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The Formation of the Opposition

Hostility between the Jama‘at and the People’s Party dated back to Yahya Khan’s regime. After the elections of 1970, the Jama‘at had pressed Yahya Khan to call on Shaikh Mujibu’l-Rahman to form an Awami League government and had berated Bhutto for betraying Pakistan’s interests by lobbying with the army to keep the Awami League out of office. This attitude led many in the People’s Party, especially in the party’s left wing led by Mi‘raj Muhammad, to encourage Bhutto to suppress the Jama‘at,[15] but others including Bhutto himself favored mollifying it.[16] The Jama‘at, meanwhile, having championed the cause of democracy for the preceding two decades, was compelled to recognize the People’s Party’s electoral mandate, albeit grudgingly. The government may have understood the Jama‘at’s move to be a sign of conciliation, but conflict continued to loom. On December 20, 1971, the Jama‘at announced its opposition by ridiculing Bhutto for assuming the title of chief martial law administrator, and demanded the formal abrogation of martial rule as the precondition for the start of the constitutional debate.[17]

Meanwhile the People’s Party and the IJT were fighting things out on the nation’s campuses. The IJT had proved to be a thorn in the side of the People’s Party since 1969, when it had begun soundly defeating People’s Party candidates in campus elections in Karachi and Punjab. The People’s Party was particularly unhappy with the IJT’s success at the University of Punjab in Lahore, a People’s Party stronghold. The IJT’s victory on Punjabi campuses not only shattered the myth of the People’s Party’s invincibility but also turned the IJT into an opposition party, the only political organization willing and able to challenge the People’s Party electorally. As a result, the IJT confronted the People’s Party on issues beyond campus politics. In January 1972 at a national educational conference in Islamabad, IJT students got a resolution passed which demanded the Islamization of the educational system in Pakistan.[18] Shortly after, IJT students disrupted the convocation ceremonies at Karachi University to keep the governor of Sind from addressing the gathering.[19] Convocation ceremonies thenceforth became an occasion for asserting student power; for instance, not until 1990 was a senior government official—on this occasion President Ghulam Ishaq Khan—again permitted to preside over the convocation ceremonies at the IJT-controlled campus of the University of Punjab in Lahore.

The episode at Karachi University showed that the IJT would be more than just a political inconvenience to the People’s Party. While the parent party advocated Islamic constitutionalism, the IJT demanded Islamic revolution. Victory at the polls at the University of Punjab had greatly boosted the morale of the student organization, whose growing radicalism continued to guide its politics. The tales of the heroism of the al-Badr and al-Shams counterinsurgency units in defense of East Pakistan, a project in which the Jama‘at had no direct role, had filled the IJT with revolutionary zeal. It was therefore not long before the IJT was able to exert a certain amount of control over the Jama‘at and the direction of its politics, and it was the students who pushed the party to adopt more unbending positions. In February 1972 the Jama‘at launched a countrywide campaign demanding the convening of the National Assembly, and in March it demanded an official investigation into the roles of Yahya Khan and Bhutto in the loss of East Pakistan.[20] The party stepped up its campaign against the continuation of martial law to revive its Islamic constitutionalist platform, which it had abandoned during the Yahya Khan period.

The National Assembly was convened in late April of 1972, altering the political climate of Pakistan once again. The Jama‘at welcomed the measure, abandoned its demand for the restitution of the 1956 constitution, and prepared itself for participation in the drafting of a new constitution. The government again understood the Jama‘at’s move as a sign of conciliation. There was reason for the government’s conclusion; Mawdudi had interceded to break the boycott by the opposition coalition, the United Democratic Front, of the constitutional debates in parliament.[21] But then the government, in what the Jama‘at regarded as a breach of faith, sent security agents, disguised as People’s Student Federation activists, to the University of Punjab to control campus elections in April and steal them from the IJT, using guns and other strong-arm tactics.[22] In the end, ballot boxes were confiscated, and the events created much bitterness toward the government among the IJT’s rank and file.[23]

In August 1972 the IJT took it upon itself to secure the release of two girls who had been abducted by the People’s Party governor of Punjab, Ghulam Mustafa Khar, for illicit purposes. The IJT rally in Lahore, which was well attended, secured the release of the abducted girls and embarrassed the government by revealing the extent of arbitrary rule and immorality in the ruling circles. Although the government’s immediate reaction was to disrupt an IJT session in Karachi in September, generally it sought to mollify the students. In late September, an IJT leader, Javid Hashmi, by now a national political figure, was invited to meet with Bhutto at the governor’s mansion in Lahore, and later with Mumtaz Bhutto, the People’s Party chief minister of Sind in Karachi.[24] The meetings attested to the IJT’s growing prominence, but the truce that resulted lasted only until December.

In the National Assembly, meanwhile, the Jama‘at had strongly opposed Bhutto’s pro-Sindhi policy as well as his handling of opposition to it, and had pressed the government to reveal its dealings with India over Bangladesh and the extent of its commitment to socialism. Its members were tenacious opponents and presented an obstacle to Bhutto’s monopoly on the constitutional process. Frustrated with the Jama‘at, the People’s Party resorted to force. On June 8, 1972, Nazir Ahmad, one of the Jama‘at’s most vociferous National Assembly representatives, was assassinated in his home constituency of Darah Ghazi Khan in Punjab.[25] Never before had any Pakistani government gone so far to silence its opposition. Although Mawdudi preached caution to the Jama‘at, and especially to the IJT, the assassination of Nazir Ahmad marked the beginning of the rapid radicalization of the IJT.

A month later Bhutto invited leaders of various Pakistani parties to Murree to report on his meeting with Indira Gandhi in Simla. The Jama‘at was represented by Mian Tufayl, who warned Bhutto against recognizing Bangladesh and “selling out Pakistan’s interests to India.”[26] Events in Sind soon thereafter provided the party with the means for precipitating a crisis over the issue. Muhajirs and Sindhis began fighting in July over the question of what was to be the official language of the Sind government. Emboldened by Bhutto’s rhetoric and enjoying the patronage of the People’s Party ministry in Sind, the Sindhis asserted their power at the expense of the Muhajirs. Bhutto was alarmed by the extent of discontent among the Muhajirs and by the fact that they could become supporters of the opposition, especially after the Jama‘at used the government’s decision to recognize Bangladesh as a way to mobilize them. Although the campaign for the nonrecognition of Bangladesh later found great support in Punjab as well, the Muhajirs represented its original base of support.

On September 25, 1972, Bhutto invited Mawdudi to a meeting at the governor’s mansion in Lahore to discuss recognizing Bangladesh, but no apparent understanding on the issue emerged from the meeting. The two made more headway in their discussion of the future role of the left in the People’s Party, which also featured prominently in that session. Mawdudi was adamant in his opposition to the left and, sensing Bhutto’s ambivalence, encouraged him to distance himself from them: “If they [the left] challenge you, we will support you.”[27] Mawdudi’s promise played an important part in Bhutto’s decision to downplay socialist themes in the constitutional debate and later to purge the left from the People’s Party. Leftist activists confirm this, claiming that the People’s Party gave the IJT free reign on Pakistani campuses to uproot the left in the universities.[28] In return, Bhutto got Mawdudi’s support for his constitution, although not before agreeing to call the state the “Islamic Republic” of Pakistan, and stipulating in the constitution that the president and prime minister must both be Muslim, and laws passed under the constitution would be compatible with Islamic law.[29]

During the meeting, Mawdudi also pressed Bhutto to adhere to his own democratic principles and said that fair play was the condicio sine qua non for any rapprochement between the Jama‘at and the government:

We have no policy of confrontation with anyone. In the remaining Pakistan [i.e., after the secession of East Pakistan] as long as your party enjoys a majority, we recognise your party’s right to rule the country constitutionally, democratically and with justice and fair play. We shall not exert to remove you by undemocratic and violent means. But you should also concede that we have a right to perform the role of the opposition in a peaceful and democratic manner. And this is our constitutional and democratic right, that we should point out and criticize the wrong policies of the government. If the ruling party and the opposition were to act within their limits, there would be no danger of confrontation between them.[30]

Given that the meeting took place soon after the assassination of Nazir Ahmad, Mawdudi’s proposals were conciliatory. The proceedings, moreover, revealed the extent of his own, if not the Jama‘at’s, commitment to the political process. It was also paradoxical that the leader of a putatively autocratic Islamic party lectured the leader of the avowedly democratic People’s Party on his constitutional duties. Relations between the two were thenceforth in good measure typified by Bhutto’s undemocratic ways and the Jama‘at’s demands that he abide by the country’s constitution. Neither side, however, viewed the exchanges in this meeting as binding, and soon thereafter they were at odds again. The government barred the Jama‘at from contesting by-elections in Swat and Darah Ghazi Khan; the Jama‘at reciprocated by intensifying its opposition to the recognition of Bangladesh.[31]

In October, Mawdudi, in his last political undertaking as amir, prepared a detailed case against the Simla agreement and the recognition of Bangladesh’s independence. The new amir, Mian Tufayl, continued the campaign through numerous meetings and gatherings across Pakistan.[32] The government reacted by arresting and jailing scores of IJT activists.[33] With Mawdudi no longer at the helm, the Jama‘at was unable to control the IJT, which became further enmeshed in violence and agitation with each bout of government repression. Its popularity only increased as it withstood arrest and imprisonment, and the repressive measures by the Federal Security Forces. By 1974 the IJT was winning campus elections at an increasing number of colleges across Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, and Karachi and Hyderabad in Sind, with larger margins than before. The Jama‘at gave the IJT its full support.

Throughout 1973 the Jama‘at expanded the purview of its anti government activities. The dismissal of the provincial government in Baluchistan in February 1973 gave the Jama‘at the opportunity once again to put Bhutto’s record during the East Pakistan crisis on trial. The Jama‘at lambasted the government’s increasingly “fascist” tendencies, stated that “Pakistan is not the fief of Mr. Bhutto,” and demanded that the ruling establishment abide by the constitution in its dealings with the provinces and opposition parties.[34] On February 18, 1973, Mian Tufayl was arrested and jailed for his criticism of the government’s policies in Baluchistan and his participation in the campaign for the nonrecognition of Bangladesh.[35] He remained in jail for a month, where he was badly mistreated by the Federal Security Forces. The Jama‘at’s leaders had not been strangers to Pakistani prisons, but never before had they suffered as they did during the Bhutto period.[36] Although in 1977 Bhutto formally apologized to Mian Tufayl for his poor treatment and blamed the wrongdoing on Khar,[37] Mian Tufayl remained bitter toward the People’s Party, which may in part explain why he supported General Zia in demanding Bhutto’s execution in 1979.

The government was finally able to resolve the Bangladesh controversy by convening an Islamic summit in Lahore in 1974. The full force of the support of Muslim heads of state silenced its critics and finally allowed Pakistan to recognize Bangladesh. In the same year, the Jama‘at had pressed Bhutto to convene the National Assembly and had participated in its proceedings when he finally did. But once there its representatives suddenly made an about-face and declared the assembly illegal because it was based on the elections of 1970, and the majority of the seats belonging to East Pakistan were never occupied. It therefore never had a quorum to operate and the 1973 constitution was thus not valid.[38] This pronouncement was followed by a flurry of criticisms against Bhutto’s economic policies, the moral laxity of the ruling elite, demands for a more aggressive posture toward India over Kashmir, and greater adherence to Islamic values, in the constitution as well as in the conduct of government affairs. The Jama‘at probably sensed the government’s weakness and the potential for mobilizing a political movement around Islamic symbols. The government must have reached the same conclusion, as it became noticeably more attentive to the demands of Islamic parties, thoroughly purged itself of its socialist trappings, and itself sought to ride the rising tide of religious fervor.

A renewed anti-Ahmadi campaign, under the banner of Finality of Prophethood (Khatm-i Nubuwwat), began on May 22, 1974, when a train carrying 170 IJT students en route to Lahore from Multan stopped in Rabwah, an Ahmadi town in Punjab.[39] Ahmadi missionaries boarded the train and distributed pamphlets and books among the passengers. The students reacted by staging an anti-Ahmadi demonstration at the station. A week later, on May 29, another group of Ahmadis boarded the train, which was carrying the same IJT contingent back to Multan and, in an ill-conceived move, attacked the students. Three days later the nazim-i a‘la of the IJT, delivered a tirade against the Ahmadis and revived the demand to declare them a non-Muslim minority. As in 1953–1954, the movement quickly gained momentum in Punjab. The Jama‘at was not initially in favor of pursuing the matter but since Mawdudi was away from Pakistan for medical treatment the party proved unable to influence the IJT, and quickly fell in line in order to retain control over the IJT and the flow of events.[40] ‘Abdu’l-Ghafur Ahmad took up the issue in the National Assembly and Mian Tufayl met Bhutto regarding the unfolding events.[41] The leadership of the campaign remained with the IJT, which confirmed the student organization’s emergence as a semiautonomous organization. The anti-Ahmadi campaign also brought the IJT closer to a host of other Islamic groups, especially the rural and small-town-based Brailwis who have a special attachment to the memory of the Prophet and are therefore vehemently anti-Ahmadi. This alliance served as the basis for the IJT’s hold over the religious vote on university campuses well into the 1980s.

Thanks to its part in the anti-Ahmadi agitation, the IJT’s membership grew considerably, and it won nine consecutive student elections on various Peshawar and Karachi campuses.[42] The government approached IJT leaders, hoping to persuade them to desist from pursuing its campaign, but they flatly refused, and in fact on June 26 began to escalate the conflict. The ensuing 102 days produced 8,797 meetings and 147 processions, and despite the arrest of some 834 IJT leaders and workers, the government proved unable to stem the tide.[43] On September 7, 1974, the government capitulated, declaring the Ahmadis a non-Muslim minority. The polity, which only five years earlier had been overwhelmingly in support of populism and socialist idealism, had once again exposed itself to manipulation by Islamic symbols. The return of Islam to center stage was now complete. The fact that all this happened under the aegis of Pakistan’s most popular government to date, one which had a strong ideological basis of its own, only attested to the incomparable influence of Islam on the life and thought of Pakistanis. The seemingly implausible resurgence of Islam in lieu of socialism during the Bhutto era meant total victory for Islam and confirmed its central role in Pakistani politics. As populism lost its momentum to Islam, the fate of Bhutto’s government was sealed, long before Islam actually pulled down the People’s Party and its populist government.

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