“Why Would Our Hajjis Vote against Us?”
Hajj growth closely tracks the power struggles and ideological shifts that shaped and demolished Pakistan’s political regimes. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his Pakistan People’s Party helped to invent modern hajj management, spreading its benefits across all regions and ethnic groups in order to gain support from voters who were skeptical of his Islamic credentials. Zia-ul-Haq supported a smaller hajj that favored Punjabi and Pashtun groups who prospered the most from his dictatorship. Benazir Bhutto used state-sponsored pilgrimage to build a nationwide coalition of voters from many regions and sects, including women from families that usually supported the Pakistan Muslim League of her main rival, Nawaz Sharif. Nonetheless, control over the hajj does not give politicians control over the hajjis because many Pakistanis believe that in an Islamic state every government has a duty to support pilgrimage no matter what its ideology or economic policy.
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