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Hardline Islamic groups contesting Pakistan’s general elections

Islamabad, July 18: Some of Pakistan’s hardline Islamic groups, who defend the blasphemy law and have been accused of playing a role in global terrorism and murders of religious minorities, are contesting the July 25 general elections, triggering concerns of further radicalization of the conservative country. These parties include Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek (AAT) with alleged links to terrorist groups, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), whose election promises include imposition of Islamic law in the country, and members of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat group, accused of inciting violence against religious minorities such as the Shia.

The TLP was a relatively unknown group until November last year when it carried out massive protests against the Pakistani government, leading to the resignation of the Justice Minister over a change in the oath of senior officials which it considered blasphemous. The TLP is one of parties that has fielded the maximum number of candidates, 178 for the National Parliament and 388 for the regional ones, according to Efe news. According to Ahmed, the party seeks to bring Islam back to power since “Islam gives the solution to your every problem”. One of TLP’s central points is the defence of the blasphemy law, which allows courts to punish insults to symbols of Islam even with the death penalty, although no one has ever been executed for it. The TLP was founded in 2016 after the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, an extremist convicted for killing Punjab province’s former governor Salman Tasir in 2011, for demanding legislative changes and defence of the Christian Asia Bibi, condemned to death for insulting Prophet Muhammad. The government withdrew the group from the terror list despite it being accused of inciting violence against minorities like the Shias. (IANS)

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