Maulana Fizzle

Pakistan’s Islamist opposition alliance must first save itself

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA, or the United Council for Action) is falling apart, having outlived its utility to General Musharraf. This particular formation was useful to Musharraf in 2002, when he needed the bogey of a political Islamic takeover to show to the Americans; and in 2003, when he had to make a deal with someone to allow him to push through his package of constitutional amendments. But when the leaders of the MMA began to take themselves seriously, and insist that Musharraf actually keep a pledge he made to them last year, the time had come for the Pakistani military establishment to put the pesky maulanas in their place.

The MMA is in power in two of Pakistan’s four provinces — Balochistan and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). And like all good political parties, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur Rehman), the largest of the three parties that constitute the MMA, is rather unwilling to lose it. That makes it a very relunctant partner in the Movement to Rid the President of his Uniform. The political wing of the ISI, ever the creator and destroyer of political fortunes, has done its bit to convince the JUI-F of the virtues of staying away from such distractions.

Maulana Samiul Haq, former mentor of Mullah Omar and several of his Taliban cabinet colleagues, heads the JUI (Samiul Haq), the smallest faction of the MMA. He for one is content for Musharraf to retain however many jobs as he pleases, not least because being lowest down in the MMA pecking order gives him the least to lose.

That leaves the Jamaat-e-Islami and its leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed as the main holders of the protest banners, leaving the MMA itself considerably weakened as a political force. It will be further weakened as the powerful agents of the Pakistani intelligence apparatus begin to deliver results.

The MMA had called a Black Day rally on Sunday to hold anti-Musharraf protests. With rain and the ISI conspiring to keep the crowds safely indoors, the big leaders too decided to stay away from leading big.

It is incorrect to label the MMA as a spent force, for it never was a force to begin with.

Tailpiece: ‘Maula’ in Urdu means ‘Lord’, and the suffix ‘-na’ is ‘our’. The title Maulana therefore means ‘our Lord’. Less as in ‘Lord and Saviour’ and more as in ‘Lord Mountbatten’.

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