Jama'at-e-Islami Dumps Munawwar Hasan as Party Chief
By Riaz Haq
"Tehrik-e-Taliban Chief Hakimullah Mehsud is shaheed (martyr). Pakistani soldiers killed in the war against the Taliban are not shaheed". - Syed Munwwar Hasan, ex-Amir, Jama'at e Islami, Pakistan
Jama'at e Islami members have broken the long tradition of re-electing their serving chiefs. In recent elections, the Jam'atis have rejected Munawwar Hasan's candidacy and replaced him with the KP Jama'at chief Siraj ul Haq. Most Jama'at watchers believe Munawwar Hasan is being seen as a serious liability by majority of Jama'at members since he made statements openly endorsing the Taliban war on the Pakistani state, its institutions, and innocent civilians.
Munawwar Hasan's pro-Taliban position was a significant departure from the Jama'at stance before he took the reins of his party as its National Amir in 2008. His predecessor Qazi Husain Ahmad famously said in an interview that what the Taliban are doing in Pakistan is "fisad", not Jihad . At another time, Qazi Husain Ahmad said: “The (Afghan) Taliban regime cannot be termed a model Islamic government as little of what they did was Islamic." The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were so upset by the remark that they attempted to assassinate Qazi sahib in a suicide bombing.
Few Pakistanis know that the Taliban movement was midwifed by Benazir Bhutto with crucial support of Jama'at's ideological rival Maulana Fazl ur Rehman, the leader of Jamiat Ulema Islam which ran many madrassas in the tribal belt along the Pakistan border with Afghanistan. Benazir's right-hand man and interior minister Naseerullah Babar was instrumental in building the Taliban during her term in office in 1993-1996.
Before Benazir decided to help create the Taliban, the Pakistani establishment (Army and ISI) favored the Afghan Mujahedeen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who was aligned with the Jamat-e-Islami, Maulana Fazl ur Rehman's main rival Islamic political party in Pakistan. Maulana Maudoodi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami was considered a kafir by many of Maulana Fazl ur Rehman's fellow Deobandis. Both Maulana Fazal and Benazir intensely disliked the Jamat-e-Islami leadership. Jamat-e-Islami had supported late Gen Zia ul Haq who executed Benazir's father and former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979. Maulana Fazlur Rehman saw this as an opportunity to edge out Jamat-e-Islami by aligning himself with Benazir Bhutto to create and nurture the Taliban who opposed Gulbuddin Hikmetyar.
Since the change in the Jama'at leadership was announced, the TTP leadership has written a letter to the new Amir of Jama'at-e-Islami Siraj ul Haq reminding him that "our destination is the same but the difference is in the modus operandi to achieve it.". TTP leader Omar Khalid Khurasani, the man who recently claimed responsibility for brutally beheading 26 Pakistani soldiers in his captivity, has asked the new Jama'at leader to "carry forward the mission of Syed Munawwar Hassan without compromise".
It will be interesting to see how Siraj ul Haq responds to TTP's expectations. Is he going to try and appease them? Or would he take a more uncompromising position as Qazi Husain Ahmed did?