By Sabir Shah
November 12, 2013
Not only does the 72-year old Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) have a history of being controversial for both good and bad reasons, but it also possesses the knack of taking on the ruling governments and the establishments of the time without paying heed to the consequences.
In 1941, when Maulana Maududi had founded the JI in British India, he had strongly believed that the leaders then seeking an independent piece of land in the name of Pakistan were not competent enough to establish an Islamic state, maintaining that a Muslim state did not necessarily mean an Islamic state.
Many JI critics, however, bluntly assert even today that Maulana Maududi and his followers had actually opposed the creation of an independent Pakistan. The incumbent JI Ameer Syed Munawar Hassan is thus not the first leader of this party to flash media headlines in over seven decades, though he might stand out as the only one to be dubbed a “maverick” for his recent “outrageous” remarks on the qualifications for a martyr and pre-requisites of martyrdom.
Munawar Hasan is being vehemently condemned by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), numerous religious and national political entities for declaring the dead terrorists like the late Taliban Chief Hakeemullah Mehsud, as martyrs and for not acknowledging the sacrifices of the Pakistan Army soldiers and around 50,000 innocent Pakistanis who lost their lives at the hands of al-Qaeda/Taliban militants during the last 12 years or so.
While Syed Munawar Hassan’s statements have invoked unending fiery debates among all sections of the society, history tells that Maulana Maududi’s JI once had the potential to invite martial law in the country.
For example, in 1953, a series of violent riots against the Ahmadiyya Movement in Lahore were spearheaded by Maulana Maududi (1903-79), a globally-renowned Sunni theologian, famous for writing a commentary of the Qur’an called the “Tafhim-ul-Quran.”
Though these riots were later quelled by the army, the JI-led demonstrations in February 1953 had soon escalated in the city and brought in its wake murders, loot and arson, in particular targeting the Ahmadiya community.
Unable to contain the increasingly widespread civil disorder, the then Pakistani Governor General Ghulam Muhammad was left with no other option but to hand over the administration of Lahore city to the Army under Lt General Azam Khan who had to impose martial law on March 6, 1953 to stem the alarming tide of violence.
The JI wasn’t alone in this fight against the army and the state. In fact, this movement was a continuation of the 1949 “Tehreek-e-Khatm e Nabuwwat,” which was launched under the auspices of the “Majlis-e-Ahrar-ul-Islam” that had demanded the removal of the then Pakistani Foreign Minister Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, and ouster of other Ahmadis from top government offices and the declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslims.
After the January 1953 convention of the All Pakistan Muslim League in Dhaka, the anti-Ahmadiyya elements had threatened to take direct action after February 1953, if their demands were not met.
In February 1953, the burial of an Ahmadi was resisted by anti-Ahmadiyya elements in Sargodha and on February 23, the anti-Qadyani riots had broken out in West Pakistan, especially engulfing the volatile Punjab Province.
Two Qadyani newspapers ‘Al-Fazal’ and ‘Farooq’ were banned by Government. In March 1953, a Qadyani teacher Manzoor Ahmed was killed in Lahore’s Arain-dominated Baghbanpura locality and the Ahmadiyya place of worship in Rawalpindi was set ablaze by a mob. Many shops and houses belonging to Ahmadis and even to the President of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya of Rawalpindi were ransacked.
The English version of the Justice Muneer Inquiry Report about these riots tells that on March 12, 1953, six days after martial law was imposed in Lahore, the Additional Magistrate Jhang had prohibited the Head of the Ahmadiyya Community from commenting on anti-Ahmadiyya riots.
During the 70-day-long military deployment, Lahore finally returned to normalcy under General Azam Khan. During this eventful period, Maulana Maududi and then-Secretary General of the Awami Muslim League, Maulana Abdus Sattar Niazi, were arrested and sentenced to death.
Abul Ala Maududi was also charged with writing his famous (yet provocative) “Qadyani Mas’ala,” a propaganda pamphlet. Martial law authorities passed death sentence on Maulana Abdus Sattar Niazi on May 7, 1953 and on Abul Ala Maududi on May 11. However, a day before martial law was lifted on May 14, 1953; the death sentences of both were commuted to life terms due to strong public pressure from within and outside Pakistan.
Death sentences of the two religious leaders were annulled later on. The fallout of the martial law was immense. Governor General Ghulam Muhammad dismissed Mian Mumtaz Daultana as Chief Minister Punjab for stoking sectarian fire for political benefits. Prime Minister, Khawaja Nazimuddin, and his entire cabinet was also sent home.
In 1948 Maulana Maududi was jailed for issuing a decree (fatwa) on jihad in Kashmir and in 1949 the government was forced to accept Jamaat’s resolution for an Islamic constitution. Maududi was released from jail in 1950.
In 1958, the Jamaat-e-Islami was banned by the then Martial Law Administrator, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, and in 1964, Maududi was again sent behind bars for a few months. Maulana Maududi’s successor, Mian Tufail Mohammad was also tried under the Official Secrets Act during the Ayub Khan era for mutiny.
Nine prominent leaders belonging to different political parties were tried for mutiny under the Official Secret Act. All nine of them had decided to launch a movement for democracy. Mian Tufail (not Ameer JI at that time) was one of these nine leaders.
The trial lingered on for two years and ultimately, the case was quashed by the government itself for lack of evidence.
In 1965, when the joint opposition was organised, Mian Tufail was one of its central leaders. Along with other leaders, Mian Tufail had toured East and West Pakistan to create mass awareness and organise a strong national democratic movement.
Mian Tufail’s successor and the third Ameer of JI, Qazi Hussain Ahmad too was arrested on many occasions. He was first arrested during the “Tehreek-e-Nizam-e-Mustafa” in 1977 and was again imprisoned when he had taken out a procession against the American aggression in Afghanistan.
Years later, when he came out raising a voice against the publication of blasphemous caricatures of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in a Danish newspaper “Jyllands-Posten,” he was jailed again.
During his detention, Qazi had penned down number of articles, which were later published in a book form. One can recall that during the 1993 general elections, the Qazi-led JI had come out with a very catchy slogan “Zalimo, Qazi Aa Raha Hai” to improve its electoral chances. During the 1993 election campaign, dirty language was used against Nawaz Sharif and PML-N, something that wasn’t really a hallmark of Jamaat-e-Islami’s relatively urbane culture. As a result, many old members of JI decided to become inactive.
Although the JI had performed poorly in these elections, it did manage to poll enough votes to ensure PML-N’s defeat and PPP’s victory in 25-30 National Assembly constituencies, thus paving the way for the late Benazir Bhutto’s return to power for the second time.
The right wing vote had thus witnessed a split, only to indirectly favour Benazir Bhutto’s PPP.JI’s young leaders Liaquat Baloch and Hafiz Salman Butt emerged as new JI leaders.