Mullah – Military alliance in doldrums

By Asif Haroon Rajaarmy elections

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) was founded by socio-political philosopher Abul Ala Maudoodi on August 26, 1941. He opposed capitalism, socialism and secularism but advocated democracy as an integral part of Islamic political ideals. He had close ties with Muslim Brotherhood leader Qutb. Although Maudoodi rendered great service for the cause of Islam, he was among the staunch opponents of idea of Pakistan. The idea collided with his concept of a universal Islamic empire with sovereignty resting in God. Those who sided with Indian Congress and opposed call of Pakistan were Abul Kalam Azad, Deobandi leaders of Jamiat Ulema –e-Hind including Jamiat-ul-Islam (JUI), Khaksars and Khudai Khidmatgars (Red Shirts). However, once Pakistan came on the world map on August 14, 1947, the Jamaat leaders as well as JUI leaders developed fondness for the newly born Muslim State. Maudoodi stated that Pakistan was destined to become an Islamic State.

Motivated by the desire to make Pakistan an Islamic State governed by Shariah law, JI was instrumental in getting Objectives Resolution passed by the Constituent Assembly in 1949, which became the guiding document for framing the Constitution. JI spearheaded Ahmediyya riots in Punjab in 1953 which resulted in declaration of martial law in Lahore. Lt Gen Azam Khan crushed the movement in a month time. Maudoodi was awarded death sentence but under public pressure he was released. Chaudhri Muhammad Ali obliged JI by inserting Islamic clauses in the 1956 Constitution. Collision with Gen Ayub Khan started when JI demanded restoration of Islamic articles in 1962 Constitution. To pacify the Islamists, Ayub agreed to inscribe word ‘Islamic’ with Republic of Pakistan in the Constitution. JI supported Fatima Jinnah in 1965 presidential election. In order to bolster its image, JI activists opened relief camps and helped war victims during the 1965 Indo-Pak war and also collected financial assistance from Arab countries. JI was the major spirit behind Pakistan Democratic Movement in 1968 when Ayub Khan decided to celebrate ‘Decade of Development’.

The JI became an ally of Gen Yahya Khan regime and its militant wing Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba took part in the civil war against the Mukti Bahinis in former East Pakistan by forming Al-Shams and Al-Badr militias and then supported the Army in its fight against Indian Army in 1971 till the very end. After the division of Pakistan, JI established itself as an independent party in Bangladesh after 1975. It became a strong political force after it allied with Khalida Zia led BNP, but is currently under duress owing to politically motivated war crime trials opened by Hasina Wajid led Awami League regime at the behest of India. Kangaroo courts have awarded death sentence to several aged leaders of JI. Proceedings against 69 year old JI chief Matiur Rahman Nizami have also been completed and he could be awarded maximum punishment. This uncalled for vendetta to settle old scores has further polarized the society and made the overall climate in Bangladesh highly turbulent.

In October 1972, Mian Tufail Ahmad replaced Maudoodi as the new Ameer. By 1976, JI street power increased dramatically and with 2,000, 000 new entrants joining it, the party became a force to reckon with.  After spearheading civil disobedience campaign of rightist parties in early 1977, the JI took active part in the PNA movement of nine-party alliance to protest against rigging in March 1977 elections by ZA Bhutto’s regime. When Gen Ziaul Haq took over after forcibly removing the elected government and didn’t stick to his promise of holding elections within 90 days, Tufail exerted pressure on him to do so. While holding important portfolios in Zia’s government, JI ideologues lent full support to Zia in his drive to Islamize the society and the system of education. Media was bridled and asked to refrain from advancing western and Indian cultures and instead promote Islamic values. Emphasis on Islam was considered vital in the wake of damage done to the society during Bhutto’s rule in which secularism was propped up.

Afghan war in 1980s brought the US, Zia regime and JI as well as JUI on one platform. In order to feed the proxy war in Afghanistan against the Soviets, the US in its bid to enroll Jihadis from all Muslim countries patronized the religious right. In Pakistan, which had agreed to fight the proxy war as a Frontline State, JI was designated as the ideological bulwark of Islam by USA and Zia. In 1987, Qazi Hussain was elected as new Ameer of JI. Miraculous success in 1988 against the Soviet forces raised the stature of Jihadis, Pakistan, Gen Zia and JI and JUI, which in turn strengthened politico-religious forces and led to militarization of the society because of proliferation of arms and drugs.

During the ten years democratic era from 1988 to 1999 in which the PPP and PML had two stints each, the two political parties paid little effort towards bridling Jihadis who had taken part in Afghan war and to push out foreign fighters. As a result, al-Qaeda, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Turkestan Islamic Movement and Islamic Jihad Union got firmly entrenched in FATA and developed lasting camaraderie with local Jihadis. Sectarian outfits duly funded by Iran and Saudi Arabia intensified sectarianism throughout the 1990s. TNSM under Maulana Sufi in Swat and Malakand gained strength during this period. The JI under Qazi Hussain in the meanwhile further streamlined its internal organizational and educational structure. It joined IJI with PML in 1988, but in its bid to become a third force, it charted an independent course in 1993 elections and paved the way for PPP to regain power. Although JI boycotted 1997 elections, its nuisance value as pressure group remained intact.

During Gen Musharraf’s rule, JI became part of MMA, a grouping of six religious parties. In the 2002 elections, MMA succeeded in clinching Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan governments and in earning a sizable presence in the federal government. MMA increased its vote bank for the first time on the slogan of anti-Americanism which had peaked because of Musharraf’s u-turn on Afghanistan and submitting to US demands. Although JI denounced the US and Musharraf’s pro-US policies, but MMA not only validated Musharraf’s rule by passing the 17th Amendment in 2004, but also nurtured extremist groups in FATA and in Swat region. Resultantly, TTP came into being in December 2007, which by now has spread its tentacles in all parts of the country and is tenaciously fighting the security forces as well as resorting to terrorism against civilians and destroying property. Lal Masjid operation in July 2007 was vehemently opposed by JI.

JI and Tehrik-e-Insaf (TI) and Balochistan nationalist parties boycotted 2008 elections. Because of failing health and an attack on him by TTP militants, Qazi Hussain handed over the reins of JI to Syed Munawar Hasan. In the 2013 elections, although the TTP spared all the religious parties, PML-N and TI and targeted only liberal parties, JI performed poorly but managed to form a coalition government with TI in KP. Like JUI-F and JUI-S, JI is also known as the political face of TTP because of ideological affinity with it. Its closeness with TTP can be judged from the fact that Munawar Hasan was named as one of the guarantors by TTP for holding talks with PPP regime. JI’s affiliation with al-Qaeda got established after some high profile al-Qaeda members were arrested from homes of JI leaders. The JI must explain to the nation the association of its following members with Al Qaeda:- Khalid Sheikh Muhammad; Ahmed Farooq and his son Hamza Aziz; Muhammad Javed Ghori; Tehreek-e-Islam women wing. Irrespective of its affiliations, JI believes in democracy and constitution of Pakistan. Of course, establishment of Shariah remains its goal.

The TTP and affiliated militant groups term their fight against State forces as Jihad and security forces fighting them to preserve the integrity of the country as non-Muslims not deserving funeral prayers and burial in Muslims graveyard. Maulana Aziz, the leading cleric of Lal Masjid in Islamabad had issued an edict in 2004 in this context. JI Chief Munawar Hassan has now lent strength to Maulana’s assertion by reiterating that militants dying in combat are martyrs and soldiers are not. This unpalatable debate heated up in the aftermath of death of TTP Chief Hakeemullah, termed as Shaheed by Munawar. Fazlur Rahman created more ripples by stating that even a dog killed by US drone is a martyr. They not only undermined the sacrifices rendered by soldiers and the masses but also glorified TTP. What Munawar and his types imply is that the TTP militants are freedom fighters and Pak Army is an occupation Army fighting an illegal war. He has given a certificate of martyrdom to terrorist and derided Pakistani soldiers.

Known for his rude and rustic behavior, his reckless statement invited wrath of religious scholars and denunciation from all segments of society. Only TTP hailed his statement. He qualified his derogatory remarks by saying that if an American dying in battlefield was not a martyr, how come his backers could be called martyrs when their goals were common.  While the JI leaders claim to be against terrorism in all its manifestations, Munawar doesn’t consider beheading of soldiers, public hangings and bodies strung up from lampposts, bombing of mosques and Imambargahs, destroying schools, attack on funerals, kidnappings for ransom by TTP militants under Hakeemullah from August 2009 till end October 2013 as acts of terrorism. He forgets that TTP is funded and equipped by non-Muslim foreign agencies including CIA.

Munawar’s offensive remarks were strongly condemned by DG ISPR. He said that his remarks have caused immense pain to the families of those who died fighting for their country. He added that JI chief ‘insulted’ the martyrdom off thousands of innocent Pakistanis and soldiers. He sought unconditional apology from him. Unfazed by Army’s tough rejoinder, Munawar refused to regret and stuck to his guns, while JI Shura also defended his stance. JI’s advice to the Army not to indulge in politics by issuing political statements is indeed surprising when seen in the backdrop of its prolonged alliance with military rulers. Because of its long association with the military, JI is dubbed as B team of the military. Decades long alliance of the duo is in doldrums and may snap unless the JI Ameer picks up moral courage to own up its mistake and clarify his position. If he doesn’t, it will lend strength to the common perception that he has lost sense of proportion and capacity to think logically and to behave in a civilized manner.

The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst and columnist.

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