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Photo: Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera

LAHORE — Pakistan's newest hardline religious party, TLP, which calls for blasphemers to be put to death and celebrates those who have murdered the alleged perpetrators, held a lively motorcycle rally last week through the streets of Lahore.

Why it matters: A year ago, this kind of a political rally, in the heart of the political base of Pakistan's ruling party, would have been unthinkable. But as Pakistan gears up for a general election in late July, the political environment is far from predictable, and new entrants have emerged onto the political scene.

  • Now, the TLP is set to put up more than 550 candidates for national and provincial assembly seats across the country, and is confident it can mobilize a religiously-motivated vote on the basis of its anti-blasphemy and anti-corruption agenda.
  • Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, where at least 74 people have been killed in attacks motivated by blasphemy accusations since 1990, according to an Al Jazeera tally. The TLP's election posters often carry images of those who have killed in the name of the prophet's honor.
  • "When it involves the honor of the Prophet Muhammad, the finality of his prophethood or the dishonoring of his person, then every Muslim will become an extremist," says Ejaz Ashrafi, a senior TLP leader, in an interview with Al Jazeera.

The bigger picture: Political analysts say the TLP is unlikely to win a parliamentary seat, but will get a significant number of votes in central Punjab province, possibly acting as a "spoiler" in two-way fights between the PML-N and PTI parties.

Go deeper: Read the full report on Al Jazeera.

Go deeper

National Guard chief says it took 3 hours for Pentagon to grant Jan. 6 request

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

William Walker, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, will testify Wednesday that it took three hours and 19 minutes for Pentagon leadership to approve a request for National Guard assistance during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, according to his prepared remarks.

Why it matters: The timeline over when National Guard requests were made and granted has been a key point of contention in congressional hearings examining the security failures surrounding the Capitol riots.

37 mins ago - World

International Criminal Court opens Israel-Palestine war crimes probe

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu has strongly objected to the investigation. Photo: Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Wednesday announced her intention to open an investigation into crimes allegedly committed in the Palestinian territories since 2014.

Why it matters: The investigation is expected to consider possible war crimes by Israel and Hamas during the 2014 war in Gaza, as well as the construction of West Bank settlements by Israel. It could sharply increase tensions between Israel, which fiercely opposes the probe, and Palestinian leaders, who requested it.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Exxon says it's well-positioned amid investor pressure

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

ExxonMobil said Wednesday that its oil-and-gas development plans will create good returns even at modest oil prices as the company looks to win back investor confidence after several rocky years.

Driving the news: The company, just ahead of an investor presentation this morning, said its investments are designed to generate returns of over 30% and touted its spending reductions.