The changing tide of coalition and support, reflected in the NA-120 elections, where banned outfits gained a surprising amount of votes, shows how the trends of Pakistani politics is shifting to the religious right. Undeterred by the fact that a religious party has never won seats, or perhaps because of it, six mainstream religious parties of Pakistan have decided to revive Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), after a decade of its disbanding, in a meeting of the parties’ heads at Mansoora. The MMA is set to contest the next elections under the old symbol (book) and manifesto. The party contains of members of all mainstream Islamic sects, including Shias.

The road has been a bumpy one for the MMA. There is a long history of division over political and ideological lines. The MMA was founded in 2002 and dissolved in 2007 over differences between Jamaat-e-Islami and JUI-F, which went on to form a coalition with the PPP, on the issue of contesting general elections of 2008. The collapse of the MMA was in part due to ideological differences and intra-party fissures.  One side claimed that the MMA had failed in its implementation of Sharia, had fallen silent regarding military presence in tribal areas, raids on mosques, and the US invasion of Afghanistan; and that its rallying cry for Sharia and against America was only opportunism for the elections, rather than ideological similarities.

The unification this time is similar as well, for gains for the upcoming elections. This makes the strength of the MMA rather shakeable then, as the seeds of division have already began to show.  Imam Noorani has already questioned the credentials of the Jamaat-e-Islami, calling its various ally ships with different parties dubious. It will be interesting to see whether the MMA will be able to overcome political lines and alliances this time.

However, the different ideological factions of the MMA may just be a good thing. Conservative parties like the JUI-F joining with more centrist parties may help to moderate their stand on important issues related to women participation in the elections and after, and education and seminary reforms. This is particularly important, considering the previous MMA’s disastrous policy on women, and on the low female participation in the NA-4 elections.

It can only be hoped that the MMA focus on society-building and welfare reforms, as emphasized in Islam, rather than focusing on limitations and restrictions.