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The Rebirth of Democracy, 1988–1993
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The Elections of 1990 and the IJI Government

When it became obvious that Benazir Bhutto would not be returned to office, the Jama‘at decided to remain with the IJI, which was expected to form the next government. Overnight it once more became a dedicated member of the IJI and enthusiastically rejoined the alliance. Between August and October the Jama‘at provided the IJI with workers and political support and whipped up popular passions against the People’s Party and its main source of foreign support, the United States. The Jama‘at was not welcomed back to the IJI’s fold with much enthusiasm. It was given eighteen National Assembly tickets, eight fewer than in 1988, and thirty-seven provincial tickets, seven fewer than in 1988. Islam did not play a central role in determining the outcome of the elections, another mark of the Jama‘at’s diminishing value for the IJI. The Jama‘at had insisted on challenging the MQM in Sind. The IJI was reluctant to oblige, for theoretically such a move would pit pro-IJI candidates against one another to the advantage of the People’s Party, but the Jama‘at persisted and finally received six of its national tickets and eleven of its provincial ones in Sind,[14] all of which were lost to the MQM. The rout of the Jama‘at in Sind, which showed the power of ethnic over Islamic sentiments, justified the IJI’s turn to ethnic and provincial parties to bolster its power base.

20. Seats Contested and Won by the Jama‘at-i Islami in the 1990 Elections
  Punjab NWFP Sind Baluchistan Total
Source: Election Bureau of the Jama‘at-i Islami.
National Assembly seats contested 7 4 6 1 18
National Assembly seats won 7[a] 1[b] 0 0 8
Provincial Assembly seats contested 14 12 11 0 37
Provincial Assembly seats won 12[c] 8[d] 0 0 20

The Jama‘at won only 3 percent of the popular vote (640,000) in the elections to the National Assembly, and 4 percent, 3 percent, and 0.8 percent of the vote in the provincial assembly elections in the North-West Frontier Province, Punjab, and Sind, respectively.[15] Although running for fewer seats, the Jama‘at did better in these elections than in 1988 (see table 20). It won eight out of eighteen contested national seats (as opposed to seven out of twenty-six in 1988), and twenty out of thirty-seven contested provincial seats (as opposed to eleven out of forty-four in 1988). The Jama‘at’s ratio of elected members to tickets contested was improved to 44 percent and 54 percent for the National and Provincial Assembly races respectively. The Jama‘at did especially well in Punjab, where it won all of the seven National Assembly seats it contested, and twelve of the fourteen provincial tickets it was assigned. Although the improvement was a result of the IJI’s soaring popularity, it nonetheless boosted Jama‘at’s morale.

Despite its wholehearted support for the alliance with the IJI during the elections, the Jama‘at declined to participate in Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet.[16] Nawaz Sharif’s government was Islamic, but increasingly relied upon ethnic and provincial bases of power. It now openly turned to the MQM in Sind and the Awami National Party in the North-West Frontier Province to control those provinces and to keep the People’s Party at bay. The Jama‘at was particularly disturbed by the IJI’s close affinity with the MQM, which continued to dominate Karachi to the exclusion of the Jama‘at.[17] It perpetuated that party’s control over the politics of the Muhajir community and desacralized the political discourse in that province as well as in Pakistan as a whole, all to the detriment of the Jama‘at. The MQM’s onslaught against the remaining pockets of Jama‘at power in Karachi did not help the situation, and it set the Jama‘at at odds with the IJI. The Jama‘at began openly to criticize the government for its lackluster performance on religious issues, joining the swelling chorus demanding greater Islamization. The Jama‘at hoped both to expose the government’s spurious allegiance to Islamic causes, thereby compelling Nawaz Sharif to reorient his politics, and to salvage Islam’s political fortunes before the rise in importance of ethnic and provincial parties.

The Jama‘at’s posture against the government soon found a suitable issue in the Persian Gulf war. The Jama‘at, against the official policy of the IJI government, supported Iraq and opposed the Persian Gulf monarchies and emirates, which were the party’s financial patrons and political allies. This stand had several explanations. To begin with, the Jama‘at was reacting to the United States’ cut-off of aid in October 1990 in response to Pakistan’s refusal to abandon its nuclear arms program. The IJI’s electoral success has in part been attributed to its adroit manipulation of anti-Americanism, and no doubt this was not lost on the Jama‘at. It also objected to the United States’ de-escalating the war in Afghanistan in 1989 and the lack of American support for the Muslim cause in Kashmir, not to mention the Palestinians.[18] It claimed that the United States’ argument that it had to liberate Kuwait was part of a “Zionist plot” by the United States to weaken the Muslim world and the Middle East and guarantee the security of Israel.[19] Khurshid Ahmad called American policy a “trap,” designed to “entangle Iraq in war so that it could provide the United States with a chance to interfere and advance its sinister designs—to give an edge to Israel in the region and to control the Muslim oil.”[20] The war thereby became a battle between Islam and its “enemies.” There could be no observers, and it was clear where the Jama‘at’s loyalties lay.

The Jama‘at concluded from what had come to pass that the days of Persian Gulf monarchies were numbered. If they did not fall before the onslaught of their northern neighbor, they would be pulled down by their own people. Saddam Hussein’s rhetoric about the rich Persian Gulf states and the poor Arab and Muslim brethren elsewhere, along with the belief that the United States’ presence in the region would deliver the kiss of death to the monarchies, had convinced the Jama‘at that it was time to side with the future power brokers in the region.

There was a surprising amount of support for Iraq in Pakistan in November 1990; the party, which had since 1988 been trying to find a popular cause, now decided to take up “this cause of the masses” and ride the tide of resurgent Islamic feelings which it believed would once again sweep across Pakistan. Initially, the Jama‘at had been critical of Saddam Hussein and had viewed the plight of Pakistani refugees from Kuwait with alarm. It wanted a viable settlement that called on Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, above all else to prevent the United States from gaining a foothold in the Muslim “holy land.” Qazi Husain even led a prominent delegation to several Middle East capitals to convince them of this. As war became imminent and soldiers from Western countries dug in their heels in Saudi Arabia, attitudes toward the crisis began to change in Pakistan, and Saddam Hussein found a base of support there.

Conscious of the changing tide of public opinion and somehow convinced of the ultimate victory of Saddam Hussein, after January 17 the Jama‘at abandoned any pretense of following a via media and openly supported Iraq throughout the remainder of the conflict, denouncing the methodical destruction of that country under massive air bombardment. Again it found itself allied with some strange bedfellows, all of whom had also come to believe that the United States was headed for defeat and that Saddam Hussein was the horse to bet on. The armed forces, led by General Mirza Aslam Beig, who regarded to the war as a repeat of Karbala, the People’s Party activists, and the left joined in denouncing American imperialism and quickly became allies of the Jama‘at. Pictures of Qazi Husain sharing intimate moments with leftist poets and politicians began to adorn the pages of newspapers and magazines. On the international level, the Jama‘at joined the ranks of the Tahrik-i Islami (Islamic Movement), a multinational Islamic umbrella organization which coordinates the activities of a number of revivalist groups across the Muslim world, including support for Iraq during the war. In Pakistan, the Jama‘at organized fifty-seven “jihad rallies” and two dozen “coffin-clad” rallies to emphasize that its workers were ready for martyrdom in the jihad against the anti-Islamic forces of the West;[21] the IJT reinforced the Jama‘at’s protest by organizing 338 public rallies and demonstrations during the same period.[22]

As popular as the Jama‘at’s new policy was, not all members agreed with it. Many were critical of supporting Iraq and were ill at ease with Qazi Husain’s blasts against the Persian Gulf monarchies. Mian Tufayl argued that, as unwelcome as the American assault on Iraq may have been, the only culprit in the entire ordeal was Saddam Hussein;[23] the Jama‘at could not by any stretch of imagination justify defending such a ruthless enemy of Islam. Salahu’ddin, who had long enjoyed the patronage of Saudi Arabia, pointed out that “populism and demagogy did not befit an Islamic movement.”[24] He derided the Jama‘at’s anti-Saudi rhetoric and suggested that inveighing against its long-time patrons and endorsing the actions of a secular dictator were perilously close to chicanery. If the Jama‘at believed that the kingdom was an “undemocratic lackey of imperialism,” it should return the money it had received over the years from the Saudi government.[25]

Salahu’ddin’s charges of “irresponsible,” “irrational,” and “opportunistic” behavior on the Jama‘at’s part were quickly reiterated by other pro-Jama‘at periodicals and dailies, which also chided the party for sacrificing its principles to the demands of the mob. Many of the Jama‘at’s members and sympathizers had close ties in the Persian Gulf monarchies and were, as a result, greatly disturbed by the suggestion that they, their friends, or their families had earned their livelihood in the service of the enemies of Islam. The Jama‘at could hardly reconcile its long-standing financial and political alliance with Saudi Arabia with its new rhetoric against it, and was thus placed on the defensive. Discontent in the party was widespread enough to prompt Qazi Husain to tour Pakistan in March 1991 to try to explain the logic of the party’s policy on the Persian Gulf crisis to its workers and supporters.[26]

At the cost of losing its Saudi financial support and compromising its ethical and ideological principles, the Jama‘at had taken up Saddam Hussein’s cause because it was popular. It had hoped that its support for Iraq against “American imperialism and its stooges” would separate the Jama‘at’s position from that of the government and breathe new life into the party. Instead it opened itself up to charges of duplicity which continued to exact a price. The pro-Iraq campaign had popularized Islamic issues, which no doubt benefited the Jama‘at. With the Islamic forces on the move and the very basis of the IJI shaken over its support of Iraq, Sharif was compelled to mend fences with his religious right. When Qazi Husain publicly censured the foreign minister Sahibzadah Ya‘qub Khan for “pursuing American interests,” Sharif dismissed him,[27] and hastily pushed a modified version of the shari‘at bill through the parliament.[28] The Jama‘at then attacked the bill as mere window-dressing, an attack it renewed periodically. Mian Tufayl, who had initially supported the IJI, even declared the bill “heretical.”[29] The Jama‘at also criticized the government for succumbing to American pressure to reach a compromise over Afghanistan, and for its “soft” stand on Kashmir.

The IJI was unable to accommodate the Jama‘at’s new populist ideas. Far from an Islamic coalition government, which the Jama‘at believed would serve as a vehicle for the realization of its aims, the IJI proved to be a collection of the Jama‘at’s staunchest enemies—the Muslim League, the Awami National Party, and especially the MQM. Although the enmity between the Jama‘at and the Muslim League and the Awami National Party was longstanding, the MQM presented the greater challenge. It had already defeated the Jama‘at in Sind and was still busily eliminating the party from that province; it was also making inroads into the party’s base of support elsewhere in Pakistan. In 1990, the MQM considered changing its name from Muhajir Qaumi Mahaz (Muhajir National Front) to Mutahhidah Qaumi Movement (United National Front), turning it into a national and not just a Muhajir party, to eliminate the handicap of its narrow group focus.[30] The Jama‘at concluded that the MQM was positioning itself to compete with its national standing. In the spring of 1991, MQM activists killed two IJT workers and set the offices of Takbir ablaze; Qazi Husain openly threatened to leave the IJI,[31] especially as the coalition was losing ground. The IJI was being charged with corruption and mismanagement just as its predecessor had been, and it had become apparent that it was unlikely to remain popular for long, so the Jama‘at found it easy to criticize. In November, it gave support to the opposition, led by the People’s Party, to demand the removal of the prime minister pending an investigation of corruption charges.[32]

The prime minister could not afford a break in the IJI’s putatively united ranks, particularly a break with its principal Islamic party. He hoped that the promise of yet another shari‘at bill would assuage the Jama‘at. In July Ghafur Ahmad resigned from his position as secretary-general of the IJI, and in August Qazi Husain gave the government a two-month ultimatum to accommodate the Jama‘at’s demands or the party would leave the IJI.[33] Personal lobbying by Nawaz Sharif kept the Jama‘at within the IJI’s fold for a while longer. The relations between the two, however, remained strained, and closer cooperation did not appear likely. The Jama‘at set the price for its greater cooperation with the government as the control of the ministries of education, information and broadcasting, finance, and foreign affairs,[34] knowing full well that, given its modest parliamentary representation, the IJI would not oblige. The Jama‘at in effect stipulated demands which ensured its exclusion from the cabinet.

The tensions between the government and the Jama‘at rose further when the Najibu’llah government in Kabul fell. The government decided to accept a settlement to the Afghan war at the expense of the Mujahidin, whom the Jama‘at favored. The Jama‘at objected to the change of policy on Afghanistan. This and what the Jama‘at depicted as the IJI’s lackluster interest in Islamization provided the party with the pretext for breaking with the IJI on May 5, 1992. Qazi Husain announced that the government was infested with the “American virus,” and no longer worthy of the Jama‘at’s loyalty. The mounting anti-Americanism that had swept the country during the Gulf War gave reason to believe that defection would cost the party no support. It expanded its criticism of the government’s Islamization and Afghan policies to include a host of other policy issues and the government’s record in office.[35] The government responded by excoriating Qazi Husain for taking the Jama‘at out of the IJI,[36] hoping to undermine his position in the party on the eve of his bid for re-election as amir. In September 1992, Mian Tufayl, leader of the Lahore Group during the Zia regime, resigned from the Jama‘at’s shura’ in protest at the direction the party had taken;[37] but Qazi Husain was re-elected amir of Jama‘at-i Islami. The debate over the Jama‘at’s choice of alliance, which had led to the stand-off between the Lahore and Karachi groups, appeared for now to have been resolved.

In the same month the army was sent to Sind to restore law and order, which had collapsed following the resumption of Muhajir-Sindhi clashes. The MQM offices were raided, and the party’s leaders went underground. The MQM withdrew from the government. By July, it was clear that sending the army to Sind had greatly weakened Nawaz Sharif, who borrowed a move from General Zia and turned to Islamization to bolster the IJI’s position. The government thus began openly to woo the Jama‘at. The party, however, showed no inclination to rejoin the IJI after its enemy’s departure. The leader of the Jama‘at’s parliamentary delegation, Liaqat Baluch, instead announced that the Jama‘at and the People’s Party ought to form an alliance.[38]

The extent of the estrangement between the Jama‘at and the IJI became evident during the constitutional crisis which followed the stand-off between the president and the prime minister in the first half of 1993. Throughout the sordid affair, which culminated in the dismissal of the National Assembly and the government on April 18, their subsequent restoration by the Supreme Court on May 26, and finally the simultaneous resignations of the president and prime minister on July 18, the Jama‘at remained cool toward the IJI. The party strongly condemned Ghulam Ishaq Khan’s actions, accusing him of serving America’s interests,[39] but it preferred to stay away from Nawaz Sharif and to work toward an alliance with other Islamic parties.

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