Sunday, January 06, 2008

Split in Pakistan's MMA alliances

Had to wonder when the Maulana Fazlur Rahman of the MMA Pak coalition would speak up.

And here he is... reiterating much what any Islamic law advocate does.

BANNU, Jan, 5: The chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Maulana Fazlur Rehman has alleged that rulers are trying to create a war-like situation in Waziristan, Swat and other parts of the county to please their American masters.

Speaking at a public meeting at the sports complex on Saturday, the JUI leader said that the reports of attacks on him were just rumours spread by the government’s quarters to create panic.

Maulana Fazl said that the United States and its European allies had imposed an undeclared war on the ummah. He said at this critical time when the whole world was afraid of America’s material strength, only the ulema had accepted the challenge.

He said western powers were trying to defame Islam by launching propaganda against it and Muslims were being portrayed as terrorists. But, he said, the five-year tenure of the religious parties’ government in the NWFP had proved that Muslims were peace loving and did not believe in terrorism.


He said the MMA had raised its voice in parliament against the passage of what he called ‘un-Islamic laws’ such as women rights bill and changes in curricula.


The JUI leader called upon people to come forward and join the camp of the ulema to steer the country out of the crisis.

This appears to be a half-hearted attempt by the Maulana to sound engaged on Baitullah Mehsud's behalf, as Mehsud was under siege this past week by warplanes. I use the phrase, "sound engaged" as my mind wanders back to Ray Robison's analyses, "The War on Terror Comes to Pakistan".

Musharraf, though certainly stepping on a lot of toes with his emergency declaration, has used this time to redeploy his forces, which were stagnant on the border with India, into combat. For the first time, he is sending large scale maneuver forces backed by artillery, tanks, and air support into regions controlled by al Qaeda and the sympathetic Taliban. His forces have reportedly driven the Taliban and al Qaeda forces of Maulana Fazlullah into the hills. The Pakistani military has even followed these terrorists into the administered areas which Musharraf effectively turned over to the Taliban over a year ago.

There are indications that Fazlullah himself had no real interest in an armed takeover of the Swat valley, where the bulk of the fighting has been located. It appears very much like he was driven to it by al Qaeda forces coming in from the tribal areas and imposing their will on the "young Taliban" to take more land in Pakistan.

This is an indication that al Qaeda is desperate, has redirected forces once meant for Iraq and is willing to crush the same people who have hosted them in Pakistan. In effect, they are doing the same thing in Pakistan that led to their defeat in Iraq. Only this time, they have no other strong support base to fall back to if they lose the Pakistan tribal regions.

The most critical indicator is that the MMA, the extremely militant Islamic party that opposes Musharraf, has remained mute as the army has slaughtered its Taliban and al Qaeda brethren. Did no one in the media notice this? Not one journalist noticed that the jihad block of the Pakistan government was silent about the slaughter of the Taliban in Swat? And they call President Bush "incurious"?

MMA's JUI emir, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, is speaking up now... no longer silent. But still lifts nary a digit to physically aid his brethern in arms. Instead, he's doing a stump speech, lobbying for votes and attempting to unite the religious based parties in order to gain power to instill Islamic laws. The JUI party of the MMA was not in support of boycotting the upcoming elections, seeing a weakened Musharraf as a window of opportunity. This attitude, however, is not shared by the majority of the MMA coalition groups.

The Maulana Fazl (alt sp) is no newcomer to Pakistan politics. It was under Benazir's previous PM terms that he created the Taliban at her request with Mullah Omar. That relationship, according to Pak's Daily Times, still remained intact even before her recent death.

Questioning the logic of the APDM decision, the Maulana said it should first gauge public response to the decision. Otherwise, they would find themselves alone after the start of the process, he warned the alliance.

He said that he had talked with PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto on telephone and there was a possibility of seat adjustments with her party.

The JUI would be breaking against the tide of five other MMA coalition parties by not boycotting. Again, this leads to (viable?) rumours of dissention among the leadership of the strict Islamic movement in Pakistan, and documented supporters of AQ in the past.

In case the MMA breaks up, JUI (F) will suffer the most in elections, particularly in the NWFP, where it had won maximum seats in 2002 because of the electoral alliance with other religious parties, especially the Jamaat-i-Islami.

“If other parties in the coalition don’t go by Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s decision to contest the election, and the alliance breaks up because of differences, we’ll not repent our policy,” the MMA leader told Dawn.

Interestingly, chief of another faction of JUI, Maulana Samiul Haq, also dissociated himself from the boycott call.

About the APDM’s demand for restoration of Supreme Court to its pre-Nov 3 position, Maulana Fazal said: “We support the independence of judiciary and not restoration of judges. The sacked judges, including the Supreme Court Chief Justice, had taken oath under PCO. The present lot has also done the same.”

With powerhouse Maulana Fazl bucking his MMA buds, turning a blind eye to the siege on Baitullah, it's apparent he's banking on an election victory. And considering the Maulana's stance on the judges and oaths, mentioned above - one that mirrors Musharraf's - one has to wonder if, as Robison suggested, there is some behind the scenes' agreement with the elected President?

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