ISLAMABAD: Differ­ences between the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) over the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata­) with Khyber Pakh­tunkhwa have exposed cracks in the recently revived Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA).

While JUI-F workers were clashing with the police outside the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Sunday to prevent provincial legislators from reaching the session, JI members were making their way to the assembly’s main hall to vote for the Fata-KP merger bill, which had already been passed by the National Assembly and the Senate.

Read: Will reviving MMA have an impact on the 2018 elections?

According to the reporters who covered the KP Assembly proceedings, JI MPAs managed to reach the assembly, defying the JUI-F protesters.

However, when contacted, the leaders of both parties tried to downplay the issue and claimed that the differences over the Fata merger would not impact their alliance for the elections.

JI’s official spokesman Ameerul Azim, when asked, admitted that the two parties had different viewpoints on several matters, including the Fata merger with KP.

The spokesman, however, claimed that their leaders had already decided that the parties would be allowed the leeway of maintaining their ideological positions — over issues that had arisen before the formation of the MMA in March — without damaging the alliance.

“From now onwards, all issues will be heard by the Supreme Council of the MMA and we will come up with a united stance,” Mr Azeem said.

The JI leader claimed that although the two main partners of the MMA had conflicting views over the issue of the merger, the two parties would now have “a single viewpoint” about it. He expressed hope that the religious parties would be able to forge a consensus on national issues.

He said that he was confident that the two partners — even in matters, which they have opposing views on — would accept the decisions of the MMA’s Supreme Council.

Mr Azeem clarified that the MMA was an electoral alliance and that it would be apparent to everyone, that all allies within it, would retain their identities.

Speaking with Dawn, JUI-F information secretary Hafiz Hussain Ahmed also claimed that the MMA would become functional in ‘real’ terms after the general elections.

“Our alliance is for the elections and to deal with the issues which will come up after the elections,” the JUI-F leader said downplaying the differences between his party and the JI.

He said that he was hopeful that the partners in the MMA would manage to agree on various issues after four or five meetings between party elders.

Mr Ahmed admitted that the JUI-F and the JI had differences over the Fata merger, but said that it would not damage the unity of the alliance.

“You will see us on one page after the elections,” he said.

Mr Ahmed said that in the first meeting after the elections, the MMA leadership will discuss what course of action to take in dealing with the Fata merger.

“Hopefully, we will find some middle ground,” the JUI-F leader said, adding that there was still a long way to go in the implementation of the bill passed by both parliament and the KP Assembly.

The JUI-F leader clarified that his party was not against the idea of mainstreaming Fata, but that it only wanted the people of the area to be involved in the decision about their future. He also justified his party’s protest outside the KP Assembly to stop legislators from casting their votes for the Fata merger bill.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2018

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