ISLAMABAD: Due to the fast depleting vote bank of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), the religious political parties have agreed in principal on the revival of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), despite severe differences on a number of issues.
Well-placed sources privy to the information told Pakistan Today that all the religious political parties especially the JI and JUI-F have decided to restore the long-disbanded alliance of religious political parties, representing major Islamic schools of thought.
They said that the JI in its recently-held Shura (meeting) has decided to become a part of the proposed alliance after the passage of almost a decade, despite reservations over the issue of ‘Book’ as an electoral symbol along with differences over the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
The sources further said that the JI is ready to quit the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led KP government for the revival of MMA; however, it wouldn’t support any move to dislodge the provincial government.
JI and JUI-F are the major political parties of the proposed five parties’ alliance since Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-S (JUI-S) had earlier distanced itself from the proposed alliance. The parties have decided to revive the alliance because they are certain of winning a good number of seats in KP if they contest elections on a joint platform, according to reports.
JI, JUI-F, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan-Noorani, Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith and Islami Tehreek are the five parties contemplating the alliance. This revival of MMA was reportedly decided in a meeting of the six major religious-political parties, that was held at Mansoora on November 9, hosted by JI chief Sirajul Haq.
Senator Sirajul Haq, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Hafiz Sajid Mir, Owais Noorani, Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqui, Allama Arif Wahid, Pir Aijaz Hashmi, Liaquat Baloch, Maulana Amjad Khan, Maulana Yousuf Shah, Akram Durrani, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidri, and Dr Farid Paracha attended the meeting.
It was decided that a final meeting would be held in Karachi in the middle of December to be hosted by Owais Noorani, where the formal announcement of the restoration would be made.
However, the proposed alliance suffered a setback on the outset when the JUI-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq categorically announced his party’s disassociation from any such alliance and decided to join hands with PTI.
The sources said that the religious-political parties are now left with no other option but to enter into an alliance to protect their fast dwindling political support, as PTI dented JUI-F in KP, while the JI performed poorly in the recently-held by-polls.
They also said that the JUI-F was mainly seeking to bolster its position in the forthcoming general elections in 2018, to share power with the mainstream parties.
“The JUI-F chief is lobbying for his brother Maulana Attaur Rehman to be nominated for the slot of the chief minister KP in case the allied parties attain majority in the province in the upcoming polls,” they added.
However, they were of the view that Fazal Rehman has to soften his stance in this regard or else it could dampen the very prospects of the revival of MMA.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi, a political scientist and senior analyst, said that presently various contradictory political trends are going on in Pakistan, as on one hand the religious parties are trying to put MMA together while on other, there are clear contradictions among them on major issues such as `FATA’s merger with KP.
He said that the confusion about the restoration of MMA would be clear once the elections are announced. However, he said that the political parties have developed a sense of self-confidence after the recently held ‘successful’ sit-in by Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah at the Faizabad interchange in Islamabad.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Ali Shair— a senior journalist who has been covering religious/ political parties for a long time— said that the religious political parties have agreed on the revival of MMA despite having differences on several issues. He said that the three minor political parties in the MMA would be given a reconciliatory role in case of differences propping up on any issue between JI and JUI-F.
However, he claimed that the JI has kept its other options open as well, especially its possible electoral alliance with PTI. He also claimed that the JUI-F is virtually out of the Imran Khan-led PTI government in KP.
When this scribe contacted JUI-F Senator Hafiz Hamdullah, the senator confirmed that the religio-political parties have agreed on the restoration of MMA and soon the announcement would be made in this regard. About differences over some issues, he said that the differences on minor issues wouldn’t create an obstacle in the revival of MMA and these would be sorted out mutually.
It is to be noted that the MMA was formed to contest the 2002 elections and according to rumours, this alliance was the result of a deal with the forces in power; hence the name “Mulla-Military Alliance” was subsequently given to the alliance by the critics.
The JUI-F led alliance retained the provisional government of KP and remained in alliance with PMLQ in Balochistan. Public criticism and disapproval nonetheless grew against the alliance.
The alliance remained in existence for a short period of time after the departure of the JUI-F from the party over an apparent political disagreement on the issues of boycotting the general elections held in 2008. The JUI-F, later, became an integral part of the government led by Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) and refused to revive the alliance in 2012.