Islamic Politics and Religious Party Formation in the 21st Century: The Case of the MMA in Pakistan

Waqar Ahmad, Ph.D Student in University of Peshawar
Samuel Nelson, McGill University

The 2002 electoral victory of the newly formed Mutahidda Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) political coalition in Pakistan reflected more than just the conditions of successful Islamist politicization. The MMA came to be comprised of six religious political parties, representing different branches of south Asian Islam, and which were historically often politically opposed to one another (the MMA marks the first instance of political coalition between Sunni and Shiite parties, for example). The coalition came to govern in the Northwest Frontier Province neighboring Afghanistan while also winning an unprecedented number of seats in the national legislature. The MMA’s political fortunes were short lived however, succumbing to internal fragmentation, amid other pressures, before disappearing altogether after 2007. In this paper we asses the case of the MMA in relation to the body of research on the rise, consolidation and varying success of religious political parties in other national contexts. We examine the variable conditions of internal party unity around policy goals and acceptable means of realizing them; the tensions between pressures of moderation (i.e. broader political “normalization”) versus militancy, and the balance of internally- versus externally originating motivations for party formation and unity

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 96. Religion and Politics