Ibrahim says religious parties can announce seat adjustment if failed to evolve consensus
ISLAMABAD: Though the religious political parties have agreed on the revival of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the electoral symbol and the contentious issue of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) reforms have become a bone of contention between the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Sources told Pakistan Today that the Jamaat leadership have serious reservations over the electoral symbol of ‘Book’ – the electoral symbol of JUI-F, and is insisting to contest the forthcoming elections on the same symbol under the umbrella of the proposed conglomerate. The Jamaat leadership wanted to have ‘Scale’ as an electoral symbol or at least other than ‘Book’ because last time, the proposed alliance contested the election on the same symbol.
Besides, they said that the two major political parties have serious differences over the FATA reforms, as Fazlur Rehman-led JUI-F is a strong proponent of making the tribal region a separate province, while Senator Siraj-ul-Haq-led Jamaat is a strong supporter of the FATA merger into Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The sources said that since both the parties have a strong presence in the province and the FATA region; hence prior making a formal revival of the long-defunct MMA, they wanted to iron out the issue because they could face a serious challenge from their political rivals on this issue.
However, they said that at present, both the parties have to yet to budge an inch from their stated position on the two main issues that is why a steering committee was constituted to find out some mutually agreed solution to the problems.
Moreover, they were of the view that the provincial leadership of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) adopted a two-pronged strategy to counter the proposed MMA or at least reduce its effectiveness. “On one hand, PTI succeeded in keeping at bay Samiul Haq-led Jamait Ulema-e-Islam-S (JUI-S) from the proposed alliance and on the other, the government has approved payment of monthly stipend to prayer leaders of Jamia mosques in the province,” they added.
Under the policy, the prayer leaders qualified from registered seminaries will get Rs10,000 stipend per month. Fazl has rejected as ‘Western agenda’ a plan to hire educated clerics (prayer leaders) in the mosques, while the Jamaat sees it the move a right step on the right direction.
They said that if they succeeded in removing their differences over the two major issues, the religious parties would face serious electoral strategy issues as what would be their main electoral slogans in the coming elections.
They said that if the religious parties go into the polls with anti-PTI rhetoric and criticised the party for its failure to deliver in the province, it would be tantamount to target the Jamaat as well and if the MMA could not target the provincial ruling party and its government’s performance they would leave with limited options to pursue their electoral campaign aggressively.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Jamaat leader Muhammad Ibrahim confirmed that both the Jamaat and the JUI-F have a difference point of view on the issues of the electoral symbol as well as the FATA reforms. However, he said that a steering committee has been constituted to resolve the issue amicably so as to revive the alliance.
He said that the religious parties have other option of making seat adjustment in case they failed to evolve a consensus on the MMA revival. Responding to a question as to how Jamaat would justify targeting of PTI in the next election as itself had been a partner of the coalition government, he said that rather than using the same old slogans, the MMA should go the masses with the new strategy.
However, JUI-F senior leader Attaur Rehman said that these were trivial issues and could not obstruct revival of the MMA. He said that the alliance would contest the forthcoming general elections on the electoral symbol ‘Book’, however when asked other religious parties have reservations on it, he quickly added that they would evolve consensus but wouldn’t let anyone to foil the MMA’s revival.
To a question, Atta said that the JUI-F would target both the PTI and the provincial government in the coming elections. When asked about the Jamaat being part of the coalition government, he said that they being (religious) scholars know whom to target and how to target.
In a recent meeting, six religious parties decided to revive the MMA after a decade of its disbanding. Fazlur Rehman, Sirajul Haq, Owais Shah Noorani, Professor Sajid Mir and others attended the meeting. The alliance remained in existence for a short period of time after the departure of the JUI-F from the party over an apparent political disagreement on the issues of boycotting the general elections held in 2008.
Later, the JUI-F became an integral part of the government led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and refused to revive the alliance in 2012.