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Editorial

November 14, 2017

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Alliance season

Alliance season

One of the first signs that election campaigning is underway is when political parties whose impact may be minimal on their own start joining hands or folding themselves into larger parties. Merger season kicked off last Thursday       when six religious parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami and the JUI-F, met in Mansoora to announce the revival of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal. The next day, Mumtaz Bhutto of the Sindh National Front gave a statement saying his party would be merging with the PTI while former dictator Pervez Musharraf said he would be forming an alliance of 23 political parties.

Of the three announcements, the most significant is the comeback of the MMA. The alliance, which was successful in forming a government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2002, was dissolved after a fall-out between the JI and JUI-F. In 2008, it was humiliated in the elections after its corruption and poor governance led to mass disillusionment. Since then, the JI has failed to regain relevance, although the JUI-F still has pockets of support in KP. The biggest challenge for the MMA will be to keep all the parties, who represent different strains of ‘religious’ politics, on board. Already, JI chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman seems to have put some distance between his party and the others, saying a final decision on the revival will not be taken till December.          Even then, its electoral impact will not be outsized. The only reason it was able to gain power in KP in 2002 was the explicit support it received from the Musharraf regime. Absent that support, its political appeal could be limited.

The other two coalitions are easily dismissed. Of the 23 political parties in Musharraf’s supposedly grand alliance, many exist only on paper.  For those that do have some street presence, such as the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, Sunni Ittehad Council and Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, it took only a day for them to distance themselves from Musharraf and claim they had never been consulted about joining any alliance.      That there is little chance of Musharraf himself returning to Pakistan to lead this alliance only makes all the more irrelevant. But it is worth noting that some of the parties Musharraf claimed to be part of his coalition        are sectarian and militant in nature. This is something that may be cause for quite a lot of speculation in the coming days. As for the SNF, the PTI is likely to find that its support adds little in terms of votes. Mumtaz Bhutto had merged his party with the PML-N in the run-up to the 2013 elections but the combined forces of the two parties still did not get a single seat in Sindh. The perception inevitably would be that all three coalitions are hoping, to some extent, to receive help and succour from the establishment since on their own their chances of getting anywhere are very slight.

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