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The Bhutto Years, 1971–1977
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The Pakistan National Alliance
and the Nizam-i Mustafa Movement

After the constitution of 1973 had been promulgated, a parliamentary opposition coalition, the United Democratic Front, emerged in the National Assembly. The Jama‘at was a member and used it as a forum for propagating its views on the government’s handling of politics, economics, and religious issues. Between 1974 and 1975 the Jama‘at registered 283 complaints against the government and the People’s Party for harassment and the closing of its paper Jasarat.[44] The Front proved to be an effective tool for dissent because its appeal to the constitution and use of parliamentary procedures emphasized how the government was abusing its power. For instance, in February 1975, following the banning of the National Awami Party and the arrest of Wali Khan, the Front’s members walked out of the National Assembly, damaging the democratic image of the government. Consequently, on October 21, 1975, opposition leaders decided to strengthen the United Democratic Front as an anti–People’s Party coalition. In a move indicative of the increasingly central role which Islam was playing, Mufti Mahmud of the Jami‘at-i Ulama-i Islam was made its leader.

While the composition of the Front already pointed to the Islamization of dissent, a number of government policy initiatives in 1976 accelerated this trend. In the summer of that year the government appointed the attorney general, Yahya Bakhtiyar, to head a committee charged with drawing up a legislative proposal for a women’s rights bill. The committee’s report was presented to the government in July. The Islamic parties immediately moved to oppose it, and Bhutto’s initiative was nipped in the bud. He was losing his grip over national politics and saw that his only course was to call for fresh elections. He appointed his minister of religious affairs, Kawthar Niyazi, to oversee the People’s Party’s press and public relations during the election campaign.[45]

The government announced that national elections would be held on March 7. The opposition immediately sprang into action. The United Democratic Front was disbanded and was replaced by the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), which eventually incorporated nine parties.[46] The alliance adopted a religiously inspired platform, popularly known as Nizam-i Mustafa (Order of the Prophet), which favored the Islamic parties. The PNA gave the Jama‘at thirty-two national tickets and seventy-eight provincial ones.[47] The party took the possibility of an electoral victory seriously, even wooing the Shi‘i vote to break up the alliance between the People’s Party and the Shi‘i community. Mian Tufayl and ‘Abdu’l-Ghafur Ahmad personally courted a number of Shi‘i politicians.

The PNA decided to contest Bhutto in his hometown constituency of Larkana in Sind. When Bhutto went to Larkana to declare his candidacy, the PNA announced that Jan Muhammad ‘Abbasi, amir of the Jama‘at-i Islami of Sind and a native of Larkana, would challenge him. ‘Abbasi was, however, kidnapped by Bhutto’s supporters on January 18, thereby preventing him from filing his papers on time and thus permitting the government to declare that Bhutto was uncontested in his bid for the Larkana seat.[48] In spite of these strong-arm tactics, the PNA’s campaign was sufficiently effective to compel the People’s Party to resort to rigging the elections in order to guarantee its victory.

Of thirty-one seats contested (18 percent of the PNA’s total of 168) in the National Assembly, the Jama‘at won nine (25 percent of the PNA’s total of thirty-six seats) (see table 12).[49] The Jama‘at did surprisingly well, winning two seats in Punjab (Multan and Muzaffargarh), three in North-West Frontier Province (Swat, Malakand, and Dir), and four in Sind (one in Hyderabad and three in Karachi). If the results of the rigged elections were any indication, the Jama‘at had been headed for its best electoral showings to date, dominating the PNA in the process. By July 1977, as a result of the PNA’s postelection agitational campaign, the Jama‘at’s popularity had risen still farther, enough so to suggest that it would have done even better if new elections were held. The government’s interference with the election secured it 155 of the total of 191 seats contested (77.5 percent of the National Assembly of 200 seats) (see table 13).[50]

12. Results of the 1977 Elections for the Jama‘at-i Islami
  Punjab NWFP Sind Total
Source: Election Bureau of the Jama‘at-i Islami.
Votes received by the Jama‘at 789,743 133,362 290,411 1,213,516
Seats contested by the Jama‘at 20 5 6 31
Seats won by the Jama‘at 2 3 4 9
Seats Won by the PNA 8 17 11 36

The PNA lost no time in denouncing the election, declaring the results fraudulent and unacceptable to the opposition. The PNA parties called for Bhutto’s resignation, boycotted the provincial elections scheduled for March 10, demanded new national elections, and called for a national strike on March 11. Mian Tufayl claimed that Bhutto had not only stolen the elections but had also deprived the Jama‘at of its best chance yet to assume power. Disturbances over the election results broke out in Karachi and quickly spread across Pakistan.

In a defiant mood Bhutto denied any wrongdoing, which only fanned the flames of the opposition. On March 18, ‘Abdu’l-Ghafur Ahmad, then the secretary-general of the PNA, Chaudhri Rahmat Ilahi, and Mahmud A‘zam Faruqi of the Jama‘at, all of whom would become PNA ministers in 1978, were arrested along with other PNA leaders. On March 25, Mian Tufayl Muhammad and Sayyid Munawwar Hasan and, in early April, Mawlana Gulzar Mazahiri and Jan Muhammad ‘Abbasi were also apprehended.[51] Civil disobedience, street demonstrations, and clashes with the government organized in good part by the Jama‘at and the IJT, meanwhile, increased, deepening the cleavage between the government and the opposition. Demand for constitutional and democratic rights were in the process transformed into an Islamic social movement under the banner of the demand for Nizam-i Mustafa.

13. Seats Won in the 1977 Elections
  Punjab Sind NWFP Baluchistan Islamabad Tribal Areas Total
Source: Overseas Weekly Dawn (March 13, 1977), reprinted in Shahid Javed Burki, Pakistan under Bhutto, 1971–1977 (London, 1980), 196.
Pakistan People’s Party 107
0 115
0 0 0 36
Independent 0 0 1
0 0 8
Total 115 43 26 7 1 8 200

With all of the Jama‘at’s leaders behind bars, Mawdudi returned to center stage to lead the party. On April 2 he issued a statement inviting the government to negotiations with the PNA based on a set of preconditions: the release of all arrested PNA leaders and workers; the lifting of Section 144 and the abrogation of the Defense of Pakistan Rules, both of which authorized the government crackdown; trying in civilian courts all those cases which were referred to special tribunals by the government for violation of Section 144; and a declaration by the government to the effect that it would be open to amending the constitution through negotiations.[52] When the government did not respond, Mawdudi declared it illegal.[53]

Bhutto had all along regarded Mawdudi as a major force behind the PNA.[54] With the government’s options rapidly narrowing, he decided to break the impasse by dealing with Mawdudi directly. On the evening of April 16, 1977, under the pretext of “wishing to solicit the advice and good offices of an elder statesman,”[55] he went to Mawdudi’s house in Lahore. The news of Bhutto’s visit spread throughout the country, raising expectations for a break in the impasse. Many anti–People’s Party politicians and scores of PNA leaders pleaded with the Mawlana not to meet with Bhutto.[56] A crowd of IJT workers congregated outside Mawdudi’s house and began shouting slogans against Bhutto and Mawdudi. Mawdudi responded that he had not asked for the meeting, but common courtesy (adab) did not permit him to turn away a visitor.[57] The meeting, which lasted for forty minutes, did not bear the results Bhutto wished. Mawdudi counseled him to resign and allow a provisional government to take over while new elections were held.[58]

To stay in power Bhutto was compelled to devise a new strategy. He actively championed Islamization in the hope of co-opting a part of the opposition. Two days after his meeting with Mawdudi, he announced that in recognition of the demands of the Nizam-i Mustafa, casinos and nightclubs would be closed down, sale of alcoholic drinks and gambling would be banned, and generally activities proscribed by Islam would be against the law. In addition, he would reconvene the Council of Islamic Ideology under the supervision of Mufti Mahmud, the leader of the Jami‘at-i Ulama-i Islam and the PNA, so it could oversee the implementation of government-sponsored Islamization. The other two members of the council were to be Mawlanas Shah Ahmad Nurani of the Jami‘at-i Ulama-i Pakistan and Ihtishamu’l-Haq of the Jami‘at-i Ulama-i Islam; no member of the Jama‘at was included in the council. The Islamic parties rejected this idea and again demanded new elections.

Unable to stem the rising tide of PNA’s agitational campaign, Bhutto resorted to more repressive measures. On May 17, Mawdudi’s house was surrounded by police, and an attempt was made to arrest him.[59] The PNA issued a statement warning the government that the arrest of Mawdudi would start a rebellion.[60] With no way out of the impasse, Saudi Arabia intervened, using its financial leverage on both sides to end the stalemate. Negotiations began again on June 3. ‘Abdu’l-Ghafur Ahmad of the Jama‘at served as a member of the PNA’s three-man team in the negotiations.[61]

The PNA contingent was careful to keep negotiations focused on the elections of 1977, the legitimacy of the government, and new elections. Islam and the Nizam-i Mustafa, on which Bhutto was willing to make substantial concessions, did not figure prominently. Bhutto now tried to divert attention from the negotiations by rallying Pakistanis around a nationalist and anti-imperialist platform. In a speech before the parliament on April 28 he declared, “The elephant [the United States government] is annoyed with me.”[62] His charge was that the PNA and the Jama‘at were being led by American agents who had been ordered to debunk the government because of its socialist and Third World leanings and because Pakistan’s nuclear program ran counter to American interests in the region.[63] No one was persuaded by Bhutto’s theory, and the accusation brought a sharp rebuke from Mawdudi.[64]

Negotiations went on for a month. During this period, Bhutto’s resolve gradually waned, and he became increasingly amenable to new elections. It is not certain whether the government and the PNA actually reached an agreement or not.[65] All sides, however, concur that the delay in reaching a final agreement during the last hours before the coup owed much to General Zia’s counsel to Bhutto. The general had warned him against entering into an agreement with the PNA based on preliminary understandings reached in the negotiations because the army would not accept its requirement of leaving Baluchistan in two months and releasing from custody National Awami Party leaders who had fought the army in that province. Bhutto’s indecision augured ill for the stability of the country. On July 5, 1977, the Pakistan army led by Zia staged a military coup, removed the government, arrested political leaders from both sides to the conflict, and imposed martial law.

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