This paper offers an in-depth analysis of the causes behind such a historic victory of the religious parties and what would be its likely ramifications for Pakistan in the years to come.

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