Jama’at-e Islami’s potential role in Pakistan

Developing Just Leadership

Zafar Bangash

Dhu al-Hijjah 29, 1419 1999-04-16

World

by Zafar Bangash (World, Crescent International Vol. 28, No. 4, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1419)

Qazi Husain Ahmed started his third term as Amir (leader) of the Jama’at-e Islami in Pakistan on April 8. He was elected by 79.38 percent of the 11,234 votes cast in last month’s leadership elections. He was first elected amir of the Jama’at in 1989. Unlike other political parties, the Jama’at holds regular leadership elections. What is interesting about its leadership race is that no candidate puts forward his own name. Professor Gauhar Siddiqui, chief organiser of the party election, pointed out at a press conference on March 27 that no one is permitted to announce his candidacy for any office, nor solicit support. Jama’at members choose through a secret ballot a leader from three candidates proposed by the Party Shura.

The naib amir (deputy leader) of the Jama’at-e Islami, Liaquat Baloch, explained that the Amir has no direct involvement in conferring party membership on any worker. This is the responsibility of Party officials at the district level. Naturally, this eliminates such practices as filling membership ranks with one’s loyalists, as is common in other parties. These admirable practices are of limited value, however, as long as the Jama’at continues to operate within the framework of Pakistan’s corrupt electoral politics, particularly its participation in the fraudulent elections that are periodically held to elect the same corrupt politicians. Pakistani politics throws up a bewildering array of players. There are those, like Benazir Bhutto, who seem to believe that they have a divine right to rule the country. Recently, she made herself chairperson of the People’s Party for life. There are others who believe they are prime ministerial material even though no-one else seems to agree. Imran Khan, Asghar Khan, Wali Khan and a growing number of other khans and non-khans fall under this category. There are even those who can only charitably be called clowns. They include the itinerant maulanas and others with only nuisance value. Another feature of Pakistani politics is that old or defeated politicians never retire. The only thing that can separate them from politics is death. Perhaps the expression ‘till death us do part’ was said with Pakistani politicians in mind. But they do not give up so easily. Indeed, some Pakistani politicians continue to rule even from the grave. Some literally had to be taken there, kicking and screaming. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto is a case in point, whose party still celebrates his birthday every January 5, and commemorates his death (by hanging, for murder) every April 4. Most parties are personality-based. They neither have a manifesto nor know what it means. Every party leader threatens to turn Pakistan into another Switzerland, America or perhaps even Canada now. The latter consistently rated by the UN as the best country in the world to live in. Pakistani politicians espouse the rhetoric of democracy and promise a clean administration while they are out of office. Once in, their priority is to get what they while they can, using whatever means necessary, which usually means foul. With political tenure getting shorterùsince 1988 no government has served its full five-year termùthe degree of plunder has also escalated. Other politicians, unlikely ever to come to power themselves, appear willing to sell themselves for the crumbs from the masters’ tables. During Benazir’s last term as prime minister, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, leader of the Jami’atul Ulama-e Islam, entered into an alliance with her. Until recently, she had kept another maulvi, Tahirul Qadri, as her Islamic ally.

Tahirul Qadri was supported by Benazir him to lead the opposition Pakistan Awami Ittehad in order to attract the Islamic constituency. This evidently went to his head. He has now formed his own alliance, un-named yet, of which his Pakistan Awami Tehrik is a member. He said on April 4 that he was offering a ‘new leadership’ to the country. His alliance is another opportunistic grouping trying to fool the people through slogans. The plain fact is that virtually every politician in the ‘Islamic’ Republic of Pakistan fails the test of the well-known hadith of the noble Messenger of Allah that those who demand leadership positions are unfit to govern. The recent elections for the leadership of the Jama’at-e Islami shows that they at least understand and uphold this principle. The problem is that they have yet to break with the traditions of Pakistani politics in other ways. Over the years, the Jama’at has adjusted some its policies after realizing that they were unworkable. However, this has not extended to the abandonment of party politics. It also seems not to have out-grown the inclination and willingness to enter into pragmatic alliances with parties and politicians of dubious credentials. These have greatly damaged its credibility and standing in recent years. They are also particularly sad from the movement whose founder, Maulana Maududi, coined the terms tehrik-e Islami and Islami inqilab (Islamic revolution) in the south Asian context, even though he went on to pioneer some of the Jama’at’s later mistakes.

Nonetheless, the Jama’at can claim (arguably but reasonably) to represent the genuine Islamic sentiment of Pakistan’s people, which has repeatedly been demonstrated through non-political means. The Jama’at is non-sectarian and has a dedicated cadre. Its record on supporting the Kashmiris also deserves credit. It must now prove able to learn from its failures, and those of Muslims in other countries, if it is to provide an Islamic leadership to all the people of Pakistan. This requires that it moves past the political party framework to become a popular, revolutionary Islamic movement. With Pakistan on the brink of collapse, this is a vacuum of leadership which urgently needs to be filled, through the Jama’at or some other Islamic movement.

Muslimedia: April 16-30, 1999

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