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Sirajul Haq agreed to revive MMA

13 November, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The country’s main political parties see different reasons behind the ongoing efforts to revive the defunct six-party religio-political alliance Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) suspecting the move as an establishment-backed drive to “mainstream” banned organisations.

On the other hand, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) are on the same page on the issue as both believe that an indigenous effort was being made by the religious parties out of despair to revive the MMA in an effort to consolidate their vote bank before the next general elections.

Similarly, both the PML-N and the PTI claim that their parties feel no threat from any such alliance and their respective vote bank is intact.

Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq after a meeting of the of six religious parties in Lahore last week had announced that the constituent parties had agreed to revive the MMA. He had made the announcement in the presence of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan chief Pir Ijaz Hashmi and leaders of three other parties.

The JI leader, however, had stated that a formal decision in this regard would be made at a summit meeting to be held in December.

Formed during Gen Musharraf’s regime in 2002, the MMA ruled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from 2002 to 2007 before it became dormant after developing internal rifts. In the 2008 and 2013 polls, the MMA constituents could not win much support.

When contacted for comment, PPP secretary general Senator Farhatullah Babar said: “Quietly, imperceptibly but steadily a project ‘Mainstreaming Taliban’ seems to be under way”.

The PPP and PML-N leaders, who were together under the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy at that time had dubbed the MMA as “Mullah Military Alliance” alleging that the religious parties had the covert support of the military establishment.

Mr Babar said the MMA made significant showing in the 2002 elections and gave Gen Musharraf a tool to frighten the West that the choice in Pakistan was between him and the rising tide of religious parties.

“Revival of the MMA and the Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC) participating in general elections will lend strength to the project Mainstreaming Taliban,” he added.

“Who is behind this project I do not know with certainty but for sure the project is moving on,” he said when asked to identify those behind the move to revive the MMA.

The PPP senator narrated a number of latest happenings in order to strengthen his viewpoint, saying that about two months ago, Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) quietly transformed itself into a political party Milli Muslim League, contrary to the law. Reportedly, the DPC, a conglomerate of some 40 political and religious parties headed by Maulana Samiul Haq, was also mulling to enter into electoral politics, he said.

In the recent by-election in NA 120 Lahore, he pointed out, a candidate was openly supported by leaders of banned outfits as officials looked the other way.

He was of the view that the first step in the ‘project’ was to protect the members of the proscribed outfits from adverse scrutiny which would be followed by their mainstreaming.

“Those who aided Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour secure a Pakistani identity card and passport are shielded as is obvious from the replies given to questions asked in the Senate recently,” he said.

Similarly, he said, the self-confessed murderer of children at the Army Public School Peshawar Ehsanullah Ehsan, though in custody, was paraded on TV as if he was no more than a youth misguided by foreign agents, deserving compassion rather than punishment. Moreover, he said, the cyber crime law was used not against militant organisations and hate speeches, but against journalists and social media activists challenging state’s security narrative.

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, who is also the acting general secretary of the PML-N, when contacted, said it seemed the religious parties were desperate and struggling for their survival since they had not been able to get votes in the last two elections.

Mr Iqbal said the recent by-election in NA-120 Lahore had showed that these religious parties had very limited capability to split the vote bank of other parties. He said these parties were perturbed as the PML-N had gained much of space due to its unprecedented development activities in the country.

Mr Iqbal said that chances for these parties having the backing of the establishment were dismal and “apparently, it seems to be their own effort”.

Similarly, PTI’s Information Secretary Shafqat Mehmood said his party did not have any evidence showing that the establishment was behind bringing these religious parties again on one platform. He also doubted that these efforts would succeed.

“There is an evolving situation. Let’s see, if they succeed in making this alliance or not,” he said.

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