Religious parties have always influenced political outcomes in Pakistan. Traditional religious parties like Jamat-i-Islami and JUI-F are facing tough times in urban centres and their power base is crumbling as their voter base is shifting towards hard line political parties. Elections in Lahore have brought about a mixed conclusion. JUI-F did not field its candidate and supported PML-N. Jamat-i-Islami’s, Siraj Ul Huq who was a petitioner against Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Case only bagged 592 votes in the NA 120 by-election. Does that mean that the Jamat’s slogan of corruption free Pakistan is over as Nawaz Sharif’s, financial accounts are not clear? Many people do not accept Jamat-i-Islami and its stance. The people of Lahore picked the disqualified Prime Minister’s wife with reasonable majority causing concern amongst many. The point to ponder in NA 120 is the rise of right wing political parties who bagged 11 percent of votes in the constituency on slogans of hate, division, supporting murderers and jihad. Two main parties Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLB) — which is a hardliner Sunni Brelvi — and the un registered Milli Muslim league (MML) which is political face of Jamat Ud Dawa (JuD ) had their political debuts in the NA 120 by elections. Two haerdline Islamist outfits have lately turned towards electroal politics. It remains to be seen if they will adhere to democratic norms as well TLB had slogans that only Islam and Sharia should be implemented in Pakistan and ignored religious minorities during their election campaign. The party leadership believes Mumtaz Qadri was innocent and bagged 7130 votes while protecting the controversial blasphemy law. Brelvi’s had a big vote bank in Lahore previously, but those votes were divided among others. This time they decided to join politics and tried to make their perspective reach the public through democratic means. The victory in NA-120 represents the victory of Pakistan and its constitution that parties which did not believe in democracy and democratic processes and state institutions now must follow the rules of the state. There is a major concern in Pakistan that parties who use hate and sectarian hatred in their election manifesto also bag votes. Are the people of Pakistan concerned and careful that these right-wing parties may institutionalize hatred by including them in democratic institutions? After securing the third position in NA 120 the TLP is considering contesting the 2018 general elections. Considering the results in the by-elections, there is a probability that mainstream parties may go for an alliance with the Islamists in the coming general elections. Media coverage of the PPP secured very few votes, but was given more coverage and airtime than those who secured third or fourth position and Islamists protested about that. The elections are a test case for media as well how they manage to give voice to these parties on mainstream channels. Interestingly, all right wing Islamists are turning towards politics and are on the path of democracy. For example, Masroor Nawaz Jhangvi who defeated the PML N candidate in the Provincial assembly seat of Jhang, despite belonging to a banned organisation. MML secured the fourth position by bagging 5822 votes was the most competitive in terms of investing in the elections. The campaign of Sheikh Yaqoob who was the candidate of MML was not less than the PML-N and PTI candidates. Banners and election offices were in almost equal number which made them competitive. Although the media did not give them full coverage, MML used state of art technology to promote its candidates. Videos made by MML were sent to media houses which did not give the impression the candidate is contesting for first time. MML used the most modern way of attracting its voters by slogans that Islam is a religion which appreciates science, technology and development as they want to give the impression that they understand contemporary challenges and do not belong to that religious class who stop development. MML was tough on India and condemned the PML-N for its soft stance on India and Kashmir in the election campaign. Since the MML has a huge social welfare apparatus they use all resources in NA-120 to give the impression that they can also end miseries of their support as their slogan is service of humanity. Those who donate to JuD need to ask where and why their money is being spent and did they give this money to JuD to for political use. They were able to make trends on social media especially on Twitter and Facebook and their videos went viral and were watched by thousands. MML with this confidence is going to contest by election in Peshawar in coming months making it party with a major national foot print. The MML is more interested in gaining legitimacy. The contents of the speeches of both right wing parties is not similar. MML is more serious as they understand the political structure and have influenced geo politics of the region whereas the TLP just bagged the Sunni vote which was sympathetic to Mumtaz Qadri. But the question is how these right wing Islamic groups are going to penetrate into the state structure and what changes they may make. Would they really influence the main stream parties in changing their ideas? Somehow our society will have to reject hardliners or these hardliners would have to make their perspective more reasonable and less dogmatic if they want to see a progressive Pakistan. The writer is a Strategic and Political analyst. He teaches international politics in NUML Islamabad Published in Daily Times, September 21st 2017.