May issue 2009
Politics of Religion
The election of Syed Munawar Hasan as the fourth amir of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan — with an overwhelming majority (reportedly over 80%) of its 23,000 plus members from all the federating units of the country — needs a review of the country’s mainstream religio-political party that lays claims to be at the forefront for establishing the pre-eminence of Islamic rule in Pakistan.
The Jamaat-e-Islami has a long history, dating back to the pre-Partition era. Just a year after the Lahore Resolution, in August 1941, Maulana Abul A’la Maudoodi along with some 74 others, founded the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).
It is interesting to note that few, if any, among the founders present at the gathering were aware of Maulana Maudoodi’s political agenda when the Lahore Resolution took a practical shape. Once Pakistan was established, it did not take very long for many to see through the real ambitions of Maudoodi and they opted out of the Jamaat fold. But there were many more who stayed with him and joined the Jamaat and its different factions, notably the one that continues to serve as its main head-hunting outfit, the Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba. The ones who stayed with the Jamaat include the newly-elected amir, Syed Munawar Hasan, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, as well as the other two nominees for the post of amir.
The Jamaat’s founding proceedings on August 21, 1941 began with a collective recitation of the Kalima-e-Tayyaba. The objective of this Jamaat, collectively endorsed by the participants, was ‘dawat-o-fikr,’ which basically meant inviting others to join the ranks of those who ponder over the true meaning of the message of Allah.
In the few years preceding the establishment of Pakistan, Maulana Maudoodi remained opposed to the leadership of the All-India Muslim League (AIML). That was despite the fact that some of the other religio-political personalities, particularly of Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind, a hardline nationalist body, had supported the AIML and asked Muslim voters to support and vote for its candidates in the crucial 1946 polls, held on a separate electorate under the limited franchise scheme. During the Pakistan Movement, and even after the state was established — while its founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah constantly dealt with many problems, despite his failing health — Maudoodi used disparaging language about Pakistan. So defiant was he and his co-Jamaat followers that they did not observe allegiance to Pakistan and instead, described it as Na Pakistan. For joining any of the services in the newly-established state was a ‘sin’ (he considered a state based just on the premise of religion to be kufr) and revised his opinion only after the Quaid-e-Azam’s death, when the feudalist leadership of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) steered the passage of the Objectives Resolution. It was almost like a censure of the father of the nation.
The resolution was described by Maulana Maudoodi as a declaration of the state’s allegiance to Islam and he then asked his followers to offer their allegiance to the state. That did not last long and soon, the JI joined hands with the Ahraris who were centred in the Punjab, indulging in anti-state activities, which led to the imposition of martial law in Lahore. JI’s political antics before, during and after the ‘direct action’ and their describing the lawless acts as a sort of ‘civil war’ during the anti-Ahmadi disturbances in Punjab, in 1953, were crowned with success two decades later. It was in 1971, after the creation of Bangladesh, when the Punjab became the country’s majority province, that Ahmadis were declared as non-Muslims through an amendment to the constitution. It was also the time when the somewhat-secular PPP enjoyed an absolute majority in the National Assembly.
By 1971, Maulana Abul A’la Maudoodi and especially his deputy, Mian Tufail Muhammad, had become favourites of Pakistan’s military-dominated establishment. The JI’s rank and file had actively collaborated with the army in the civil war which led to the separation of East Pakistan. It was also involved in all sorts of activities, including spying on nationalist Bengali intellectuals and armed operations.
The JI’s collaboration with the military-dominated establishment received further boost when Mian Tufail Muhammad was elected as its amir. The leader at the time, Chief Martial Law Administrator Yahya Khan wanted to impose what he termed an ‘Islamic constitution,’ with the approval of Tufail Muhammad. Ultimately, the move stalled and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took over. After ZAB’s disputed election victory of 1977, the JI was at the fore in street protests against the government. It was at this time that the JI scored some of its greatest legislative victories: Bhutto, in an attempt to appease the religious parties, banned the sale of alcohol and made Friday the weekly holiday. Furthermore, the ZAB government was ousted by General Zia-ul-Haq, who proved to be the JI’s greatest ideological ally.
Zia’s self-proclaimed admiration and ideological commitment to the JI facilitated in inflicting judicial murder of an elected prime minister, winning a ‘referendum’ and imposing more than five dozen amendments to mutilate the 1973 Constitution. The bond between the military-led establishment under Zia-ul-Haq and Jamaat-e-Islami was so strong that the party had the largest presence in his cabinet. It was again during the Zia regime that the United States’ proxy war against the Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan was declared as jihad by the so-called Islamists, including the JI.
Religious fanatics, under the cover of being students of religious seminaries (Taliban), were propped up to impose their reign of terror in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Taliban regime was not recognised by more than 90% of the Muslim countries. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had sponsored the regime, while the UAE was persuaded by the two countries to agree to its recognition. The JI, under Qazi Hussain Ahmed, joined hands with different fugitives and rogues who harboured dreams of exporting the ‘Islamic revolution’ near and far. He also tried his hand at populism but could not succeed. His political success was in the formation of the Mutahida Majlis -e-Amal (MMA). Many would argue that the inception of the MMA was gifted by yet another usurper, General Pervez Musharraf, for the services rendered in the passage of the 17th Amendment to the constitution. Now, the JI is seeking Musharraf’s trial under Article 6 of the 1973 Constitution.
It needs to be reminded that Article 6 was present in the book during all those years when their hypocritical protÃ©gÃ© wreaked havoc on the country’s polity, economy and peace. It was during the Zia years, when the arms and narcotics mafia began destroying thousands of youth, with most of the victims being Pakhtuns, who continue to bleed under one false banner after the other.
With its new amir, Syed Munawar Hasan, heading the JI, it should be of concern to those who are interested in politics to know about the Jamaat’s policy direction. In different interviews appearing in the press, he has stated that global Islam had become a challenge for international imperialism, on the one hand, and for secularism, on the other. Jihad culture has flourished in the four corners of the country. Convoys of shaheeds and ghazis have moved and every Muslim home has a couple of martyrs. Their collective struggle is meant for wresting power and authority. Islam has come to overwhelm, overpower, predominate instead of remaining dominated. Syed Munawar considers the conversion of Pakistan into a US colony as the country’s biggest problem. He argues that since Pakistan was siding with the US, the Taliban will have to fight against the state as well. He is of the view that a widely participated struggle can force a change in the country’s policies, similar to what happened in the struggle for the restoration of the chief justice of Pakistan.
Following the new agenda, the JI has already started rallies against US drone attacks in FATA. These rallies will be held countrywide. In Karachi, it has started a signature campaign against the infrastructure tax on households, which has been imposed by the city government. The new amir also wants Barack Obama’s policies in the region to be countered through a joint body comprising Russia, China and Iran, who should then form a collective course of action. As for the neighbouring India, Syed Munawar Hasan, (who migrated as a toddler with his family from Delhi), stated in an interview that there was no question of him visiting Delhi until his dream of hoisting “the flag of Islam on the Red Fort” comes true. That may only be to placate a lunatic fringe in Lahore that still survives and continues to have a phobia of yahood-o-hunood engaging in hatching conspiracies against Islam and the Muslims.