Islamabad — Pakistan’s politicians, including prime minister hopeful Imran Khan, are mainstreaming extremism by invoking hardline issues, such as blasphemy, to get votes, analysts say, warning the tactic could deepen sectarian fractures and potentially spill into violence. The warnings come as Pakistan confronts anger over a new wave of militant attacks that have killed 175 people at campaign events ahead of nationwide polls on July 25. The country’s long-persecuted religious minorities are on their guard as a result. "Previously, it was only a bunch of extremists spreading hatred against Ahmadis," said Amir Mehmood, a member of a community which has long been targeted by extremists in Pakistan, particularly over blasphemy. "Now mainstream parties such as the Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are doing it." Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, but their beliefs are seen as blasphemous in most mainstream Islamic schools of thought. They are designated non-Muslims in Pakistan’s co...

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