Pakistani secular media’s rumours about the new Jamaat chief

Developing Just Leadership

Crescent International

Jumada' al-Akhirah 07, 1435 2014-04-07

Daily News Analysis

by Crescent International

The media in Pakistan display the most negative characteristics of any group in the country. Most of them are on the payroll of foreign masters including the Americans and Indians, they indulge in the most nonsensical allegations against people they do not like. The new amir of the Jamaat-e Islami, Sirajul Haq has also been subjected to vicious attacks.

Peshawar, Crescent-online
Monday April 07, 2014, 17:47 DST

The election of a relatively young amir (leader) of the Jamaat-e Islami is generating much media attention, especially from the secularists. Sirajul Haq is viewed by many as a cat let loose among pigeons. They fear his rise to prominence in Pakistani politics.

At 51, the Jamaat-e Islami has elected in Sirajul Haq a leader who is likely to energise the youth and pose a serious challenge to other established parties.

Whatever one’s view of Jamaat policies, the fact that the party elects its leader through secret ballot and candidates do not canvass for votes, gives it strong democratic credentials. There are no dynastic politics in the Jamaat. The two leading parties in Pakistan—the ruling Muslim League (N) and People’s Party—are family fiefdoms.

The secular media is tearing its hair out because the Jamaat has elected not only a relatively young leader but that he belongs to Lower Dir, a rural area of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KPP) whereas the Jamaat’s traditional support base used to be Pakistan’s urban centres. Their other beef against Sirajul Haq is that he had participated in the jihad against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

There is speculation—without proof, of course—that his elevation to the Jamaat’s leadership position is related to the changing dynamics in Afghanistan. The implication is that with the withdrawal of US and other Nato forces from Afghanistan, the country would again fall under Taliban rule and that people with strong connections with them would be needed to maintain Pakistani influence there.

This line of thinking suggests that the Jamaat-e Islami is somehow working with the Pakistani military. This is not true. The Jamaat’s former leader, Syed Munawwar Hassan was roundly condemned by the secular media when he called Hakimullah Mehsud a ‘shaheed’ and refused to call Pakistani soldiers that die in the so-called war on terror as ‘shaheed.’

The Jamaat members’ decision to elect Sirajul Haq as leader reflects the party’s large membership in the KP province. Currently he serves as senior minister in the provincial government.

He was elected as amir of the party in a secret ballot by arakeen (members) in preference to Syed Munawwar Hassan and Liaquat Baloch. Munawwar Hassan is the outgoing amir and had asked to be relieved of his responsibilities but the Jamaat Shura put his name on the ballot.

The Jamaat’s new leader cut his teeth in student politics when he became amir of the Islami Jamiat-e Talaba (IJT), student wing of the Jamaat. Unfortunately, even in the rough environment of Pakistani student politics, the IJT does not have a very good reputation. It is known for its strong arm tactics rather than a group based on ideology.

In 2002, Sirajul Haq was elected to the provincial assembly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, at the time known as the North West Frontier Province. He served as minister in the Mutahhida Majlis Amal (MMA), a grouping of six Islamic parties when they formed a coalition government in the province.

The negative commentary about him is based both on fear and jealousy: fear because he can galvanize the youth and pose a challenge to more established parties. There is jealousy because the reins of power of a major political party have gone to someone from Pakistan’s remote rural area when the urbanites—even the secular ones—think it is their birth right to lead parties.

Sirajul Haq becomes the fifth amir of the Jamaat-e Islami following in the footsteps of Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi (the founder), Mian Tufail Ahmed, Qazi Hussain Ahmed (also from KP province), and Syed Munawwar Hassan.

He will have to work hard to revive the party’s fortunes. It faces formidable challenge both in Sindh, especially its urban centres where the MQM has eaten away into its support base as well as in KP Province where Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf has made major gains.

END

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