Analyzed and Discussed by Dr. Muhammad Asim
In ethnically divided states like Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, differentiating between political parties and interest groups can be challenging, as both entities may have overlapping or conflicting interests related to ethnic identity and representation. In such a context, political parties may be legally organized along ethnic lines, use ethnicity as a mobilizing tool to build support among voters, and advocate for policies particularly benefiting their specific ethnic constituency. On the other hand, interest groups in these countries are generally non-registered groups that advocate the rights and interests of specific ethnic communities by influencing government policies through generating unrest, riots, or protests.
Political Parties and Interest Groups in Pakistan
In Pakistan, several political parties exist that have been legally organized along ethnic lines, including the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and the Pakistan Peoples’ Party. These parties focus on specific ethnic communities and use ethnicity as a mobilizing tool to build support among voters. Moreover, many political parties in Pakistan have been found involved in triggering riots, unrest, and protests on ethnic lines for the sake of their political interests. The presence of such political parties makes it difficult to differentiate them from interest groups that also use similar tactics to advocate for their interests.
Political Parties and Interest Groups in Iran
In Iran, political parties are organized based on ideological grounds, with the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom and the Front of Islamic Revolution Stability being two prominent examples. These parties advocate for a particular interpretation of the Twelver-Shia ideology and are state-centric, making them distinct from interest groups that seek to influence government policies through generating unrest or protests.
Political Parties and Interest Groups in Afghanistan
Although political parties have been banned or disallowed in Afghanistan, the country has a history of political parties on ethnic lines. Laal-i-Badakhshan, Pashtoons Social Democratic Party, Afghanistan Liberation Organization, Solidarity Party of Afghanistan, and Watan Party of Afghanistan are some examples. These parties focus on specific ethnic communities and advocate for policies that benefit their constituency. However, since the restoration of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan, political parties have been banned, making it difficult to differentiate them from interest groups.
Under the given facts, it has been assessed that the differentiation between political parties and interest groups in ethnically divided states like Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan can be complex. A working definition of a political party that should clearly separate it from any interest group includes being a registered organization working in the entire country, having roots in each cultural, economic, linguistic, racial, sectarian, and religious segment, having leadership and membership in each constituency across the country, not believing in discrimination of any sort, believing in democratization through the electoral process, being state-centric at any cost, and respecting national history and ideology. Interest groups, on the other hand, can be registered or non-registered organizations working for or within any specific region, highlighting particular roots from cultural, economic, linguistic, racial, sectarian, or religious identity, having limited representation across the country, believing in discrimination of some sorts, and using tactics like generating unrest, riots, or protests to advocate for their interests.