Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a coalition of Islamist parties in Pakistan, has announced its revival with a focus on implementation of sharia in the country along with defeating secularism and eradicating corruption.

The MMA announcement was made on March 20, appointing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazl-ur-Rehman as its president and senior Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leader Liaquat Baloch as general secretary.

The JI and JUI-F – the two largest Islamist parties in Pakistan – are spearheading the five-party merger, which also includes Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP), Tehreek-i-Islami Pakistan (TIP) and Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith (MJAH).

“The MMA is striving to purge the country of corruption, corrupt politicians, and secular and liberal elements,” JI chief Siraj-ul-Haq said while addressing a party rally at Sambrial, a town in Punjab province, on March 25. Two days later, while addressing a gathering in Charsadda, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Haq said efforts were being made to turn Pakistan into a secular state, which the party would counter.

MMA chief Fazl-ur-Rehman voiced similar sentiments in Sukkur, Sindh province, saying that “religious forces are being victimized” and that the only solution was the “true Islamization” of Pakistan.

MMA was originally created under General Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship ahead of the 2002 general elections. Multiple reports claimed that Musharraf helped the Islamist coalition win more than 50 National Assembly seats by rigging the polls to ward off international pressure on reinstalling a democratic setup in Pakistan.

In the 2008 and 2013 elections, MMA was unable to re-emerge amid disagreements between the constituent parties. Another factor was JUI-F ‘s alliance with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which ruled between 2008 and 2013.

‘Two Nation Theory’

Laying out the revived coalition’s ambitions, JUI-F leader Amjad Khan told Asia Times that MMA had vowed to establish sharia in Pakistan. He reaffirmed the Two-Nation Theory “on which the state was founded in 1947” when the partition of India and Pakistan took place.

“Pakistan was created for Muslims and Islam, but over the past 70 years it has been led astray by Western conspiracies and secular forces,” Khan said. “The MMA’s reunion, which we have been trying to achieve for some time, is to establish true Islamic values and create the Pakistan that was envisioned by the founding fathers as per the Two-Nation Theory.”

While the MMA leadership maintained that the establishment of “true Islam” was its primary cause, party insiders revealed that the decision to reunite the Islamist parties had been made to maximize the chances of winning seats in the upcoming general election.

“We all have the same ideological goals, which makes it easier for us to come together and unite our votes,” an MMA leader told Asia Times. “But we’ve had ideological similarities throughout the years; what’s bringing us together is the need to increase our parliamentary strength, which is only possible if we don’t let our ideology become a weakness in dividing the Islamic votes and make it our strength.”

However, ideological fault lines remain visible in MMA, with sources confirming that they do not want any of the other Islamist parties on board. Insiders confirm that no further invitations have been sent to other parties, and the coalition isn’t likely to expand in the coming weeks.

One notable omission in MMA is Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Sami (JUI-S), which is headed by Sami-ul-Haq, also known as the “father of the Taliban.” The madrassa he runs, Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania, has been affiliated with Taliban groups for decades, with the JUI-S having recently allied itself with Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) ahead of last month’s Senate elections.

While MMA leaders maintain that JUI-S isn’t participating in the Islamist coalition because of its alliance with the mainstream opposition party, JUI-S leaders say they don’t want to be “stabbed in the back” again.

“We were treated unfairly in the 2002 distribution of seats,” JUI-S general secretary Abdur Rauf Farooqi told Asia Times. “We don’t want to be backstabbed again.”

Maintaining that his party’s refusal to join MMA repudiates the coalition’s claim of religious unity, Farooqi said the Islamist coalition “isn’t really Islamic.”

“The JI and JUI-F, the two actual parties in the farcical coalition, believe themselves to be the custodians of Islam,” he said. “The fact that they haven’t been able to get other religious parties on board discredits their claims.”