previous sub-section
The Secular State, 1958–1971
next sub-section

The End of Ayub Khan’s Rule

Throughout the presidential campaign, Ayub Khan and his foreign minister Zulfiqar ‘Ali Bhutto had sought to divert attention from democracy and Islamicity by rekindling passions over Pakistan’s irredentist claims to Kashmir. Having whipped up passions over Kashmir to generate demands for action, the general then led Pakistan down the path to war. Eager to consolidate his hold over the country, soon after the presidential election Ayub Khan decided to resolve the Kashmir issue once and for all and in the process redeem Pakistan’s strategic and national interests in the region. The subsequent escalation of conflict in Kashmir led to a costly war between Pakistan and India in September 1965.

War put a hold on the conflict between the government and the opposition parties. On September 6, 1965, Ayub Khan invited Mawdudi along with opposition leaders Chaudhri Muhammad ‘Ali, Chaudhri Ghulam ‘Abbas, and Nawwabzadah Nasru’llah Khan to a meeting in Islamabad, where they preached to him about his duties and obligations, none more than Mawdudi. Eager to secure their cooperation, and especially to get the Jama‘at’s blessing, the general chose to regard the meeting as a boost for his regime. A photograph of Ayub Khan talking with Mawdudi while surrounded by the other opposition leaders adorned the front page of Pakistani newspapers the following day.

Anxious to assist the state in this moment of crisis and to erase the memory of his stand on the jihad in Kashmir in 1948, Mawdudi declared a jihad to liberate Kashmir from India.[35] He was again invited to meet with Ayub Khan in September, this time alone, where he lectured the president on the virtues of the Islamic state. Ayub Khan talked Mawdudi into publicizing his declaration of jihad, this time on Radio Pakistan,[36] a clear indication of the Jama‘at’s importance and the government’s need to appeal to Islam to bolster its rule, the very notion which for seven years it had diligently worked to erase from the political scene.

Mawdudi was pleased with the government’s overtures and basked in his newfound status as senior statesman. Ayub Khan’s attentions had not only given him political prominence but had also attested to the continued salience of Islam, and hence the Jama‘at, in the political life of Pakistan. After the cease-fire between India and Pakistan was declared on September 23, 1965, Mawdudi again appeared on Radio Pakistan, this time to speak on jihad in peacetime.[37] The Jama‘at meanwhile focused its attention on relief work in the war-ravaged areas of Punjab[38] and pushed the government to agree to the cease-fire if it led to a plebiscite in Kashmir over the future of that territory.[39]

The Jama‘at did not intend to become religious window dressing for the government, nor to be restricted to religious affairs. Mawdudi used the thaw in the Jama‘at’s relations with the government to underscore his belief that the fate of Pakistan as a state was meshed with the Muslim reality of the country. He called upon the government to move toward the greater Islamization of Pakistan to strengthen the state and to realign Pakistan’s foreign policy by bringing the country closer to the rest of the Muslim world.[40] Mawdudi’s argument was not welcomed by the government, which, with the war at an end, no longer felt the need to placate its opposition. Moreover, the government saw Mawdudi’s proclamations as a criticism of its seven-year rule and as unsolicited interference with its management of the affairs of the country. Just as in the 1950s, the political benefits of Islamic symbols for the government were matched by their costs. Islam bolstered the stability of the state and legitimated the government’s rule, but it also sanctioned greater religious activism and led to the interference of Islamic parties in political matters, all of which bore consequences that the government, short of using force, was unable to control.

The Tashkent agreement of January 1966, which marked the cessation of hostilities, proved to be unpopular. It fell far short of the expectations of the Muhajir community and the Punjabis, who had borne the brunt of the Indian offensive and wanted a favorable resolution to the dispute over Kashmir. Discontent first manifested itself in student demonstrations in Lahore[41] and soon extended beyond the Tashkent agreement to encompass a whole gamut of complaints. The country became the scene of large-scale leftist agitation which manifested pent-up socioeconomic frustrations. The Jama‘at was taken unawares and for the first time began to view socialism with greater alarm than the secular modernism of the regime.[42] On January 16, Mawdudi, who hoped to become the opposition leader, convened a meeting of the opposition at his house in Lahore, where he criticized the Tashkent agreement for sidestepping the future of Kashmir and for its tacit acceptance of a “no-war” arrangement with India.[43]

Despite their opposition to the government, it soon became apparent that Mawdudi and his supporters would be unable to successfully ride the tide of discontent. They, too, narrowly looked at Pakistani politics solely as a struggle for Islam and democracy and were oblivious to the significance of the socioeconomic changes that Pakistan had undergone in the meantime. Although the Jama‘at’s position supported the interests of the Muhajirs who were opposed to Ayub Khan, Bhutto and the Awami League, and favored Islamization, it failed to note the extent to which socioeconomic imperatives were propelling the mounting antigovernment agitations, regarding them instead as resulting from frustrations over Kashmir or Indian intrigues supported by atheists and unpatriotic Pakistanis. The realization of the depth and breadth of socioeconomic discontent which led Zulfiqar ‘Ali Bhutto to leave the cabinet and form the Pakistan People’s Party completely eluded the Combined Opposition Parties, still cast in the mold of the early 1960s and free of populism. In addition, emphasizing the role of Islam in Pakistan had committed the party to the unity of the state, therefore making it unsympathetic to ethnic and linguistic sentiments, which were now ineluctably predicated upon socioeconomic cleavages. The Awami League, and especially its left wing, led by Mawlana ‘Abdu’l-Hamid Khan Bhashani, was a bulwark of leftist agitation. Mawdudi was opposed to the left. That Shaikh Mujibu’l-Rahman, the leader of the Awami League, and Bhashani were behind the agitations was enough to prompt him to reaction. In the February gathering of the opposition parties, Mawdudi criticized the left and engaged Mujib in a bitter altercation over the Awami League’s controversial six-point plan for provincial autonomy.[44] This altercation also marked a major turning point in the Jama‘at’s ideological unfolding. Mawdudi’s discourse ceased to be preoccupied with the West, but became anchored in defense of Islam against socialism and communism. Many projects were abandoned to focus the party’s energies on preparing literature which could stem the rising tide of socialism in Pakistan.[45]

The Awami League’s politics were also interfering with the Jama‘at’s designs. Having gained prominence in the Combined Opposition Parties, the Jama‘at now had a vested interest in an orderly transfer of power from Ayub Khan to the opposition coalition, which Mawdudi hoped to lead. Opposition to the left combined with political self-interest blinded the Jama‘at to the grievances that underlay leftist agitation. Mawdudi kept the Jama‘at in the coalition and continued to demand Islam and democracy, while fighting to cleanse Pakistani politics of the menace of the left. The Jama‘at was particularly disturbed by the growing popularity of Maoism in Punjab, the fruit of China’s assistance to Pakistan during the war, as well as by Bhutto’s populism and “Islamic socialism.”

Confrontations were still largely restricted to polemical exchanges, however. In 1967, Muhammad Safdar Mir published a series of articles in the Pakistan Times criticizing Mawdudi for supporting capitalism and feudalism.[46] The articles soon generated a debate between the Jama‘at and the left, serving as a prelude to the more open hostilities that were soon to break out in Punjab, Sind, and East Pakistan.

In the meantime, relations between the government and the Jama‘at also continued to strain. Ayub Khan, as perturbed as he was with leftist agitations, proved to be equally impatient with the opposition coalition’s campaign, and especially with the Jama‘at’s activities. The main issue was, once again, the government’s intrusions into the jealously guarded domain of the ulama and the Islamic groups. In May 1966, Fazlur Rahman, director of Islamic Research Institute, declared that religious tax (zakat) rates should be increased to add to the state’s financial resources, and usury (riba’) should not be equated with interest but with the real rate of interest only, permitting the normal functioning of banks. The Jama‘at severely criticized the government’s “misguided tampering with Islam.”[47] Fazlur Rahman reciprocated by advising Ayub Khan that Mawdudi’s religiously controversial book, Khilafat’u Mulukiyat (Caliphate and Monarchy), published in June 1966, was a direct attack on his government.[48] The dispute culminated in another showdown between the government and the Jama‘at in January 1967, when Mawdudi and a number of ulama rejected the “scientifically” determined observation of the moon by the government—which is traditionally observed by the ulama to mark the end of the holy month of Ramazan.[49] The religious divines had again rebelled against the government’s attempt to interfere in their affairs and were once more jailed. Mawdudi remained in prison from January 29 until March 15, 1967, when the High Court of West Pakistan rejected the legality of the invocation of the Defense of Pakistan Rules under the provisions of which he had been jailed. The controversy, however, came to an end only when Ayub Khan agreed to dismiss Fazlur Rahman in September 1968.[50]

The Jama‘at attempted to use the entire episode to reinvigorate its campaign for an Islamic constitution, but to no avail. For while the Jama‘at had been deadlocked with the government over Fazlur Rahman, the Awami League had unabashedly escalated its agitations, further radicalizing Pakistani politics. Mawdudi had sought to diffuse the situation to the Jama‘at’s advantage by challenging Bhashani and Mujib in his speeches, demanding changes in the constitution of 1962, restoration of democracy, and redress for the political grievances of the East Pakistanis. The focus of the Jama‘at’s activism, however, had been shifting to street clashes with the Awami League in East Pakistan and with leftist groups in West Pakistan.

The main force behind this campaign was the Islami Jami‘at-i Tulabah, which since 1962 had successfully organized students to protest a number of antigovernment causes, usually unpopular educational reforms.[51] The government, already apprehensive about the Jama‘at’s activities, had tried to halt student unrest by restricting the IJT and arresting and incarcerating numerous IJT leaders. This served only to politicize and radicalize the student organization still further.

Given the Jama‘at’s antagonism to the left and that the party had arrogated the role of defender of Pakistan’s territorial unity, the student organization could not remain immune to provocations from the left, especially in East Pakistan. In the 1962–1967 period, the IJT developed into an antileft force, with the tacit encouragement of the government. The government actively encouraged the IJT in its clashes with the leftist National Student Federation in East Pakistan and with labor union activists in West Pakistan.[52] Its success in attracting new recruits from among the ranks of religiously conscious students in Punjab, and anti-Bengali Muhajirs in Karachi and Dhaka, further encouraged its antileft activities and showdowns with the left and Bengali nationalists. Opposition to the Tashkent agreement, however, continued to give the IJT its much needed antigovernment image, which helped consolidate the organization’s base of support on campuses. This two-tiered policy of simultaneous opposition to the left and to the government gradually disappeared as the student organization sublimated its opposition to Ayub Khan in favor of a crusade against the left, especially in East Pakistan. From 1965 onward, the IJT became increasingly embroiled in confrontations with Bengali nationalist and leftist forces in East Pakistan, first at Dhaka University, and later in pitched battles in the streets.

In May 1967 the Combined Opposition Parties, including the Awami League, formed a new coalition, the Pakistan Democratic Movement. In its first resolution, the new coalition demanded the reinstatement of the 1956 constitution, the restoration of democracy in Pakistan, the resolution of the Kashmir crisis, the adoption of a nonaligned foreign policy, and greater regional autonomy for East Pakistan. Mawdudi interpreted the resolution as a new call for an Islamic constitution and in his subsequent elaboration of the resolution throughout 1967 and 1968 launched into tirades against the Awami League’s six-point plan and Mawlana Bhashani’s homegrown version of Maoism. Mawdudi’s rhetoric combined with the IJT’s clashes with the Awami League in East Pakistan greatly weakened the Pakistan Democratic Movement, and the alliance finally collapsed when, implicated in an antigovernment conspiracy case, the Awami League withdrew from its fold. The movement was replaced by a new multiparty arrangement called the Democratic Action Committee.

The new coalition demanded the lifting of the state of emergency and the rescinding of the criminal law amendment which had been invoked to arrest Mujib for participation in the same conspiracy. These were both tools the government was using to deal with the worsening political situation and which the Jama‘at and the Awami League both wanted eliminated so they could pursue their political objectives more freely. Faced with Mujib’s rising popularity following his arrest, the government responded by lifting the emergency and abrogating the amendment. It was a Pyrrhic victory for the opposition. To begin with, it did away with the demands that the Jama‘at and the Awami League had shared and which had fostered a working arrangement between them. Instead, tensions between them escalated in East Pakistan following the government’s conciliatory overtures. It also removed the rationale for democratic demands from the political agenda and focused attention instead on provincial demands in East Pakistan and populist demands in West Pakistan. Consequently, Mawdudi’s efforts to revive interest in the Islamic constitution came to naught. The Jama‘at’s political agenda became completely divorced from the critical political issues in the country.

In August 1968 Mawdudi was taken ill and was compelled to leave Pakistan for medical treatment in England. During the months he was gone the Jama‘at’s affairs were overseen by Mian Tufayl. Mawdudi’s absence reduced both the Jama‘at’s prominence in the Democratic Action Committee and reduced the party’s flexibility. Mian Tufayl did not provide new strategies for confronting either the more rambunctious Awami League or the new force in Pakistani politics, the People’s Party and was unable to control the IJT, which soon became a force unto itself, drawing the Jama‘at into the quagmire of East Pakistani politics.

Mawdudi returned before the Round Table Conference between Ayub Khan and the Democratic Action Committee, which convened in March 1969 to reform the constitution of 1962 with a view to accommodating the Awami League’s demands for autonomy. No mention was made of the socioeconomic grievances which Mujib and Bhutto were manipulating so successfully. Mawdudi’s address to the conference was totally removed from the realities of Pakistani politics. He placed the entire blame for the crisis on the government’s intransigence over the demand for Islamization, which, he argued, was the only policy that could keep Pakistan united.[53] The conference not only left the committee more vulnerable than ever to the populist challenges of Mujib and Bhutto but also made clear the chasm that separated Jama‘at’s political outlook from that of the rest of Pakistan. The committee and the Jama‘at were only shadows of the Combined Opposition Parties in 1965. The real force in the polity was now the Awami League and the People’s Party.

This was not lost on the Jama‘at. Soon after the conference, the party stopped attacking the government and directed its invective more squarely against Bhutto, Bhashani, and Mujib, accusing them of encouraging violence and acting undemocratically and in violation of Islamic dicta. Mawdudi still resisted populism, however, and regarded with contempt Islamic thinkers such as Bhashani and Ghulam Ahmad Parwez who mixed Islam with leftist ideas, a course of action which distinguished the Jama‘at from Shi‘i revolutionaries in Iran.

On March 25, 1969, General Ayub Khan resigned. Mawdudi declared the move a victory for the Round Table Conference that would now allow the establishment of the Islamic order which he believed democracy would bring. In a display of political naïveté, he exhorted Bhutto and Mujib to demobilize their forces. To his dismay, however, he soon learned that democracy and Islam were for the moment irrelevant. With no political platform to lure the masses, the Jama‘at had to accept the martial rule of General Muhammad Yahya Khan and to follow the IJT into the streets against the Awami League and the People’s Party.

previous sub-section
The Secular State, 1958–1971
next sub-section