Islamabad, Oct. 11 (Reuters): A coalition of hardline Islamic parties, which tapped strong anti-US sentiment in Pakistan in its election campaign, is brimming with confidence that it has finally broken into the political mainstream.
As results trickled in early today, the Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) alliance of six parties from the religious Right took an early lead, although it was not expected to maintain that position as the count progressed.
But even limited inroads into parliament and Pakistan’s four national assemblies, as now seems probable, would go down as a triumph for the grouping of disparate Islamic movements.
If their presence is as sizeable as they predict, the MMA could be a key player in a future coalition, raising the prospect of a showdown with President Pervez Musharraf over his decision to back the US-led war on terror in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“It is a revolution,” said Qazi Hussain Ahmed, MMA vice-president and head of Jamaat-e-Islami, addressing supporters yesterday on the outskirts of Peshawar. “It is a revolution that will extend to other parts of the country. We will not accept US bases and Western culture,” he said, before adding: “We don’t want confrontation with the world. We will not make enemies. We will not take revenge.”
Ahmed said in an interview last month that the MMA would seek a withdrawal of Pakistani support for the US military campaign in Afghanistan.
The MMA is most likely to show strongly in the sparsely populated provinces of Baluchistan and NWFP, which jointly account for just over a fifth of parliamentary seats if the semi-autonomous tribal areas are included.
Most of its early successes today came in the NWFP, where, as in Baluchistan, support for the ousted Afghan Taliban regime is strong and resistance to the US-led military campaign at its most fierce. The MMA predicts it will get 29 of 35 parliamentary seats up for grabs in the NWFP, not including tribal areas. The MMA is a valuable asset for any party wishing to build a coalition in a parliament where no single party is set to win a majority.