Sunday, 7 May 2017

QK Archives: 2005 unlikely alliances

Electorate baffled by unlikely alliances in NWFP

Rahimullah Yusufzai

Forging of alliances between old political rival following the local government elections in the NWFP continue to surprise the electorate and erode the credibility of politicians. Every political party has done this thing but the MMA components JUI-F and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) are getting most of the blame because the two were expected to be more circumspect in choosing allies. The MMA had won an unprecedented mandate from the voters in the province and many feel betrayed by the JUI-F and JI decision to join hands with ideologically different parties such as the ANP, PPPP, PPP-S and PML-Q for the sake of bagging some seats of district and tehsil nazims. The MMA voters would have liked the JUI-F, JI and other components of the six-party alliance to stick together in every district even if it meant remaining in the opposition instead of foregoing principles in the forthcoming elections for district governments. The JI was the first to announce its alliance with its bitterest foe, ANP, in a bid to win the polls for the district government in Peshawar. The prize no doubt was tempting because Peshawar being the capital of NWFP offered a highly visible platform to pursue one’s political agenda and spend funds on politically important projects. But the venture was fraught with risks as the JI-ANP alliance and the subsequent JUI-F’s coalition with the PPP-S of interior minister Aftab Sherpao has widened the gulf between the two major MMA components and could eventually threaten the stability of the MMA-led provincial government. The unlikely JI-ANP alliance in Peshawar has now trickled down to other districts, including NWFP’s second biggest city Mardan. In fact, the two parties had experimented with an alliance in Mardan after the last local council elections by jointly electing ANP’s Raza Khan as district nazim and JI’s Attaur Rehman as naib district nazim. However, the alliance fell apart after sometime and the district nazim and his deputy became rivals. Many voters fear such an eventuality even though this possibility is being rejected in the midst of the euphoria generated by the turn of events. For a change, the JI and ANP leaders are singing praises of each other and patting one another on being the only two disciplined and ideological parties in the country. One of their arguments for forging this alliance is to prevent blackmail and horse-trading by smaller groups and serve Peshawar. That might not happen because the district nazim candidate Haroon Bilour of ANP would have to match the resourceful Ghulam Ali, the JUI-F nominee for the same job, and the tussle would invariably lead to the use of money and horse-trading.

The JUI-F alliance with PPP-S in Peshawar is also being replicated in a few other places, such as Charsadda and Mardan. The JUI-F chose to forge an electoral alliance with the Saifullahs, belonging to the PML-Q in the southern Lakki Marwat district, even before the local polls. That was something unthinkable because JUI-F leaders used to publicly castigate the Saifullah brothers as friends of US President Bush. The JUI-F has also forged partnership with the PPPP in a few places, all for the purpose of capturing as many district governments as possible after having boycotted the local council polls in 2001. The MMA leadership now has an impossible task to satisfy party workers and supporters irked by the JUI-F and JI decision to forge alliances with rival parties rather than with each other at the level of the district government. One question increasingly being asked is as to how could they justify sitting in the opposite camps in district governments while remaining partners in the provincial government.

Other parties too have made unbelievable alliances to win election for district and tehsil nazims. The PML-Q faction of minister of state for finance Omar Ayub Khan is supporting PML-N’s Yousaf Ayub Khan, who also happens to be a cousin, for election as Haripur district nazim. Another of their cousin, former NWFP Assembly Speaker Habibullah Tarin, has joined the rival camp of Raja Amir Zaman, who served as district nazim in the previous term. Family considerations are overriding party affiliation in the race to grab power not only in Haripur but also at many other places in NWFP and rest of Pakistan. The PPP-S and PPPP too are coming close and so are others. Such alliances are also turning upside down President General Pervez Musharraf’s assertion that extremists, by which he means MMA components, have been defeated in the recent local polls in the Frontier. In conclusion, here is a note of caution. All those forging these unnatural alliances should keep in mind that the electorate rejected one such alliance between the PPPP and ANP in the October 2002 general elections in Peshawar and other districts. It didn’t work the last time because the voters considered the alliance opportunistic. It might not be sustainable again and could instead harm the parties entering into unlikely partnerships.
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