Ranks, One More Time
By Rahimullah Yusufzai
As expected, the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal
managed to paper over its differences by deciding
to continue boycott of the controversial National
Security Council. One more time its leaders closed
ranks after having realized that the break-up of
their alliance would be suicidal.
However, the reprieve appears to be temporary because
the decision related to the meeting of the National
Security Council (NSC) on June 8 only. Another MMA
summit meeting would be held to finally decide the
contentious issue on June 23. That meeting would
also elect the new president and office-bearers
of the six-party alliance on completion of the two-year
tenure of the MMA head Qazi Hussain Ahmad and his
team. As such, the next meeting of the heads of
the MMA components would be even more crucial than
the one held on June 7.
That meeting, like the one held in Islamabad on
June 7, would also be termed by sections of the
media as the 'make or break' summit. It appears
the MMA leadership once more would prove the analysts
wrong. The clergy-led religio-political alliance
has defied predictions about the likely disintegration
of the MMA in the past and it seems it would manage
to survive in future also in spite of the strife
in its ranks. The fear of its supporters, who want
the MMA to remain united, and the rewards that unity
have bestowed on its components in the shape of
a share in power, would continue to keep together
the disparate components that make up the alliance.
The build-up to the June 7 MMA summit had been dramatic.
Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) head Qazi Hussain Ahmad had
written a letter to the leaders of the MMA components
opposing an end to the boycott of the NSC and threatening
to resign as the president of the alliance if the
JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rahman and his party
colleague and NWFP chief minister Akram Durrani
were allowed to attend NSC's meeting on June 7.
However, he had made it clear that the JI would
not quit the MMA. Obviously, the JI didn't want
to take the blame for splitting the MMA.
Qazi Hussain Ahmad's tactics didn't amuse Maulana
Fazlur Rahman, secretary general of the MMA and
head of the largest component of the alliance. He
felt Qazi should have raised the issue in-house
during MMA meetings instead of making his letter
public and providing it to the press. The JI leaders
countered his argument by pointing out that the
Maulana and his JUI-F too had gone public with their
repeated demands that chief minister Durrani should
attend the next NSC meeting to safeguard the NWFP's
interest in such an important institution.
The verbal sparring between Qazi and the Maulana
was followed by an aggressive exchange of statements
featuring the second and third level of JI and JUI-F
leaders, particularly in the Frontier where the
MMA is in power. The war of words was threatening
to cause irreparable harm but both Qazi and the
Maulana intervened to ban issuing of public statements
by the two sides. Once again the two top MMA leaders
took steps to do damage control and prevent the
situation from becoming uncontrollable.
Though the MMA summit on June 7 decided by consensus
to continue boycott of the NSC, it is clear that
the issue is by no means over. That is the reason
that the matter would be discussed once more on
June 23. In fact, the issue of boycotting the NSC
would crop up whenever the federal government convenes
meetings of the military-dominated institution.
The MMA would thus be hard pressed to decide this
issue once and for all. Postponing decision would
not resolve the deep differences that plague the
MMA on this count.
The JI and JUI-F stance on the NSC is fairly rigid.
The JI, which enjoys staunch support of MMA component
Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith of Prof Sajid Mir, considers
the NSC an unconstitutional and illegal body and
is, therefore, in no mood to give it legitimacy
by allowing MMA representatives to attend its meetings.
For the JI it is a matter of principle and recognition
of the NSC with the uniformed President General
Pervez Musharraf as its head amounts to a negation
of the MMA's politics and policies. Qazi Hussain
Ahmad remains unconvinced that Musharraf or the
federal government would forego their hostility
toward the MMA and bail out the beleaguered MMA-led
government in the NWFP by generously providing it
funds once their alliance ends its boycott of the
NSC. The JI leaders are quick to point out that
President Musharraf could easily go back on his
promises as he did in case of his public undertaking
to take off his army uniform by December 2004.
The JUI-F has an entirely different stand on the
NSC. Inspired by the pragmatism of its leader Maulana
Fazlur Rahman, it has been arguing that the NSC
was now a reality and staying away from its meetings
was an exercise in futility. The JUI-F leaders believe
their representatives by attending the NSC meetings
would be able to present the MMA viewpoint on issues
confronting the country and the people and counter
the stance of President Musharraf and his supporters.
They hope the MMA presence in NSC would make it
a more meaningful forum because in its present shape
it is no more than a club of the President's 'yes
Besides, they feel the interests of an important
federating unit such as the NWFP cannot be protected
if the province remains un-represented in the NSC.
In fact, one of the arguments advanced by the JUI-F
and its allies in the MMA is that the federal government
would start releasing funds for major development
projects in the province once chief minister Durrani
starts attending the NSC meetings.
The JUI-F appears willing to offer a compromise
formula to the JI to end the NSC impasse. It would
be happy to keep Maulana Fazlur Rahman, leader of
the opposition in parliament, out of the NSC in
return for letting the NWFP chief minister to attend
the forum's meetings. As the Maulana is the MMA
secretary general, his non-participation in NSC
meetings would in practice mean that the six-party
alliance hasn't ended its boycott of the NSC. On
the other hand, chief minister Durrani's attendance
in the NSC meetings would be justified on the ground
that he is a representative of the NWFP in the military-dominated
The JI until now seems unwilling to accept the JUI-F
formula. But the two major components of the MMA
would have to bridge their differences if they are
to end the stalemate that is threatening the unity
of their three-year old alliance.
Acceptance or otherwise of the NSC isn't the only
issue that is haunting the MMA and posing threat
to its unity. There are other contentious issues
as well, including the status of Maulana Samiul
Haq's JUI-S which has refused to attend MMA meetings
after complaining of step-motherly treatment at
the hands of the JUI-F and JI. A dissident faction
of the JUI-S led by Qari Gul Rahman, MNA, is still
part of the MMA but the party's mainstream group
headed by Maulana Samiul Haq has left the alliance
for all practical purposes even though it is yet
to do so formally. The last thing the MMA needs
at this stage is widening of the gulf between the
JUI-F and JI, two of its major components.