Karachi, Jul 7 Several religious ultra-right and right-wing extremist groups have fielded their candidates for the July 25 general election in Pakistan, raising the stakes for democratic and liberal forces in the country, a leading newspaper said in an editorial.
Two newly-formed ultra-right religious parties, the Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan and the Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek have fielded more than 200 candidates for the National Assembly seats from all four provinces in the country.
The Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek (AAT), said to be the latest incarnation of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group, has filed nominations for 50 National Assembly seats in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa provinces.
Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed-linked Milli Muslim League is also contesting the election under the banner of AAT after the election commission dismissed a plea to register it as a political party.
The Dawn newspaper in its editorial has noted that while several mainstream political parties have been subjected to exceptional scrutiny and several mainstream politicians have struggled to get their names on a ballot paper, the new ultra-right religious crop has virtually faced no public scrutiny.
The mainstream religious parties have formed the Mutthaida Majlis Amal (MMA) platform from will be contesting election.
The 'Dawn' editorial says the normalisation of the religious far-right and right-wing extremist groups in national politics ought to be of a great concern to all right-thinking and democratic citizens of Pakistan.
"It is not clear if a so-called policy of mainstreaming of militant groups is being surreptitiously foisted on a largely unsuspecting electorate or if the religious far-right and militant groups have themselves identified a political opening of a lifetime." the editorial said.
The editorial said that the right of individuals to participate in an election, as candidates or voters, must not be limited or infringed upon unless there is a compelling legal reason or judicial verdict declaring otherwise.
However, all candidates should be required to renounce violence and pledge their support for a democratic, constitutional form of government, it said.
But the rhetoric of the far right can often be considered hate speech, an incitement to violence and an attempt to spread sectarian discord. When it comes to groups with an external militant orientation, participation in the general election could leave Pakistan on the wrong side of international law and a global consensus against militancy, the editorial said.