- PTI says it is trying to unite people by using Islam’s message of peace and love
- Analysts say parties should contest elections on basis of their manifestos and performance, not religion
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) chief Imran Khan is seeking support of influential spiritual leaders and religious clerics before the elections on July 25, causing analysts to warn this may lead to an upsurge of extremism in the country.
“We are a Muslim-majority nation and there is nothing wrong in discussing religion in public rallies,” Azhar Laghari, head of PTI’s public relations wing, told Arab News on Sunday.
He said Khan had recently visited a number of spiritual and religious leaders across the Punjab province on their invitation.
“We are seeking their support because they have a huge following in their respective areas,” he added. “If their support can help us win elections, why shouldn’t we approach them?”
Laghari said his party was trying to unite the nation by relying on the teachings of Islam. “Peace and love is the message of our religion and we are trying to spread it through our massive public rallies,” he noted.
However, the PTI chairman touched upon a politically sensitive subject while addressing a gathering of religious clerics and custodians of different shrines on Saturday, demanding that a committee report on a now-withdrawn controversial amendment to the Khatam-e-Nabuwat (finality of prophethood) oath be made public.
“The report should be made public so that people find out why the amendment was made,” Khan said. “All those who were part of this conspiracy should be punished.”
Zahid Hamid, law minister in the last Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) administration, had to resign over the issue, after violent protests across the country against his government, since he was thought to be at the center of the Khatam-e-Nabuwat controversy.
Senator Mushahidullah Khan, PML-N’s central information secretary, told Arab News that all parliamentary parties were part of the Electoral Reforms Committee that introduced the controversial amendment to the oath.
“It was a collective mistake and was immediately rectified when brought to the notice of the government,” he said.
Khan added that the PML-N’s political rivals were trying to fan hatred among the public to extract political mileage, though he hoped that they would fail miserably. “People are well aware of our ideology and will vote for us on July 25 despite the propaganda of our opponents,” he said.
He also challenged popular public perception, noting that a large number of spiritual leaders and custodians of different shrines were still supporting PML-N in the next elections.
According to a research conducted by Dr. Adeel Malik, who teaches development economics at Oxford University, there are about 64 shrines in the province of Punjab with direct political connection