By Farooq Sulehhria
WikiLeaks reveal Maulana Fazl ur Rehman approached the US embassy in India through Maulana Madni. The embassy was informed: Mr. Rahman “could not speak freely in Pakistan, that he would say one thing in Pakistan and something else in India if asked”…Mr. Madani was also carrying another message on behalf of Mr. Rehman — that he be allowed to play a bigger role in Pakistani politics. Mr. Madani told the U.S. official that because of his known ties to Taliban members, Mr. Rahman had a “bad reputation” in Pakistani politics, but “in reality was more moderate than Musharraf.”
Since 1988, Pakistan has seen six governments (interim set-ups excluded) including a Khaki one. The Fazal faction of Jamiat Ulema Islam has been part and parcel of all these governments.
A few years ago, in a telephonic interview with JUI boss, Maulana Fazl ur Rehman, I asked him if he considered it un-Islamic for a woman to be head of a Muslim state. His expected answer was a big YES.
I retorted: ‘Maulana! How come you were holding a portfolio under Benazir’s government.
‘Aap kyon garahy murday ukhartay hain?’ came the abrupt reply (1).
Opportunism has been hallmark of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI). Fazl ur Rehman’s father, Mufti Mehmoud could visit Moscow and make a stopover in Mecca on his way home. Same day he could declare socialism in line with Islam while demanding strict implementation of Sharia. Quran and Das Capital, he had both in his pocket.
The son, more famous by his moniker ‘Maulana Diesel’, has perfected the tradition his father set. He declares Pakistan’s legendary communist poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz as his favourite while supporting Jihad against Afghan communist infidels. He approves Mulla Omar-style women oppression while supporting a woman prime minister in Pakistan. Of course the support he lent to first woman prime minister of a Muslim country was not for free. The sobriquet of Maulana Diesel refers to a lucrative diesel franchise he got from Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto as a kickback for his support.
Though there are host of religious parties yet it is JUI-F and Jamaat-e-Islami commanding electoral, social and political support. Of the two, JUI is senior (2). It is an off shoot of Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Hind (JUH). Formed in 1919, JUH was a political spokes body of Deobandi Muslims. Deobandis are one of the three main Sunni sects in Pakistan. And rest of Indian sub-continent.
The affix Deobandi comes from a seminary established at a small town in India called Deoband. Established in 1867, Darul Aloom Deoband, became Vatican of orthodox Sunni Islam in Indian sub-continent. However, there were ultra-orthodox too: Ahl-e-Hadith. The ultra-orthodox are often wrongly termed as Wahabis by local Muslims. Though very close to Wahabi Islam (2) yet Ahl-e-Hadith categorise themselves as a distinct sect. It was therefore they appealed to the government of British India that the term Wahabi should not be used for them. The government complied. The term, however, remains in currency particularly on countryside. The ultra-orthodox never succeeded making inroads in India, Pakistan. They remain isolated sect.
It was rather populist Islam represented by Brelvis that appealed to the peasantry. In contrast to Deobandis, Brelvis profess an Islam infused with superstition and syncretism making up the peasant beliefs. It was this Islam that baptised otherwise unIslamic Indian traditions of amulets, charms, dance and music. Thus capturing the hearts of millions. The term Brelvi was deduced, like Deobandi, from a seminary at the town of Brelli in present-day India.
Indian priests, both Hindu and Muslim, entered anti-colonial struggle with a little delay. Their pre-colonial privileged positions were not challenged by imperial take over until the new rulers’ established new legal system to meet needs of the expanding colonial capitalist system. In pre-colonial India, Hindu and Muslim clergy occupied a central position in the judicial system. When British masters started rolling back the old system, clergy found its position threatened. Lucrative jobs were now took over by judges and attorneys educated in English law and language. Also, the colonial masters did not need the graduates from seminaries run
by Muslim clerks. The new masters were rather sponsoring Anglo-vernacular schools. This bread-and-butter struggle turned the clergy into an anti-colonial battalion. Thus, the clergy declared learning English language an unIslamic ritual. It was Deoband leadership with an influence in urban centres that participated in anti-colonial struggle. The Brelvi clerks with a peasant following remained either aloof or sided with colonial masters.
The bearded anti-colonialism found its first organised expression in Anjuman-Khuddam-i-Kaaba in 1913 (3). The Anjuman was formed when ‘holy places of Islam in Arabia were threatened by the West’. The Anjuman later developed into Jamiat-ul Ulema-i-Hind (JUH): Association of Scholars of India.
The JUH in its formative phase was a radical nationalist anti-colonial body. It remained staunchly loyal to its nationalist stand until the Partition in 1947. Instead of allying with Jinnah’s All India Muslim Leagues, it sided with Gandhi’s secularist All India National Congress. Rejecting Muslim League’s narrow vision of Muslim nationalism, JUH leader Maulana Madni supported Congress creed of Muttahidah Qawmiyyat---Composite Nationalism, by stating:
In the modern age, nations are founded on homelands; nations are not found on the basis of race or religion. The dwellers of England are recognised as one nation, whereas they have Jews and Christians as their citizens, and such is the case with America, Japan and France (4).
Earlier, the JUH leadership even approved Gandhi’s non-violence during the Khilafat Movement. The success of Russian revolution even radicalised the JUH rank and file. A renowned Deoband scholar Maulana Obaydullah Sindhi went to Soviet Russia and converted to socialism. The JUH also tried to associate the national liberation struggle with socialism. At its 11th annual session held in Delhi, March 3-5, 1939, JUH stalwart Shaukatullah Shah Ansari spoke at length on socialism. Socialism he said stood for the rehabilitation of the oppressed enslaved nations and people. On Marxism, he said: ‘[it] solved many complex economic questions. It shielded the exploited and the oppressed in brutal class warfare. This modus operandi instilled new life in the working class, which culminated in the foundation of Soviet system in Russia.’
Though first military regime of General Ayub Khan in its early period kept beards at arms length yet he turned to them when his boat started sinking. Socialism became writing on the wall as youth and workers took to streets by end-1968. Maulana Maudodi came out with a fatwa against socialism. Feudalism was the essence of Islam, declared Maudodi. General Yahya Khan, the new military dictator replacing the old, was declared the ‘soldier of Islam’ by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). Why? First because he was blessed by the US to dam the flood of socialism. Secondly, he had greased Maudodi’s palm with Rs 6.5 million to contest forthcoming elections to stop PPP. On the contrary, Deoband leadership, now organised as Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), not just lent support to socialism but held joint meetings with Z A Bhutto’s PPP. While JI was defending feudalism and private property, JUI organ was publishing a series of articles in defence of Islamic Socialism of Bhutto. Even radical was JUI’s alliance with Pakistan Labour Party (PLP) in July 1969. The PLP founded by a labour leader, Bashir Bukhtiar, stood for socialism too.
The confessional twins, JUI and JI, had never been united since the creation of Pakistan except in 1953 during Anti-Ahmadia movement. The beards wanted Ahmadia sect be declared non-Muslim. The ensuing riots shook Punjab. Maudodi had discredited himself in 1948 by issuing a ruling that war in Kashmir was not Jihad. To make up for the loss, Maudodi wrote an inflammatory anti-Ahmadi book: The Ahmadi Problem. Before the book was banned, 57,000 copies had been sold in eighteen days. The Anti-Ahmadi movement was in fact orchestered by some debilitated politicians. The movement led to first martial law in Pakistan. It was restricted only to Lahore. But it also led to a judicial inquiry into the incident. Justice Munir and Justice A R Kiani, two eminent judges, conducted the judicial inquiry.
The report submitted by the inquiry is a wonderful text in country’s history. It is an indictment of fundamentalism. Perhaps the only official secular text in country’s history. Munir and Kiani summoned beards of all sizes and recorded their statements. Recommendations presented were bold, fearless, and correct. Besides suggesting a complete break between religion and state, the report had warned against the creation of a confessional state.
The report was retorted by JI. It declared: ‘Our politics is our religion. Our religion is our politics’. But politics of religion and religion of politics were rejected by Pakistani masses when they were asked in 1970 as they went to cast their votes first time. Of the three bearded parties, Maudodi’s JI showed worst electoral performance. Only four parliamentary mandates. Both JUI and Jamiat Ulema Pakistan (representing Brelvis) managed to bag seven seats each. However, JUI support remained limited to Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and Balochistan. In a way, it was best bearded electoral performance, as in West Pakistan their share of vote was 15 percent while in Punjab, their share of vote was 20 percent. In these two provinces, JUI and left-wing parties performed better than PPP. Mufti even defeated PPP’s chairman Z A Bhutto in a NWFP constituency. Bhutto otherwise had returned from five other constituencies. Following the elections, the JUI and left-wing nationalists formed coalition governments in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and Balochistan. Mufti was elected as chief minister of Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa until he resigned in 1973 as protest when Bhutto undemocratically dissolved the Balochistan government.
As Pakistan went second time to elections in March 1977, beards were rejected yet again. Bhutto and his PPP emerged victorious. But beards in Washington had something else in store for Pakistan. Obnoxious Henry Kissinger had warned Bhutto a year ago to make an example out of him if he did not roll back Pakistan’s nuclear programme. Beards and turbans all had joined hands against Bhutto in an election alliance: PNA. The dominant PNA component, paradoxically, were secular and left parties. Beards refused to accept the results. A civil disobedience followed. The beard-Washington alliance was manifested in Lahore in its naked form. A JI demonstration raising slogans in favour of the USA passed by US consulate in Lahore. US diplomat standing on rooftop waving to the demonstration welcomed it (5).
Democracy and Bhutto were murdered. The former in 1977, and the latter in 1979. At the same time, Afghan ‘Jihad’ was unleashed by Washington against Soviets.
Zia was to lead the faithful in Jihad. Jamaat was the conduit to supply Mujahideen (holy warriors) for Jihad. Zia had neglected the JUI for his US-Saudi sponsored Jihad venture. Mufti had initially joined hands with Zia. When Maulana Diesel inherited JUI, he was perhaps still under the influence of Faiz’ poetry. He rather joined hands with PPP-led opposition struggling for the restoration of democracy. Or was he a Khaki mole inside MRD? He was pocketing petrodollars anyway, to spread a network of Deobandi madrassas (seminaries) to manufacture Taliban. Owing to JI’s close collaboration with Zia, it was ridiculed by masses as martial law’s B Team. Both were hated like anything during eighties. When in 1985, Zia staged non-party election drama, none of the JI leaders managed to win elections. B Team was defeated yet again. The dismal electoral performance by beards of all sizes was repeated in four general elections that followed 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1997.
The JUI’s performance was not impressive during these years either. Its electoral base remained restricted to Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa and Balochistan. In 1988, it bagged eight National Assembly seats (2.07% votes). In 1990, it performed even badly: six seats (2.94 % votes). By 1997, even Maulana Diesel could not reach the National Assembly. The JUI could win only two National Assembly seats and 1.68 % votes. In Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa Assembly, it managed only one seat where it was supposed to form government in five years time at the head of MMA (6). The combined votes for beards, since 1970, never went beyond six percent ever in general elections until 2002 when beards managed to bag 15 per cent of the votes cast. In Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa, MMA ruled the roost for five years. But MMA rule proved as inefficient and corrupt as any other in Pakistan. In 2008, when people went to vote in a rather fair election, beards were punished. The JI, being clever, boycotted the election. Maulana Diesel, however, had another perspective ahead of elections. The WikiLeaks reveal that Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman sought support from the US ambassador in Pakistan in 2007 to assume the office of Prime Minister ship. He even hosted a banquet in the honour of then US envoy Anne W. Peterson (2007) and sought US support for his election as Prime Minister. When Peterson politely reminded Maulana the difficulties involved, Maulana offered that his faction’s members in National Assembly “are for sale”. The WikiLeaks were dismissed by beards. Now The Hindu has published yet another WikiLeaks’ file exposing how our dear Maulana Fazl ur Rehman was visiting India to establish contact with US embassy in Delhi (7). Ignored by Pakistani media, The Hindu’s report is indeed revealing (excerpts):
Prominent Muslim leaders in New Delhi stayed away from a high-profile Pakistani politician when he visited the city in May 2006.
However, that did not discourage the politician, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islami (F) and Leader of the Opposition, from making a visit again next year. And this time he made an indirect overture to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, offering his services as a mediator between the Bush Administration and the Taliban…
On May 3, 2007, Assistant Political Counselor Atul Keshap reported (cable 106645: secret) his meeting with JuH leader Mahmood Madani and Pandit N.K. Sharma, an astrologer-adviser to P.V. Narasimha Rao, “who claims close ties” to the Gandhi family. Mr. Madani told the U.S. official that the Pakistani leader had a “pressing issue he wanted to discuss with US officials, but he was only interested in holding these talks outside of Pakistan.”
He explained that Mr. Rahman “could not speak freely in Pakistan, that he would say one thing in Pakistan and something else in India if asked”…Mr. Madani was also carrying another message on behalf of Mr. Rehman — that he be allowed to play a bigger role in Pakistani politics. Mr. Madani told the U.S. official that because of his known ties to Taliban members, Mr. Rahman had a “bad reputation” in Pakistani politics, but “in reality was more moderate than Musharraf.”
But the JUI could manage only two seats even from the province it ruled for five years. Another two from Balochistan (but by-elections further strengthened JUI position and it has seven MNAs now). Maulana was defeated in his home town. He will have to wait for another military rule for the coveted slot of prime minister.
Notes and References
1. A rough transliteration would be: let the buried be buried, why excavate them from their graves.
2. It has split into many factions. The other major JUI faction is headed by Maulana Samu ul Haq. His exploits have earned him the nickname, Maulana Sandwich!
3- Wahabi sect was founded by an Arab preacher Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab (1703-92). Wahabists stand for ultra-puritan Islam. It is Wahabi version of Islam implemented in Saudi Arabia.
4-Association of Servants of Kaaba.
5- Cited in Politics of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Pakistan 1971-77 by Sayyid A S Pirzada
Oxford University Press, Pakistan, 2000 p: 4
6- For details see: ‘Profiles of Intelligence’ by Brig. (Retd.) A I Tirmazi. JI has never contradicted the claims in this book written by somebody sympathetic to JI.
7- The election results quoted here have been collected from different sources
8. ‘Indian rogues’ gallery entertains Pakistani Taliban apologist’ by Nirupama Subramanian. The Hindu, March 25, 2011
Source: View Point