By Zulfiqar Ali (dawn.com)
PESHAWAR, April 6: The election of new chief of Jamaat-i-Islami from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa may not be a coincidence, as political analysts feel that groundwork for strengthening the party in the militancy infested region had started in 1980s.
The election of KP Senior Minister Sirajul Haq as the new JI chief has created apprehensions among many as the JI leadership shifted from urbanised scholarly figures to a comparatively younger member hailing from a remote district who physically participated in holy war against Soviet forces in Afghanistan in 1980s.
Founded by Syed Abul Ala Maududi, a scholar, theologian and socio-political philosopher in Lahore in 1941, JI was considered as an urban based and educated middle class party having roots in big cities like Karachi and Lahore.
Political analysts say that JI – which was led by Qazi Hussain Ahmad who belonged to a small town of Nowshera district for 22 years, more than Maulana Maududi – has changed the Jamaat from a mainstream party to a regional entity.
Prof Ijaz Khattak, who teaches in University of Peshawar’s International Relations Department, says there is a visible change in the character of the JI, which had sufficient vote bank and street power in Karachi and Lahore.
“JI, which was dominated by the urban based educated middle class, has now been confined to a small mountainous district like Lower Dir and has been taken over by Pakhtuns,” he observed, adding that feudal class which has its own mentality and thinking has also made inroads in JI.
“It was expected that Syed Munawar Hassan will galvanise the party in urban areas, but he failed and election of Sirajul Haq strengthened this argument that Jamaat has been restricted to Lower Dir,” said Dr Khattak.
Late Qazi Hussain who was elected JI chief in 1987 is considered the longest serving chief of Jamaat who relinquished office in April 2009. He was succeeded by Munawar Hassan.
Insiders said that during his two decades long tenure as Jamaat chief, late Qazi Hussain had relaxed and simplified the process of getting the status of ‘Rukn’ (member of Jamaat having the vote right). The ‘Rukn’ can cast vote in the election of emir or chief of the party.
They said that a large number of people from KP and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas were given the status of ‘Rukn’ of Jamaat during Qazi’s era. Initially, they said that it took three to four years for a person to become ‘Rukn’ of JI.
“There are two factors which played a major role in the victory of Sirajul Haq against Munawar Hassan and Liaquat Baloch, another stalwart of JI from Lahore. First, a significant number of Pakhtuns has become ‘Arakeen’ or members and second, Mr Haq is more popular among young ‘Arakeen’ than Mr Hassan and Mr Baloch,” said one analyst, who once was active member of Jamaat. He believed that 60 per cent of all the ‘Arakeen’ were young.
JI provincial information secretary Israrullah advocate said that the number of ‘Arakeen’ was approximately 31,000 of which about 8,000 belonged to the KP and Fata. Females also have the right to vote.
“This impression is wrong that Pakhtuns have voted for Sirajul Haq,” he said and maintained that under the party constitution candidates could neither make a lobby nor run a campaign for themselves.
Another analyst said that Sirajul Haq was a very good orator that was why he was more popular among the JI workers than other leaders.
Mohammad Riaz, Islamabad-based political analyst, said that election of Sirajul Haq was an indication that JI was on the verge of decline both politically and academically as aggressive group had dominated the moderate circle in the party.
Maulana Maududi was a scholar and had command over different subjects, Mr Riaz opined, adding that the late Maulana had formed JI to provide common platform to all school of thoughts.
Before his election Sirajul Haq was senior deputy emir of the party and had also served as provincial chief of JI. He opposes co-education and supports separate assembly for female lawmakers in the province.
He had also served as head of Islami Jamiat Talba, a student wing of JI. His close associates and rivals said that Sirajul Haq had actively participated in the Afghan war when Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
Senator Zahid Khan of Awami National Party associates election of new JI chief with changing geo-strategic scenario across the Durand Line. He said that when Afghan war was at peak Qazi Hussain Ahmad was elected JI chief and he was given a task in Afghanistan.
After five years, he said, another Pakhtun was elected JI emir, which he termed very worrisome. “This is not a coincidence and deliberately another Pakhtun has been elected Jamaat chief at a time when situation is changing in Afghanistan.
“His election is not in the interest of the region,” remarked Zahid Khan who also belongs to Lower Dir. He said: “I know Siraj since he was associated with Hizbe-i-Islami chief Gulbadin Hikmatyar whose group is still very active in Kunar province of Afghanistan.” He said that the JI and HI shared same ideology and Jamaat would again play active role in Afghanistan.
By Zulfiqar Ali (dawn.com)