Encouraged by their performance in recent by-elections in Lahore and Peshawar, six mainstream religious parties have decided to revive the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), almost 10 years after it was dissolved over differences, following its golden period in the Musharraf era.
According to sources, the formation of the religious alliance will be announced formally by mid-December and it would contest the next elections on its old symbol (book) and manifesto. The six parties, Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulma-i-Islam-Fazl, Jamiat Ulma-i-Pakistan-Noorani, Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Samiual Haq and Islami Tehreek, have decided to revive their alliance after meeting for many months. The MMA was created by the establishment in the Musharraf era to replace the PPP and the PML-N, whose leaders were in exile. The religious alliance formed the government in Khyber Pakhtunkawa (then NWFP) and was a coalition partner in the Balochistan government, but failed to produce desired results in the Punjab and Sindh. The parties have also decided to contact other likeminded parties to convince them to join the alliance to make it more effective.
Announcing the formation of the alliance, Jamaat-e-Islami Chief Sirajul Haq and JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman told the media in Lahore, “We have decided, in principle, to restore the MMA but its formal announcement will be made after a meeting at the residence of JUP Secretary General Shah Awais Noorani in Karachi.” The announcement was made after a meeting of Senator Sirajul Haq, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, JUP-Noorani President Pir Ijaz Hashmi, Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith President Senator Prof. Sajid Mir, JUI-S leader Maulana Yusuf Shah and Secretary General Maulana Abdur Rauf Farooqi, Islami Tehreek Pakistan Secretary General Allama Arif Wahidi, JUI-F Secretary General Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidri, Hafiz Abdul Karim, Liaqat Baloch, Dr. Farid Paracha, Maulana Amjad Khan, Akram Durrani, Muhammad Asghar and others. A steering committee, comprising Liaqat Baloch, Ramazan Tauqeer, Shafiq Pasruri, Akram Durrani and Anas Noorani, will make recommendations to expand the alliance.
Sirajul Haq and Maulana Fazlur Rehman have been critical of each other over the years. They are still in opposite political camps, with Fazl’s party being a coalition partner of the PML-N government at the Centre and the Balochistan government, while Siraj’s party is in the camp of their bitter rival Imran Khan, who never spares a chance to criticize him. Siraj expressed his gratitude to Almighty Allah over the revival of the MMA and said it would be great news for the nation. “The alliance is inevitable to steer the country out of the impending dangers from all sides, run the state affairs according to the Constitution and hold elections on time. The MMA will try to take all religious parties along for a brighter future of the country,” he added. Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the MMA would contest the next elections on its previous symbol (book) and manifesto.
The MMA, representing all the four schools of thought, Brelvi, Deobandi, Ahle Hadith and Shia, was established before the in 2002 general elections and it proved to be the most successful alliance of religious parties in the country. It emerged as the main opposition in the National Assembly to Pervez Musharraf’s “Kings Party”, the PML-Q, and became the ruling party in the then NWFP and an ally of the ruling alliance in Balochistan. However, the alliance became defunct shortly before the 2008 polls after differences developed among the top leadership over the mode of contesting elections. In other words, the alliance went into oblivion when the establishment withheld its patronage.
In another development, religious parties belonging to the Sunni sect have also formed a new alliance, Nizam-i-Mustafa Grand Alliance, to contest the 2018 general elections under its banner. Former federal minister for religious affairs in the PPP regime, Hamid Saeed Kazmi, has been elected its temporary head. The two alliances have been formed against the backdrop of the success of religious groups in the last two by-polls in the country. In some NA-4, Peshawar, Dr. Shafique Ameeni, an independent candidate, who was backed by Tehreek-e-Labbaik, managed to get 8,218 votes while JI candidate Wasil Farooq received 6, 337 votes. Earlier in Lahore’s NA-120 by-polls, Sheikh Azhar Hussain, a candidate of Tehreek-e-Labbaik, won 7,130 votes while the Milli Muslim League (MML), a political front for the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), bagged 5,822 votes, over four times that of the PPP.
Alarmed at the revival of the MMA, PTI Chairman Imran Khan has forged an electoral alliance with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Sami (JUI-S) of Maulana Samiul Haq, who is a staunch opponent of Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Maulana Samiul Haq, who is called the father of the Taliban, has almost the same following as that of Maulana Fazl. Affiliation with him will taint the image of Imran Khan at the international level. Though Maulana Fazl also belongs to the same sect and philosophy, yet nobody objects to his joining the PPP or the PML-N.
It is not yet clear whether the establishment is behind the revival of the MMA or not, but it obvious that the alliance aims to target Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. As in the past, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be its prime target. In the current circumstances, it appears the PML-N of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif might have facilitated the formation of the alliance to upstage his staunch opponent Imran Khan’s party in its efforts for re-election. However, if the establishment is behind the development, it means it is still working to implement a decade-old formula, under which the PML-N could form the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa along with its allies. In return, the PTI could form the government at the Centre and the Punjab.