There are four provinces in Pakistan, besides Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) of Waziristan and Pak-Occupied Kashmir. In two out of these four states an alliance of Islamic parties, Muttahida Majlis-Amal (MMA) is in power. Though population-wise these two states of North Western Frontier Province and Baluchistan are not very strong yet they occupy more than 60 per cent of the country’s area. MMA is a unique but relatively less discussed phenomenon. Parties belonging to different sects and schools of thought are its constituents – Sunnis, Shias, Barelvis, Deobandis, etc. Of course Jamaat-e-Islami is the strongest among them. They are loosely termed as Islamists and came to power with the help of ballots and not bullets. But tune to any international television channel, radio station or leaf through any newspaper, you will hardly find any mention of the leaders belonging to these parties, especially after the imposition of Emergency on November 3. How were they arrested and what is their reaction to the whole new development? What is their future course of action, if any? The entire global media is filled with the stories and developments related to the leader of Peoples Party of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, the lady who instead of putting up fight chose to remain outside for seven years. She returned to her native country only after making compromise with General Musharraf. At present she is engaged in what many call shadow boxing with the General. After Benazir it is Nawaz Sharif who gets some media coverage to be followed by Imran Khan, the former cricket captain, whose party won only one seat in the last election. In fact, the MMA got even less coverage than the sarkari Muslim League in power till recently. Even the secular Press of Pakistan has more to publish about Benazir and some human rights activists and lawyers than anyone belonging to the Islamic parties. Yes, both global and Pakistani media do give coverage to the Islamists, but to those who believe in the power of bullets rather than ballots. The Jehadis are the one who are being blamed for whatever wrong is taking place in Pakistan. The army and air force operations are going on against them and Musharraf is securing all sorts of western help to fight them. These Jehadis are confined to relatively small pockets of South Waziristan and are apparently not going to capture power of Islamabad in near future. The big question is why the MMA, or the Islamists who believe in ballots and who closed their ranks, are not getting any international media coverage even though they are force to reckon with in Pakistan? This question deserves attention. True, the United States wants secular Musharraf to be replaced by secular and more pliable anybody – at present Benzair is the best choice. Therefore, all attention would be focused on her; even though she may be a disgruntled, corrupt and rejected lot. The international media would certainly not highlight the rare development in Pakistan politics – the coming together of Islamic parties of different hue and colour under the banner of the MMA – because the former is more interested in the negative aspect of Pakistani politics. But it is also a high time for the MMA to examine as to why they failed to manipulate the media, both international and national in their favour. International media would certainly ignore them, but after a point they will have to pay attention to them provided they have some programme of mass agitation. The international media initially ignored Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran and gave all the credit of resistance against Shah to the Marxists and secularists, but they had to recognise that it is the 80-year old man who called the shot. Pakistan is certainly at the crossroads of history. In fact it has passed through many such crossroads in the past, too. Whether the international media gives publicity or not should not be the issue for the MMA. The Islamic alliance has to play a more pivotal role in the days to come, if it wants to survive.
Between Ballots and Bullets Two Sides of Islamists in Pakistan
There are four provinces in Pakistan, besides Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) of Waziristan and Pak-Occupied Kashmir. In two out of these four states an alliance of Islamic parties, Muttahida Majlis-Amal (MMA) is in power.