Beleaguered Jamaat-i-Islami of Pakistan

UPDATED July 27, 2010, by K.N. Pandita

On April 19 last, a 14-year old suicide bomber blew himself up at a protest rally in Peshawar. Twenty-five persons were killed and over fifty injured. The targets were local Jamaat-i-Islami leaders. Pakistani officials tried to play it down and Pakistani media just understated the background of the event. Circumventing the truth about the targets, it was concocted that the attack was motivated by sectarianism because one among the dead on the spot was a DSP named Gulfat Hussain, a Shi’ite officer in Pakistan police force.

The fallacious story had no takers as events unfolded themselves. The vice Amir of local Jamaat-i-Islami namely Hajji Dost Muhammad was among the dead. Later JI accused Americans for disrupting peace and a Jamaati leader Hafiz Heshmat by name, accused the security firm Blackwater (Xe Sources LLC) of the US of destabilizing Pakistan. 

Evidently Tehreek-i-Taliban-i-Pakistan aims at widening its sphere of activities and, at the end of the day, take on the State of Pakistan. Peshawar attack was the biggest one made on the Pakistani JI but not the isolated one.

On June 16 last, Pakistani Taliban assassinated JI leader Fida Sa’adi, a Provincial Executive Council member. This was followed by the killing of another JI leader, Hajji Mohammad Khan, and kidnapping of his son in Darra Andarkhel on June 23.

Why have Pakistani Taliban directed their guns against the Pakistani JI? Where do Pakistani JI’s ideology and interests go against those of the TTP?

Founded by Maulana Maududi of Deoband, the leadership of Jamaat-i-Islami passed on from one hardliner to another with the passage of time. After the partition of India in 1947, Pakistani chapter of Jamaat-i-Islami (PJI) found a wider and more powerful role awaiting it in shaping the future course of history of the nascent Muslim state on the sub-continent.

During the autocratic rule of General Ziau’l-Haq, JI Pakistan came to wield enormous influence with the State of Pakistan and established personal rapport with the President who was a rabid Jamaati. Zia’s era is the golden period of Pakistani JI when it found the opportunity of expanding vertically as well as horizontally in that country so much so that it tried to spread its tentacles in neighbouring states like India, Afghanistan, Littoral states and Tajikistan.

In Kashmir, JI had an obscure beginning in village Aerwen’’ in Kulgam Tehsil where a local landlord Ghulam Mustafa Malik by name, in unison with three more dedicated co-workers, Hakim Ghulam Nabi, Sa’ad-ud-Din and Ghulam Ahmad Ahrar of Shupiyan began disseminating Maududi’s ideology and also  opened the first ever Jamaat-i-Islami madrasah in Aerwen.

With the passage of time, while Pakistani JI found a larger political role awaiting it, Kashmir JI somewhat remained independent of external influences confining to indigenous interpretation of Maududi’s ideology.  Nevertheless JI literature began to pour into the valley though physical interaction with various chapters of the organization outside the State remained few and far between.

This was only a temporary phase of JI in Kashmir. With Kashmir issue becoming very complicated owing to a variety of reasons like sub-regional aspirations, intensifying the concept of Muslim ummah, the rise of Islamic State of Pakistan in the neighbourhood, JI of Kashmir could not avoid to be sucked into the vortex of Pakistani JI. In major policy matters and political strategies related to the Muslim ummah in general like the Palestinian issue, Sudanese issue, and Yemen issue, JI Kashmir began towing the line of Pakistani JI. Kashmir issue was the seductive bait.

Two well-known activists who received their initiation and brain washing from hardliner Jammati, namely Ali Shah Geelani in early 1980s, and who relentlessly worked for the separatist and secessionist cause of Kashmir insurgents in foreign countries and world platforms are Ghulam Nabi Fai (settled in the US) and  AyyubThukar (now late) in London.

Reverting to the main issue, it has to be known that the aim of Tahreek-i-Taliban-i-Pakistan (TTP) is to establish an Islamic Caliphate to the exclusion of all other Islamic groups of whatever nomenclature and substance these are.

In 1990, Kabul fell to the Pakistan sponsored and US financed mujahideen. They killed President Dr. Najibullah but soon fell on the throats of one another. This state of civil war gave birth to the Taliban movement, first in Kandahar and then upwards to north and east of Afghanistan.

America’s war on Taliban of Afghanistan sensitized rabid religious elements among the Muslims of Pakistan, and the TTP intensified war on Barelvi movement and Sufi Islam by bringing the conflict to the province of Punjab.

TTP identified the Barelvis, Ahmadiya, Christians and Hindus other minorities as its target in fostering the concept of Islamic Caliphate. The 28 May suicide attack in Lahore took a large toll of Ahmadiya lives.

Enmity between JI and TTP is rooted in ideology and in contemporary politics of Pakistan. It is curious to note that the JI and Deobandi groups among TTP are adherents of Sunni Hanafi School yet they have no love lost for the JI Pakistan whose destabilization they are seeking without relent. The Hanafites among the JI place less stress on ritualistic and more on political Islam. For example Deobandis abhor Jamaatis wearing western dress; they accuse them for lust for power.

Interestingly, the real threat to JI of Pakistan comes from another Sunni-Hanafi organization called Tehreek-i-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e Muhamamdi (TNSM) led by Maulana Sufi Mohammad and his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah. It was they who led Pakistani Taliban in Malakand Division and Swat.

Interestingly, Maulana Sufi Mohammad was a local JI leader till 1980, and then he separated from the party on account of some differences. He accused JI for trying to attain political power by going through election process. He argued that Islamic states cannot be established through elections as people don’t vote in favour of Islamic parties.  He strongly advocated that the only way of establishing an Islamic state was through jihad philosophy of Maulana Maududi.  He accused JI leaders of deviating from Maududi’s example.

Personalized animosity between the JI and TTP surfaced after the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan in 2001. In reaction to the foreign military presence in Taliban-led Afghanistan meant affront to the religious extremists in Pakistan and most jihadi and Islamist organization in that country held public rallies in favour of Afghan Taliban. JI of Pakistan was in the forefront of these anti-American demonstrations and threatened to cross the Pak-Afghan border to fight the Americans. Sufi Muhammad led his militia expedition into Afghanistan where thousands of them got killed in American air attacks on Taliban. Back in Pakistan with his decimated militias, Sufi Muhammad accused JI of luring him and his legions to fighting in Afghanistan and the resultant disaster. He now embarked on a policy of taking revenge fro m JI.

Hindsight shows that today Pakistan has landed almost in the same situation into which Afghanistan had landed after the removal of Dr. Najibullah and take over by the Taliban. Various factions of Taliban had drawn swords to fight their rivals in power sharing of a tottering state. It was out of this chaos and confusion that the Taliban had sprung and in the initial stages they concentrated on providing good governance. But good governance without strong and viable political ideology makes little sense.

Unfortunately Pakistan is also heading towards the same situation. There are innumerable terrorist and Islamists groups and factions and sub groups and sub-factions each vying with the other in power sharing game. If these Islamists and radical groups and their terrorist wings are not brought under control, there is a possibility of disintegration of Pakistani civil society. Apart from polarization at ruling levels, there are deep divides in civil organizations which spell doom for the beleaguered society.

It will be noted that the separatists and secessionists in Kashmir have been towing the line of Pakistani JI all these decades of turmoil. They have borrowed their idiom from JI Pakistan. Therefore this is the time when the separatist leadership in Kashmir should revisit the fundamentals of the political philosophy it is pursuing.

Comments are closed.