Monday, August 20, 2007

Lal Masjid: An attempt to split the MMA

The Grand Jirga organised by the Karzai government and the US ended with Qazi Hussein Ahmad and Maulana Fazl ur Rehman publicly stating their displeasure with the proceedings. Both went on record to say that the only way to solve this problem was for the US to leave the region.

Not long after this, according to Hamid Mir Chaudhary Hussein attempted to get Maulana Fazl ur Rehmaan to support the extension of the present national assembly (essentially the continuation of the PML-QA's position in national affairs). Fazl refused to settle for anything less than "free and fair" elections and for the first time indicated that he had no interest in whatever Benazir and Musharraf were up to. This contradicts the position he seemed to have taken a few weeks earlier where he seemed to quite okay with Musharraf and Benazir getting together.

Hamid Mir has lots to tell us in his latest column on Rediff. The most important point that caught my eye was a report of a meeting between Maulana Ghafoor Haideri and Richard Boucher where according to Mir,

This time the US has no objection on engaging Rehman. US Undersecretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher met a close aide of Rehman, Ghafoor Haidri, a few days ago in Islamabad. Musharraf's advisers want Rehman to break away from Jamaat-e-Islami President Qazi Hussain Ahmad and form a new alliance with the Awami National Party to work towards normalising the situation in the tribal areas. But Rehman is not ready to break his ties with Qazi. Rehman believes that if there is no understanding between the government and the Opposition, the country faces martial law and a bloody civil war.

It is not clear from Hamid Mir's article what the focus of the talks between Maulana Haideri and Richard Boucher was, however the suggestion that Musharraf's people now want to split the MMA is interesting. The JeI and JuI(F) are the main powerhouses inside the MMA. The entire MMA was constructed with Musharraf's blessings by high ranking Deobandi ulema. The desire to split it now speaks volumes for the bankruptcy of ideas that pervades Islamabad these days.

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