THE religious parties have come together in anticipation of a general election. The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal has been revived, with the JUI-F and Jamaat-i-Islami taking the main offices ie president and general secretary.
The grouping is supposed to be representative of all shades of opinions on the right of the political spectrum. But while it does reflect some election-specific agreement among a wide range of views, many groups, which are at the moment striving to assert their roles with far more persistence than the MMA components, are not part of the alliance.
One purpose of the MMA then would be to contain the extremist influence, besides aiming for the main objective of capturing power where it can or at least attaining a bargaining position in places such as KP. The decision of the various parties to be part of the alliance, especially the JUI-F and JI, raises significant questions.
Is the revival of the MMA proof that these parties had lost all hope of striking some kind of a partnership with a strong mainstream party? Or was a grouping of these right-wing outfits thought to be their best bet to attract votes in the general election? Perhaps a bit of both led to the MMA’s restoration.
Situationer: Time ripe for MMA reunion?
In the run-up to the elections, none among the so-called secular parties has appeared keen to embrace a religious party. There was also realisation of the need to consolidate the religious vote bank and to offer a united countrywide front. It was the religious parties’ answer to the seemingly more popular, ‘secular’ parties to their left and the extremist option emerging on their right, in KP, Balochistan and elsewhere.
It cannot after all be a coincidence that the formal declaration of the revival of the MMA took place in a very important and supposedly conducive Karachi. The city is thought to be struggling to find the right party to back in the next poll after the collapse of the MQM there.
Reviving old times when religious parties exercised considerable influence over the voters in Karachi would perhaps be one of the aims of the MMA. The parties have been trying on their own but there are as yet few indications of a return to those times when they thrived in certain parts of the country.
The MMA is out to exercise an option that emanates from a compulsion collectively and strongly felt.
Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2018