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November 2, 2019

A few occasions where religious parties played decisive roles

Lahore

November 2, 2019

LAHORE:While none of us might be having any idea as of now as to what Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman would actually achieve or boast to accomplish in coming hours and days through his long march against the incumbent Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government, there is absolutely no doubt that a hand in glove relationship of the religious and political parties has proved a lethal combination on many occasions in the country’s history, research shows.

Supported by the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and various opposition parties, the 66-year old Maulana is now in Islamabad, proving a pain in the spine for Premier Imran Khan.

History shows that various religious parties, enjoying fair amount of political clout, once even had the potential to invite Martial Laws in the country, besides getting Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers sacked through aggressive, well planned, timely and “ably supported” agitations and protests on the road.

Annals of history tell us that these religious entities had once possessed the knack of taking on the ruling governments and even the establishments of the time, without paying heed to the consequences.

Here follow a few examples where religious parties, backed by political entities on opposition benches and other “islands of power,” had resorted to streets and had achieved their desired results:

In 1953, a series of violent riots against the Ahmadia Movement in Lahore were spearheaded by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) founder, 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 Pakistan 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 Ahmadia 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-Ahmadia elements had threatened to take direct action after February 1953, if their demands are not met.

In February 1953, the burial of an Ahmadi was resisted by anti-Ahmadia 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 ‘Alfazal’ and ‘Farooq’ were banned by the government. In March 1953, Qadyani teacher Manzoor Ahmed was killed in Lahore’s Arain-dominated Baghbanpura locality and the Ahmadia 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-Ahmadia 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 Ahmadia Community from commenting on anti-Ahmadia 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.

Maududi was also charged with writing his famous (yet provocative) “Qadyani Mas’ala,” a propaganda pamphlet. The Martial law authorities of the time had 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.

The-then Pakistani Governor General Ghulam Muhammad had not only dismissed Mian Mumtaz Daultana as Chief Minister Punjab for stoking sectarian fire for political benefits, but Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin was also sent home along with his entire cabinet.

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.

We all know that in 1977, a nine-member Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) was formed with a slogan of “Nizam-e-Mustafa” to take on the-then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Despite each parties standing with different ideology, PNA was noted for its large physical momentum and its right-wing orientation. The alliance had performed poorly in the 1977 polls and had levelled rigging accusations against Bhutto. The main PNA leaders were Fazlur Rehman’s father, Mufti Mehmood, Maulana Maududi, Shah Ahmed Noorani, Ch Shujaat Hussain’s father Zahoor Ellahi and Air Marshall (retired) Asghar Khan, etc. Bhutto’s early call for the elections was an idea to not give time to the opposition to make decisions and arrangements for the ballot exercise. Following violent political activism by his foes, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had tried to crush the power of this PNA alliance with the help of his agencies such as Federal Security Force (FSF) and Rangers, but in vain.

Bhutto was removed from office in a coup staged by General Zia in July 1977. The country went under Martial Law and Bhutto was controversially tried by the Supreme Court and executed less than two years later, for allegedly authorizing the murder of Nawab Muhammad Ahmed Khan Kasuri, a political opponent.

Remember, on July 20, 1996, the-then Jamaat-e-Islami Chief, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, had announced starting protests against the ruling Benazir Bhutto government, vehemently alleging it of corruption. Qazi Hussain had resigned from the Senate on September 27 of the same year and had announced starting a long march against the Benazir government.

Protests started on October 27, 1996 by Jamaat-e-Islami and the opposition parties. And on November 4, 1996, the Benazir government was sent packing by her loyalist, President Farooq Leghari, primarily because of corruption.

History shows that after Maulana Maududi had founded the Jamaat-e-Islami in 1941, during the British Empire’s rule in India, he had strongly opposed the creation of an independent Pakistan. A few years ago, the-then Jamaat-e-Islami Chief, Syed Munawar Hassan, was condemned for his “outrageous” remarks on the qualifications for a martyr and pre-requisites of martyrdom. His viewpoint was slated 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 Pakistan Army soldiers and around 50,000 innocent Pakistanis who had lost their lives at the hands of Al-Qaeda/Taliban militants since 2001. Although the JI had performed poorly in the 1993 elections, it did manage to pull enough support to ensure that the PML-N got defeated and PPP returned home victorious and pave the way for the late Benazir Bhutto’s return to power for the second time.

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