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MMA Rides Again?

by Newsweek Pakistan

Arif Ali—AFP

The strange revival of the failed religious parties’ alliance

Ahead of general elections next year—or earlier—Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUIF) and Maulana Sirajul Haq of the Jamaat-e-Islami have decided to reassemble the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of six religious parties formed before the 2002 polls. Rehman has avowed that the “establishment” has not ordained the revival of this failed alliance of the pious. The reunification is curious: the alliance was trounced in the 2008 polls because of its pathetic performance in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. It takes a lot of joining of the dots in Pakistan’s politics of instability to fathom why the two parties are thinking again of the MMA.

The six parties in the MMA of 2002 were: Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Jamaat-e-Islami, Tehrik-e-Jafaria Pakistan, Jamiat Ahle Hadith (JAH), Mutahida Deeni Mahaz. The Barelvis and the Shia were in it because staying out had meant slaughter at the hands of Al Qaeda-led Taliban of many brands given which warlord they obeyed.

The MMA government banned entertainment in then-NWFP and passed the so-called Hasba Bill, which was amended a number of times to remove the accusation that it was meant to welcome the Afghan Taliban into the province and enforce their brand of sharia law. The heart of the legislation was the establishment of a moral police force that would hand down punishments on the trot like the great caliphs of Islamic history. When Islamabad finally put an end to the mischief of the Hasba Bill no one in the province rose up in popular revolt.

The transformation promised by the MMA was never to come because it was based on the abolition of modern banking and the enforcement of a medieval system of prohibitions called amr and nahi that the Taliban government in Kabul had gone down implementing, leaving the world wondering at the capacity of the devout Muslim to be endlessly cruel to women. If the MMA voters were looking forward to an economic utopia based on baraka (blessing) it never came. Meanwhile the two big leaders, late “president” Qazi Hussain Ahmad and “secretary general” Maulana Fazlur Rehman revived their old saga of mutual detestation not unknown in the Pushtun tribal world.

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