Party, Ideology, and Politics

Can the Islamist forces, like Jama’at-e-Islami, turn into future political power!

Inksight

MEHMOOD UR RASHID

In an earlier column there was a reference to Qazi Husain Ahmed’s initiative to reach out to the masses in Pakistan from the platform of Jam’at. His attempt to relax the disciplinary cordon of Jam’at-e-Islami, and involve more people with the party, had its own gains. Qazi Husain could in the process weave political connections across party lines making it possible for the religious forces to come together and become a workable political force. In the wake of the NATO attack on Afghanistan these religious forces found an opportune moment to cash in on the anti American sentiment and translate it into good electoral gains. That was the first time a conglomerate of religious parties – MMA – performed so well in the electoral competition. 
But how far did he succeed in bringing people closer to his party, or vice versa, is not very difficult, looking at the performance of his party alone in the electoral politics of Pakistan. Qazi Husain could become a street factor, but never really a political force that could bring about any perceptible change in his country. On certain occasions he could generate good heat in the streets of Pakistan but he could bring no light to the dark corners of power politics in his country. Despite having a disciplined and cadre based party at his back, Qazi could not bring about the desired change in more than two decades while he was Amir-e-Jam’at – party head. The masses in Pakistan remained largely loyal to the politics represented by parties like Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League. The religious parties and sects also retained their own share of voters. Despite Qazi Husain’s relentless efforts for more than two decades Pakistan’s politics remained unchanged. In the electoral sphere Jam’at-e-Islami is still a street force than a statistical challenge to the power politics of Pakistan. This failure must have its reasons, and it makes a valid curiosity for those interested in Pakistan’s politics.
It also makes a valuable analytical engagement for Jam’at-e-Islami Pakistan, as a party. And those keen on ideological parties, at academic or journalistic levels, this is a standing invitation.
In Kashmir we have compulsive reasons to analyse the matter. Pakistan is not just like any other neighbor; things from that country travel very fast and deep into Kashmir.  Any political change, good or bad, has a definite bearing on Kashmir. Another reason for us to get engaged with the question is the resemblance that our political landscape strikes with that of Pakistan. As a Muslim society we share much with Pakistan. The political themes and religious perspectives dotting Pakistan are strikingly present in Kashmir. And then we have a party in Kashmir, Jam’at-e-Islami, that not only originates from the same root but is still fed from the same ideological sources as is the Jam’at-e-Islami of Pakistan. So any significant change in the JI Pakistan can turn things around in Jam’at-e-Islami J&K. Imagine, like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, if JI Pakistan succeeds in gaining political power in Pakistan, any time in future, what would that mean to Jam’at in Kashmir! Though it is a far-fetched possibility looking at the way JI is still engaged with Afghan and Kashmir project. And also the fact that Imran Khan has already captured the space JI Pakistan could have capitalized on, in case it decided to outsource electoral politics to a separate party like MB did in the shape of FJP (Freedom and Justice Party). But then politics is a realm of never ending possibilities, and also occasional surprises.
To begin exploring the subject it is important to remind ourselves that parties like JI are not political in the usual sense of the word. The adjective of religio-political is also a problematic, because it neither allows us to look at it strictly as a religious party, not probe it as a political party. We should rather consider it as a party that has a definite understanding of religion, approaches the history of the religious community (Ummah) in a certain way, and consequently conducts politics in a certain manner. Like a political party it has contested elections but unlike other parties it does adhere to certain ethics, and does not consider winning an election as an end in itself but as a means to an end. That is why there was disagreement on the practice of becoming more populist, adopted by Qazi Husain. People like Mian Tufail and Naeem Siddiqi were dejected towards the end of their lives just because they thought Qazi Husain compromised on the standards set by JI for its members. They were strictly Maududian in their approach. To understand what Maududian approach was one we can refer to a question once posed to Syed Maududi. Someone expressed the anxiety, why Jama’t could not become a formidable force through electoral politics by asserting itself as a mass party. To this Syed Maududi responded “let Jama’t stay as much populist (Awami) as it is. If masses cannot lift themselves to the ethical standards set by Jam’at, Jam’at cannot stoop down to their level just for the sake of attaining success in electoral politics.” The same mindset was expressed to Mian Tufail when he responded to Qazi Husain’s changed attitude by saying that we had formed this party by extracting the cream from the society’s milk, but now it is being turned into lassi - yogurt diluted with water. With such a dilemma in the thinking of the party within, can mass politics become any real possibility for a party like Jama’at-e-Islami; let us probe the question further from here onwards in the coming columns.

Lastupdate on : Wed, 23 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 23 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 24 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST




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