By Naila Inayat

Pakistani voters are lining up behind terrorist-supported candidates ahead of next week’s parliamentary elections, underscoring how far radical forces have moved toward the center of power in the South Asian nation in recent years.

While predictions are widespread over how many extremist-friendly candidates will win seats, several ultra-right religious groups have fielded contenders for the July 25 vote for the National Assembly, which will in turn elect Pakistan’s next prime minister.

Roughly 200 candidates are from parties that previously were considered to be too far on the fringe of Pakistani politics to stand a chance of entering the assembly.

The leader of the biggest party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik, is firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who has led an aggressive campaign garnering the most attention among far-right groups.

“If I’m given the atom bomb, I would wipe Holland off from the face of the earth before they can hold a competition of caricatures,” Mr. Rizvi recently told journalists at the Karachi Press Club, referring to a Dutch competition of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The idea of bringing militant candidates into the mainstream was reportedly the brainchild of Pakistan’s powerful army, which floated the plan last year.

This article was originally published in Washington Times and can be accessed at:

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