Rani Singh

Fundamentalists will factor in

Fundamentalists will factor in
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The parties are now on the campaign trail though there is no Super Tuesday scenario; more like a free-for-all. Adding to the chaos, election-watchers never know who is going to be harassed, killed, or arrested next.

A sign-of-the times conference took place yesterday in the tribal North West Frontier Province where the safety of voters’ lives was the subject, with the Provincial Home Secretary offering up assurances on security for punters and the media.

An important player in the NWFP is the MMA, (the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal group), which is made up of six religious parties including the Jamaat-e-Islami. Described as “ultra-conservative”, opposing the US presence in their country, they are affectionately referred to as “fundos” or fundamentalists by liberal Pakistanis who acknowledge their existence in the political landscape. In Balochistan, a rural, economically deprived province to the South, the MMA have been sharing power in a coalition with the pro-Musharraf  PML (Q).

Imran Khan’s party is not contesting the 2008 elections, but it has a small, significant voice and some supporters in the NWFP.

PML (N) leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif launched his campaign in his heartland Punjab last week, before meeting with European diplomats in Islamabad. He flew to Dubai on Sunday.

Co-Chair of the PPP is Benazir Bhutto’s husband Asif Zardari who, as the official 40-day mourning period for his late wife is nearing completion, will