Pakistan Army strengthening links with Jamaat-e-Islami

Published: Monday, January 18, 2010, 12:45 [IST]

Islamabad, Jan.18 (ANI): Even as the Pakistan Army continues with its offensive against remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in South and North Waziristan, there is a feeling in certain quarters of the Pakistan establishment and in the neighborhood, that the army is not cracking down on radical elements and insurgents as effectively as it should.

There is a feeling that the Pakistan Army is strengthening its links with radical groups such as the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI).

Recently, the top brass of the army did not react when JeI leader Ameer Liaqat Baloch condemned the US drone attacks in Shaktoi in South Waziristan.

Baloch described the attacks as an open challenge to the sovereignty and national integrity of Pakistan.

He said it was an assault on the independence of Pakistan, and called for a change of government and policies, and avoid towing to the US.

Baloch said the incumbent government was nothing but a totalitarian regime, and called for restoring the confidence and morale of the nation.

The JeI has always opposed the creation of a separate homeland called Pakistan, arguing that the entire Indian subcontinent belonged to Muslims.

The then Jamaat-e-Islami leader Maulana Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi viewed the creation of Pakistan in August 1947 as an embarrassment.

Soon after partition, the group, however, recovered ground quickly, using the weakness of political and economic institutions created by Pakistan's feudal politics and ambitious bureaucrats and the Army to assume the mantle of defending Pakistan's core ideological interests.

The JeI envisions "iqamat-e-deen", or the establishment of an Islamic administration governed by Islamic law. It opposes westernization, including capitalism, socialism, secularism or such practices as bank interest, and liberalist social mores.

"We have to convince the people that a 'Bloody Revolution' is a path leading to destruction and the 'Islamic Revolution' is the path ensuring true change and deliverance," the JeI leadership has often said.

It seeks to convert members of the Pakistani elite to its cause and "exercising influence in all branches of Pakistani society".

The JeI has advocated the use of the Pakistani Army to recapture the predominately-Muslim province of Kashmir from India. Its president has called for the creation of a base-camp for launching a jihad (holy war) in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Pakistan's early leaders had said the new state that would be guided by Islamic ideology and as a home for South Asia's Muslims.

Former Pakistan military dictator General Ayub Khan was not particularly popular with the JeI, but the 1965 war with India strengthened the Islamic forces inside Pakistan and brought the Army closer to an Islamic ideology.

Slogans for jihad were heard for the first time. On talking over from Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan defined the military's role to include defending the ideological frontiers of Pakistan.

He tried to promote rightist religious forces in the elections that he conducted in 1970 that eventually led to the breakup of the country a year later.

As an embattled Yahya Khan tried to defeat Bengali nationalism, the JeI proved its loyalty to the ideology of Pakistan.

The Army decided to raise razakaar (volunteer) forces of 100,000 from among the non-Bengali settlers in East Pakistan and from other pro-Pakistani Islamist groups there.

The JI and its student wing the Islami Jamaat e Talaba (IJT) became the Army's enthusiastic supporters in this effort in May 1971 as the repression against the Bengalis mounted.

Two special brigades of staunch Islamist and fanatical cadres, the Al Shams (the sun, in Arabic) and Al Badr (the moon) were ready by September that year. Their task was to eliminate all secular opposition to Pakistan.

Following the creation of Bangladesh out of East Pakistan, the Army and the JeI continued with efforts to strengthen their partnership.

The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) succeeded in 1977 in encouraging the Pakistan National Alliance of which the JeI was an important part to lead to eventual ouster of Bhutto and takeover by General Zia ul Haq.

The Afghan jihad was high tide for the ISI and Islamic parties in Pakistan, including the JeI and the Jamaat e Ulema Islami (JUI) led by Maulana Fazlur Rahman as they both worked together.

The ISI and the JeI were active partners in the covert terror campaign in Jammu and Kashmir in the 1990s and the Hizbul Mujahedeen had the support from the JeI and the ISI.

During General Musharraf's rule, the JeI seemed to be losing ground to more extreme elements. The rise of the Pakistani Taliban, US pressures in Waziristan (post9/11) and the blowback of terrorism in Pakistan, made the JeI seem more moderate and reasonable.

In the political scenario following General Musharraf's ouster in 2007, Pakistan looks fairly fragile and uncertain, as does its current leadership.

President Asif Ali Zardari is seen as a weak institutional entity, unable to draw unqualified support of the rank and file. His Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and himself are suspect in the eyes of the generals for their willingness to obey Washington's diktats and issuing pro-India statements at regular intervals. The alternative is Nawaz Sharif, but he is also not acceptable to the Army.

The Army, therefore, is looking for a partner on the domestic political scene, and in this regard, the JeI is seen as a legitimate political party.

A number of Pakistani military officers have been associated with it in the past, and its influence in the Armed Forces has been steady and substantial.

It is the JeI that will ultimately play a bigger role in the Islamic politics of Pakistan. (ANI)

 

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