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Efforts to Eliminate the Jama‘at, 1958–1965

No sooner had martial law been declared than the new regime began to squeeze the Islamic parties out, both to eliminate religion from politics and to justify suspending the 1956 constitution. But given the nature of the Pakistan state and the complexities of Islam’s relation to it, such a radical measure proved not to be viable. The government turned to less drastic measures. It toned down its secular rhetoric, and pursued its agenda under the guise of religious modernism, hoping to negotiate a new role in society for Islam. Islam, it was apparent to the new regime, could not immediately be sidelined but it could be reformed, modernized, depoliticized, and eventually eased out of politics. In a surprise move, on May 3, 1959, Ayub Khan addressed a gathering of the ulama from both East and West Pakistan. He devoted his speech to exhorting the divines to do away with obscurantism and interpret religion in ways that were more relevant to the country’s developmental agenda and that would fight communism.[15]

The general’s speech set the tone for subsequent relations between the military regime and the Islamic groups. Thenceforth, the government sought to take the monopoly of interpreting Islam away from Islamic parties to control the nature and scope of religion’s interaction with society and politics. The national concern for “Islamicity” in literary and political circles quickly gave way to lip service to the “principles of Islam,” a change that in effect undermined the religiopolitical platform of parties such as the Jama‘at. The government sought to limit the scope of their activities and demands, exclude them from the political process, and subject them to state control. To accomplish this, Ayub Khan turned to state-sponsored institutions that could appropriate the right to interpret Islam and control its flow into politics.

This job was given to two ministries, interior and education, and information and broadcasting. Together they launched a propaganda campaign questioning the loyalty to Pakistan of the self-styled spokesmen of Islam, their knowledge of modern statecraft, and even their moral and ethical standing. Under the provisions of the Waqf (endowment) Properties Ordinance of 1959, religious endowments were nationalized, and the government took over the management of shrines and mosques. Then it formulated its own conception of Islam, and its own religiopolitical platform, thereby entering the domain of the ulama with the goal of appropriating for the state the right to interpret Islam and implement its teachings. The government’s synthesis was essentially modernist, premised on reforming Islamic law and interpreting its tenets liberally in light of the needs of the government’s developmental objectives. Qazi Shahabu’ddin, the minister of education, information, and broadcasting, was particularly vocal in furthering the government’s cause, and his pronouncements on a host of religious issues soon incensed the ulama.

The actual task of devising a new vision of Islam was delegated to the Institute of Islamic Culture (Idarah-i Thiqafat-i Islam) of Lahore, headed by Khalifah ‘Abdu’l-Hakim (d. 1959), and, more significantly, to the Islamic Research Institute of Karachi, headed by Fazlur Rahman (d. 1988), a confidant of Ayub Khan. The two institutions outlined the government’s strategy against the ulama and Islamic parties, providing an intellectual rationale for the essentially political campaign against the religious forces. The polarity between traditionalists and innovators (ahl-i sunnat and ahl-i bid‘at), identified by Mawdudi in earlier times, had now taken shape in earnest. However, while the government’s attempts to appropriate Islamic symbols in politics undermined the Islamic parties, it also attested to the government’s inability to do away with religion altogether. Secularism had to be presented with a veneer of Islamization. Using this wedge, the Islamic parties soon regained their momentum and were able to find new links between religion and politics which provided them with additional strategies by which to gain entry into the political process.

The campaign against the ulama and the Islamic parties unraveled when the secular opposition found common grounds for cooperation with the Islamic parties. In December 1959, Ayub Khan introduced his Basic Democracy scheme, a system of political representation based on voter councils at various levels which officially did away with parties and ended political pluralism in Pakistan. Two months later he was elected president of Pakistan with the vote of the “basic democrats.” Soon thereafter he commissioned the chief justice of the supreme court Muhammad Shahabu’ddin to look into the causes of the “failure” of the 1956 constitution with a view to preparing a new one. The Jama‘at, aware that Islam would most likely be singled out as a negative influence to be excluded from constitution making, began to mobilize the dormant religious coalition. A meeting of ulama and Jama‘at leaders was convened in May 1960 in Lahore to present a set of proposals for future constitutional debates and to demand the abrogation of the marriage of convenience between “bureaucracy and autocracy” that Basic Democracy represented. They enjoined the government to hold national elections open to all. The government reacted by summoning Mawdudi to appear before the authorities in Lahore, where he was chastised for violating martial law regulations that prohibited political activities.[16] By and large, however, the government took little notice of this effort to revive the religious alliance and continued with its reform measures.

The government’s team of religious reformers drew up plans for a new family law, which was introduced as the Family Laws Ordinance of March 1961.[17] It was the first in a series of legal and social reform measures designed to hasten Pakistan’s development. The ordinance and the “fundamental changes” in Islamic laws governing marriage, divorce, and inheritance laws which it entailed suggested that government policy was no longer solely directed at limiting the influence of Islamic parties but was also beginning to encroach on the ulama’s domain. The Jama‘at took the lead in organizing street demonstrations and publishing pamphlets to inform the public of the government’s transgression.[18] The government, unwilling to compromise, set out to silence the opposition. Mian Tufayl Muhammad, who had published the fatwas of fourteen eminent ulama denouncing the ordinance, along with a number of Jama‘at workers, was put in prison.[19] For the Islamic parties, ending the government’s effort to loosen the hold of the ulama over the life and thought of Pakistanis was a question of survival. The lines of battle were drawn, and the ordinance served as the first test.

The draft constitution was introduced on March 1, 1962. It made some references to Islam: it was to be the official religion of Pakistan, and the “repugnancy clause” and other Islamic provisions of the 1956 constitution were kept intact. Their implementation, however, was no longer mandatory and was to be overseen by the Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology, which was to be controlled by the president. The constitution substituted specific references to the Qur’an and religious traditions (sunnah) with the word “Islam,” which made the sources of Islamic law much vaguer. Most procedural matters were also reformed to discourage the intrusion of religious forces into the constitutional process. To underscore the intent of the constitution, “Islamic” was dropped from the nation’s official name, which became merely “Republic of Pakistan.”

The new constitution represented a blow to the party’s fundamental interests; it was certainly a setback for the cause of Islam in Pakistan, one which, if allowed to stand, would be the end of the Jama‘at. In a decision that reflected its determination to survive, the Jama‘at decided not to respond until June when the new legislature was to meet and martial law to be lifted.[20]

After the Political Parties Act of July 17, 1962, the Jama‘at began to act. In August the shura’ prepared a resolution which called for the restoration of democracy and denounced both the new constitution and the Basic Democracy system. Thenceforth, Mawdudi systematically fused democracy and Islam in its campaign against the Ayub regime. Convinced that democracy alone could safeguard the interests of Islam before Ayub’s autocratic secularization policies, the party harped on the theme throughout Ayub Khan’s term of office. It was a curious feature of the Ayub Khan era that religious modernism went hand in hand with martial rule, while the fortunes of revivalism became intertwined with those of democracy.

The challenge of the authoritarian government and its determination to inculcate a modernist interpretation of Islam in Pakistan were too important to be tackled by the religious alliance alone. In October 1962, through the intermediary of Chaudhri Muhammad ‘Ali, the Jama‘at began negotiating with the secular political opposition to Ayub Khan, then led by Suhrawardi under the umbrella of the National Democratic Front. The rank and file of the Jama‘at did not approve of associating with this proponent of joint electorates, a man whom the Jama‘at had once attacked with the same fervor that it now used to challenge Ayub Khan.[21] The Jama‘at, however, had few other choices, and in the first of a series of rulings, Mawdudi argued that the dangers posed to Islam by Ayub Khan warranted compromise. The Jama‘at had to act as a party, making compromises that would not have been possible for a holy community.

After martial law was lifted, the Jama‘at intensified its activism. Initially a minor irritant, the party quickly became a thorn in the side of the government. Mawdudi pressed the government to amend the new constitution to add “Islamic” to Pakistan’s official name, demanded greater guarantees for fundamental individual rights, and excoriated the government’s overtly pro-Western foreign policy.[22] More disturbing to the government was that the Jama‘at emerged from the martial law period intact and, by 1962, was the most organized and robust of the Pakistani political parties. Generally concerned with controlling political activism in Pakistan, the government became particularly sensitive to the Jama‘at’s politics and began to look for a solution.

The government commissioned the Ministry of Information to conduct a study of the Jama‘at and to propose a course of action for containing its activities. A report presented to the cabinet in 1961–1962 argued that the Jama‘at was essentially a seditious and invidious force with the potential to become “yet another Muslim Brotherhood,”[23] and recommended measures similar to those taken by Nasser against the brotherhood in Egypt. The cabinet did not endorse this line of action, partly because although the report focused on the Jama‘at it had been vague in distinguishing between it and other Islamic parties the government was not willing to attack. The solution was also too drastic for the government to take seriously. Some in Ayub Khan’s coterie of advisers, such as Hakim Muhammad Sa‘id (the minister of health), Allahbakhsh K. Brohi (the minister of law), and Afzal Chimah (the speaker of the legislature), who were also religiously inclined, began to defend the Jama‘at.[24] Chimah advised Ayub Khan to mollify, and thereby co-opt, the party, a plan Ayub Khan favored. During a trip to Lahore in 1962 he invited Mawdudi to the governor’s mansion and suggested that he leave politics to the politicians and dedicate himself to religious studies instead. For encouragement he offered Mawdudi the post of vice-chancellor of the Bhawalpur Islamic University. In no mood to be appeased, Mawdudi rejected both the offer and the counsel, but he continued to keep the Jama‘at’s radical tendencies in check. When, soon after this meeting, he was pressed by his followers to take more militant measures, in a tone reminiscent of medieval Islamic political thinking, Mawdudi declared that he had no intention of creating “a chaotic situation in which forces inimical to the interests of Islam find an opportunity to capture power.”[25]

After their meeting, Ayub Khan kept a close watch on the Jama‘at. By 1963 it had become apparent that Suhrawardi’s national coalition had broken down, providing the government with an opportunity to finish off the opposition by attacking, one by one, the constituent parties of the National Democratic Front. The Jama‘at topped the government’s list of targets, especially so after September 1963, when in a defiant mood, Mawdudi had announced that “even if Convention Muslim League [Ayub Khan’s party] nominated an angel [in the future elections], the Jama‘at would oppose him.”[26]

When the Jama‘at submitted a request to hold an open meeting in Lahore in October 1963, the government first stalled, then refused them a permit to use loudspeakers. The Jama‘at petitioned the Lahore High Court for a ruling, but to no avail. The party held its meeting without loudspeakers. Halfway through the opening session, Mawdudi’s speech was interrupted by hecklers; then a gun was aimed at Mawdudi, and during the ensuing commotion, a Jama‘at worker was shot dead.[27] The Jama‘at criticized these tactics as undemocratic, but the campaign had only begun. Habibu’llah Khan, the minister of the interior, followed the Lahore clash with a highly publicized literary campaign against the Jama‘at, which within a year produced some seventy-two books and pamphlets against the party and its ideas.[28] The government now seriously contemplated liquidating the Jama‘at and looked for the appropriate excuse.

Earlier in 1963, during a trip to Mecca, Mawdudi had met with Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhu’llah Khumayni.[29] Soon thereafter Khalil Ahmadu’l-Hamidi, the director of the Arabic Translation Bureau, wrote an article in Tarjumanu’l-Qur’an in which he severely criticized the Shah of Iran’s regime and its secularizing policies.[30] The Iranian consulate in Karachi complained, and the government accused the Jama‘at of sabotaging Pakistan’s foreign policy and closed down Tarjumanu’l-Qur’an. In January 1964, backed by a lengthy charge-sheet which accused the Jama‘at of anti-Pakistan activities, the government halted the party’s operations. Mawdudi, Mian Tufayl, the entire shura’, and forty-four other members were arrested and put in jail.[31]

The Jama‘at challenged the government’s action before the provincial high courts of East and West Pakistan. It won its case in the East Pakistan High Court and lost in the West Pakistan High Court. The government appealed the first ruling, and the Jama‘at the second. The cases went before the Supreme Court, which declared the banning of the Jama‘at to have been illegal and ordered the party restored. Mawdudi and other Jama‘at leaders were freed from prison in October. The relations between the Jama‘at and the government were now visibly deteriorating.

While the Jama‘at’s leaders were incarcerated, Pakistan was gearing up for a presidential election, scheduled for January 1, 1965. The opposition parties, including the Jama‘at, had formed the Combined Opposition Parties, an electoral coalition which was led by such Muslim League leaders as Chaudhri Muhammad ‘Ali and Daultana. Once again the Jama‘at saw itself in an alliance of convenience with an erstwhile enemy, and this time the Jama‘at’s politically motivated compromises went even farther. In Mawdudi’s absence, the coalition’s leaders had agreed that Fatimah Jinnah—Muhammad ‘Ali Jinnah’s sister and a popular Muhajir leader—would be the opposition’s presidential candidate.[32] Chaudhri Muhammad ‘Ali was sent by the coalition to secure Mawdudi’s agreement to this unpalatable choice.[33] Muhammad ‘Ali met with Mawdudi in prison, and by playing on his increasing apprehension over the course the Ayub regime was taking, convinced Mawdudi of the urgency of the situation and the necessity of giving Fatimah Jinnah unwavering support. Mawdudi acceded to the coalition’s demand, partly because Jinnah was popular among Muhajirs, who then constituted the Jama‘at’s base of support. The decision opened Mawdudi to a barrage of criticism and provided the government with the opportunity to divide the Islamic parties and embarrass and paralyze the Jama‘at. The government appealed to conservative ulama for support in defeating a woman’s bid to rule Pakistan and received it; in the process it weakened both the Jama‘at and the Combined Opposition Parties. Numerous religious decrees were issued by the government’s newfound allies among the ulama, denouncing Mawdudi and his religiously dubious justification for supporting a woman’s candidacy.

The controversy was then used by the government to engineer a split in the ranks of the party by instigating Kawthar Niyazi to challenge Mawdudi’s authority in the party.[34] In this the government failed. Mawdudi retained control over the Jama‘at and undaunted by the fatwa campaign pushed the Jama‘at to the forefront of the opposition coalition’s campaign. Mawdudi himself toured Pakistan, denouncing Ayub Khan for his dictatorship and secularism, and demanded a restoration of democracy as the first step toward the establishment of the Islamic state. In his zeal to dethrone Ayub Khan, Mawdudi increasingly appealed to democracy and less to Islam. He reorganized the Jama‘at to match the government’s campaign operations. Despite his efforts and the hopes and aspirations of the Combined Opposition Parties, however, Miss Jinnah failed to unseat Ayub Khan, a defeat that was particularly ominous for the Jama‘at. Victory in the presidential elections gave Ayub Khan confidence and bestowed some legitimacy on his government, and with them the opportunity to hound the Jama‘at more effectively. That party, which following the elections had braced itself for renewed government pressure, was spared by the reemergence of problems in Kashmir and the resumption of war with India.

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