The recently revived alliance of religious-political parties, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), chose Lahore to kick-start its campaign for the upcoming elections. The rally, a gathering of five religious-political parties, was anything but a political alliance as every party came up with its respective flag. Such a show of disunity reveals the fragility of the coalition.
The primary focus of the rally’s leadership was the deteriorating economic situation of the country. Condemning the prevailing economic model was the only theme all religious parties’ leaders were united against. As usual, the speakers relied on anti-American slogans and fumed their anger against those who kowtow to its demands – which considering the hostility in recent Pak-US relations is, an obsolete concern to say the least.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of Jamiat Ulema Islam Fazl-ur-Rehman (JUI-F) and MMA, instead of focusing more on domestic issues that are plaguing the country, was keen on telling the audience how the US double standards were the main reason for global turmoil. While lamenting the global chaos, he was intent on establishing an independent Islamic welfare state where the transparency in every aspect of life would be a priority. However, what he didn’t talk about was the past rule of MMA in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). Moulana chose to remain silent on that.
Likewise, Sirajul Haq, the emir of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) was also resolute to eliminate usury from the country. His speech was only different than that of Moulana’s where he mentioned Kashmir. While ensuring the protection of women rights, it was ironic to note that there was no female representation in the gathering.
Summing up the speeches of the leaders, it is safe to assume that the alliance has no new agenda given the changing dynamics of the country. None of the leaders of any party presented an economic model that could take the country out of the financial crisis. None of them offered any concrete policy on how to create jobs for the youth bulge that is 64% of country’s total population.
Why did MMA choose to launch its campaign from Lahore? Is it because that the alliance is anticipating prospects of winning some seats from Punjab as well? Maybe. But it is also true that with the emergence of new religious-political parties on the political landscape of Pakistan, it will be an arduous task for MMA to unite the conservative religious vote as it did in 2002. Whether MMA can defeat the new radical and aggressive religious-political groups, who are also relying on the same vote bank, with an even more rigid interpretation of religion and sectarian agendas, is the real challenge MMA will confront in the upcoming elections.