Preferred Citation: Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza. The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jama'at-i Islami of Pakistan. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  1994.

The Rebirth of Democracy, 1988–1993

10. The Rebirth of Democracy, 1988–1993

With Zia, and a number of army leaders who were also killed in the crash, out of the picture, the armed forces were thrown into confusion. The balance of power shifted to the People’s Party, which counted on the elections, scheduled for November 1988, to allow it to take over the government. It therefore saw no further need for the MRD and dissolved the alliance. It would contest the elections alone. This made any debate about joining the MRD moot: “The final decision to keep the Jama‘at out of MRD was taken not by the shura’, but by the People’s Party.”[1]

The dissolution of the MRD did not, however, end the Jama‘at’s trouble because the party was clearly unprepared to contest any elections on its own. Since 1970 the Jama‘at had participated in national elections only as part of a larger coalition, which had allowed it to project its power more effectively than would otherwise have been possible. It had lost its Muhajir support, and its popularity had plummeted as a result of its association with Zia. It was ill-equipped to stand on its own, all the more so as it soon became apparent that the elections of 1988 would pit the People’s Party against a cluster of pro-Zia candidates.

The solution was found in the Islami Jumhuri Ittihad (IJI, Islamic Democratic Alliance), a coalition put together soon after Zia’s death at the behest of the armed forces and the Inter-Services Intelligence, which had managed the Afghan war since the early years of the Zia regime. The IJI consisted of right-of-center and Islamic parties, the most important of which was the Muslim League. They had in common a hostility to the People’s Party and a vested interest in the policies of the Zia regime. The military and intelligence establishments had their own reasons for wishing to keep the People’s Party out of power, including protecting the power they had gained under Zia, a vested interest in the continuation of the Afghan war, and apprehension over Benazir Bhutto’s vengeance for the execution of her father. Only a strong national coalition rooted in Islam and support for Zia could challenge the People’s Party. The Jama‘at had strong Islamic credentials and was an obvious addition to such an alliance. Considerable pressure was brought to bear on it to join up. Qazi Husain opposed joining the IJI until he was approached by the Inter-Services Intelligence; then with no counteroffers forthcoming from the People’s Party he capitulated. The matter was put before the shura’.

There were several issues at stake in the decision. Many among the Karachi Group were not willing to join an alliance with the Muslim League, a party of landowners and the propertied elite, the very groups Qazi Husain had vowed to topple. The memory of repression by the People’s Party in the 1970s was by then far less compelling than more recent battles with the League governments in Karachi and Islamabad. It was unlikely that the League had grown more friendly; it was likely to continue harassing the Jama‘at despite any alliance. Qazi Husain and his circle argued that joining the IJI would in the end prove to be a setback for their long-run political objectives. As convincing as their argument may have been, they could not produce a viable alternative other than not contesting the elections at all, which the Jama‘at was not willing to countenance—or contesting them alone, which meant humiliating defeat.[2] Meanwhile, the intelligence service’s anti–People’s Party propaganda campaign, stirring up memories of Bhutto’s “reign of terror” in the 1970s and exhorting Islamic groups to defend the gains made under Zia and the Afghan war, had struck a receptive chord, especially as the People’s Party failed to bury the hatchet with the Islamic parties.

Zia had become a far more popular figure dead than he had been alive. The sympathy and admiration that emerged for him among the right-wing voters in the country was politically compelling. Even the Karachi Group, which was eager to distance the Jama‘at from Zia, saw that joining an alliance to continue Zia’s legacy was not an impolitic option. The rank and file had also begun to pressure their leaders to join the alliance. As a result, the position of Qazi Husain and the Karachi Group was undermined, and they agreed to join the IJI.

The Jama‘at now had to figure out how to enter into an alliance supporting Zia’s legacy after having spent the preceding three months denouncing it and him. They solved the problem by talking about the Afghan war instead, and about the common goals which the Jama‘at and the armed forces shared regarding its conduct. By justifying its entry into the IJI solely in terms of defending the war in Afghanistan, the Jama‘at hoped it would avoid the embarrassment of openly going back on its words,[3] though it gradually referred more frequently to Zia’s Islamization measures as the basis for its continued participation in the IJI. Anti–People’s Party propaganda was also increased, so it could argue that it was choosing the lesser of two evils.

Mian Nawaz Sharif played a major role in the decision to join the IJI. He had been a prominent Muslim Leaguer and chief minister of Punjab during the Zia period, a position he held until he became prime minister in 1990. He had been a close ally of Zia and defended him even when the general dismissed the Muslim League government in 1988. The Inter-Services Intelligence had managed to broker a truce between Sharif and his fellow Muslim Leaguers, who had broken with him over his support of Zia, but his position in the League remained shaky. Challenged by Junejo and his allies in Punjab, Sharif turned to the Jama‘at for support. The same pro-Jama‘at writers, political analysts, and journalists who had served as Zia’s advisers—Muhammad Salahu’ddin, Altaf Hasan Quraishi, and Mujibu’l-Rahman Shami—were now inducted into Sharif’s inner circle, as were a number of erstwhile IJT votaries, the most notable of whom was Husain Haqqani. Jama‘at members viewed Sharif as a breed apart from other Muslim Leaguers because he had been personally close to Zia and reached an understanding with him, and he was known to be devout.[4]

16. Results of the 1988 National Assembly Elections for the Jama‘at-i Islami
  Punjab NWFP Sind Baluchistan Total
Source: Election Bureau of the Jama‘at-i Islami.
Seats contested 14 4 8 0 26
Seats won 5 2 0 0 7
Special women’s seats 1 0 0 0 1
Total seats 6 2 0 0 8
Total votes received 620,952 88,840 100,520 0 810,312
Average votes per candidate 44,354 22,210 12,565 0 31,165
17. Votes Received by the Jama‘at-i Islami in the 1988 National Assembly Elections
  Votes Received Total Votes Cast Votes Received by Closest Rival Party of Closest Rival
Source: Tariq Isma‘il, Election ’88 (Lahore, 1989).
Swat 16,639 67,669 16,149 Not stated
Dir 35,288 74,643 28,974 Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)
Rawalpindi 61,188 139,142 39,294 Independent
Sargodha 65,210 125,581 57,351 PPP
Gujrat 32,827 86,465 31,125 PPP
Lahore 51,764 108,382 47,908 PPP
Darah Ghazi Khan 60,297 120,234 45,590 PPP

As a result of the negotiations which organized the IJI, Ghafur Ahmad became the alliance’s secretary-general, and the Jama‘at was given twenty-six national tickets and forty-four provincial ones. The Jama‘at won eight National Assembly seats, one of which was reserved for women only; and thirteen provincial assembly seats, two of which were reserved for women (see tables 16–19). These seats, fixed in number, are distributed after the elections based on the vote of the assemblies. The Jama‘at had won only 26.9 percent of the National Assembly seats and 25 percent of provincial seats it contested, the weakest showing of the IJI parties.

18. Results of the 1988 Provincial Assembly Elections for the Jama‘at-i Islami
  Punjab NWFP Sind Baluchistan Total
Source: Election Bureau of Jama‘at-i Islami.
Seats contested 20 14 9 1 44
Seats won 5 6 0 0 11
Special women’s seats 1 1 0 0 2
Total seats 6 7 0 0 13
Total votes received 327,617 93,826 36,537 1,185 459,165
Average votes per candidate 16,380 6,700 4,059 1,185 10,435
19. Votes Received by the Jama‘at-i Islami in the 1988 Provincial Assembly Elections
  Votes Received Total Votes Cast Votes Received by Closest Rival Party of Closest Rival
Source: Tariq Isma‘il, Election ’88 (Lahore, 1989).
Swat 7,649 24,592 5,284 Independent
Swat 5,542 18,448 2,856 Awami National Party (ANP)
Dir 7,098 14,334 5,852 Independent
Dir 11,324 24,049 11,067 Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)
Dir 6,767 16,317 5,930 ANP
Dir 9,363 23,034 4,156 Independent
Rawalpindi 27,452 67,149 23,559 PPP
Khushab 32,452 64,632 24,580 PPP
Faisalabad 22,836 48,069 22,549 PPP
Lahore 26,729 59,424 25,864 PPP
Liyah 26,438 67,832 14,940 Independent

The elections tilted the advantage within the party in favor of the pro-IJI Lahore Group. With the MQM’s total victory in Karachi, all of the party’s national and provincial seats came from the pro-Zia and pro-IJI North-West Frontier Province and Punjab. Meanwhile, with the blessing of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Sharif, who was able to retain control of Punjab despite the People’s Party’s solid electoral showings, became the leader of the IJI.

The People’s Party Government

After the elections, the People’s Party took over the central government and the ministries of the North-West Frontier Province and Sind, and the IJI took over the ministry of Punjab. Since neither the People’s Party nor the IJI had stable majorities, parliamentary intrigues directed at toppling both the central government and the various provincial ministries soon followed. The resulting intrigues replaced the time-honored agitational style of dissent in Pakistan and took politics off the streets—where the Jama‘at was most effective—and into the national and provincial assemblies, where it was weakest. The party therefore found itself increasingly marginalized and irrelevant. Consequently, there was concern over the party’s future once again as the Jama‘at began to ponder ways to break out of this impasse.

In the long run, the Jama‘at had to become better represented in parliament to improve its political standing; in the short run it had to find a way to project its power sufficiently to remain influential. Obviously the IJI would not be useful for this, and in any case not all the members were reconciled to their membership in the IJI because the Muslim League dominated the alliance.[5] Their connection with it was restricted to Nawaz Sharif, whose own position in Punjab in 1988–89 was by no means certain. He was under attack from the People’s Party, which was trying to engineer a vote of no confidence against him in the Punjab assembly, and from Muslim League leaders, who were controlled by Junejo and favored a break with the Jama‘at. Meanwhile, attacks by the Muslim Student Federation on the IJT escalated, and the unchecked rivalry between the two became a source of grave concern for IJI leaders.[6]

As eager as it may have been to find a viable alternative, the Jama‘at could not easily break with the IJI. The posthumous popularity of Zia which was manifest at the commemoration of the first anniversary of his death on August 17, 1989, in Islamabad restricted its maneuverability, especially since the Jama‘at’s own members displayed the same sentiments. During the speeches of the Jama‘at’s leaders at their open convention in Lahore in November 1989, for example, the crowd continually interrupted the speakers, to their annoyance, by chants of “mard-i haq, Zia ul-Haq (man of truth, Zia ul-Haq).” The party therefore began to equivocate, criticizing the IJI but at the same time supporting Nawaz Sharif.[7]

The relations between the Jama‘at and the IJI worsened in October 1989 when the MQM, which had formed an alliance with the People’s Party after the elections, decided to go its own way. Eager to add the fourteen MQM National Assembly votes to the opposition, and in the process, to secure a base in Karachi, the IJI began to woo the MQM. After securing considerable concessions from Nawaz Sharif, in November 1989 the MQM threw in its lot with the opposition, anticipating that it could topple the People’s Party government through a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly. Cooperation with the MQM, which now played the role of the IJI’s representative in Sind, brought relations between the IJI and the Jama‘at to the brink of collapse. The Jama‘at-i Islami of Karachi was offended because the IJI-MQM negotiations had been conducted without consulting them and without securing from the MQM any concessions that would benefit the Jama‘at.[8]

The IJI-MQM alliance signaled to the Jama‘at that Nawaz Sharif was following in Zia’s footsteps and building a power base detrimental to the Jama‘at’s interests. Nawaz Sharif, they decided, had merely been paying lip service to Islam; he was really looking for a coalition between the Muslim League’s landed elite and the provincial and ethnic parties, to sustain his power. The Jama‘at would then be sidelined by the MQM and the other parties. The more the IJI consolidated its relations with its ethnic and provincial partners, the more the Jama‘at would become estranged from the alliance.

The Jama‘at’s disaffection with the IJI first manifested itself in November 1989, when Benazir Bhutto’s government set out to secure the Jama‘at’s cooperation and thereby deny Nawaz Sharif his street power and political workers, especially in Punjab. To that end, she was considering calling for elections; and for a government preoccupied with averting a vote of no confidence, the Jama‘at’s eight votes in the National Assembly could be useful. The Jama‘at could also provide the government with much-needed Islamic legitimacy, which would in turn weaken the seemingly unified pro-Zia political camp.

Early in November the Jama‘at’s old foe, Ghulam Mustafa Khar, along with a veteran of the IJT-People’s Student Federation clashes of the late 1960s, Jahangir Badr—both People’s Party stalwarts—met separately with Qazi Husain and Liaqat Baluch in Lahore. They said that Benazir Bhutto was making headway in winning over key leaders of the Muslim League of Punjab, and if she succeeded, Nawaz Sharif would fall. It would be to the Jama‘at’s benefit to reach an agreement with the People’s Party while the party still had a good bargaining position; otherwise, “it would be buried along with Nawaz Sharif.”[9] The Jama‘at considered the People’s Party’s offer seriously, especially after the government survived a vote of no confidence and appeared to be gaining strength; and it asked for concrete proposals from the People’s Party.

On February 1, 1990, Qazi Husain met with N. D. Khan, the deputy secretary-general of the People’s Party. On February 18 Khan met with Ghafur Ahmad, who gave him messages of advice for Benazir Bhutto and the People’s Party chief minister of Sind, Qa’im ‘Ali Shah, regarding the deteriorating law and order in Sind.[10] Khan and Ahmad reached no agreement. The Jama‘at did acknowledge that in principle it might cooperate with the People’s Party, but it then stipulated conditions for cooperation which the People’s Party could not possibly agree to. It also made the conditions public: the People’s Party had to change its policy in Sind, alter its foreign policy, agree to calling Pakistan an Islamic state, establish an Islamic order, and change its leadership by eliminating Benazir Bhutto, Begum Nusrat Bhutto, Ghulam Mustafa Khar, and Mukhtar A‘wan, the first two because they were women—although the Jama‘at had supported the candidacy of Fatimah Jinnah in her bid for the presidency—and the second two “for their atrocities against the Jama‘at and the Jami‘at.”[11] Their candidates to replace Benazir Bhutto were Mi‘raj Khalid, Faruq Laghari, or Amin Fahim.[12] Khalid was the speaker of the National Assembly and the other two were cabinet members. Not surprisingly, these conditions ended any possibility of serious negotiations for the moment.

The possibility reappeared in March 1990 when the IJI, having failed to unseat Benazir Bhutto, encouraged the army to overthrow the government. A shura’ meeting in the first week of March passed a resolution criticizing the move and advising the amir to pull the party out of the IJI.[13] On March 6, Qazi Husain announced that the Jama‘at was in full agreement with Benazir Bhutto’s policy of defending the independence movement in Kashmir. If the Afghan war permitted the Jama‘at to join the IJI without losing face, the Kashmir crisis allowed it to back out again with its dignity intact.

The warming between the Jama‘at and the People’s Party, however, came to naught. The government was being accused of corruption and mismanagement by the IJI and began to lose popular support. Little could be gained from siding with it. The Jama‘at, therefore, found it prudent to wait. The government was ousted on August 6 when the president, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, citing rampant corruption and mismanagement in government circles, instability in Sind, and the deleterious effects of horse-trading—whereby parliament representatives would switch party allegiances for financial compensation—dissolved the national and provincial assemblies, dismissed the People’s Party government, and called for fresh elections in October 1990.

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’s National Assembly seats were won in Rawalpindi, Lahore (2), Sargodha, Sahiwal, Shaikhapura, and Sialkot.The Jama‘at’s Provincial Assembly seats were won in Rawalpindi (2), Lahore (3), Faisalabad, Sargodha, Gujranwala, Liyah, Bhawalpur, and Gujrat.The Jama‘at won its National Assembly seat in Swat.The Jama‘at’s Provincial Assembly seats were won in Swat (2), Chitral, and Dir (5).

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.

The return of democracy to Pakistan has pushed the Jama‘at to search more rigorously for a proper mix of ideological commitment and pragmatic considerations, so as to develop a popular base. This has led the party to appeal more directly to popular sentiments and to put them above purely ideological considerations in formulating its policies. As a result, despite internal tensions, since 1988 the Jama‘at has steadily moved away from the constellation of Islamic and right-of-center forces which supported Zia and formed the IJI, to find a more popular platform. The Jama‘at continues to be an advocate of Islamization, but its political agenda is moving toward a vision of state and society that is inspired by Islam but is not limited to Islamization.


1. Interviews with Sayyid Munawwar Hasan and Mahmud A‘zam Faruqi.

2. See Qazi Husain’s interview in the Herald (June 1992): 50.

3. Interview with Siraj Munir.

4. Qazi Husain Ahmad told me in an interview that he did not view the IJI as a positive force, but merely as a means to end the hegemony of the People’s Party. However, there were benefits for the Jama‘at in staying with Nawaz Sharif; for, as Qazi Husain put it, “he is the shadow prime minister”; the inability of the People’s Party government to project power effectively went a long way to explain the solidarity of the IJI. Interview with Qazi Husain Ahmad.

5. Sayyid As‘ad Gilani, for instance, accused the People’s Party and the Muslim League of being secular and feudal. Interview with Sayyid As‘ad Gilani in Nida (April 17, 1990): 14. Unhappiness with the League became more noted as antagonisms with Pir Pagaro and Junejo continued, as did clashes with Sharif’s rivals in the Muslim League of Punjab, Mian Manzur Watu, Chaudhri Shuja‘at, and Chaudhri Parwez Ilahi.

6. Takbir (September 28, 1989): 28–29.

7. See the Friday Times (March 15–21, 1990): 1–2.

8. Interview with Mahmud A‘zam Faruqi.

9. Interview with Ghulam Mustafa Khar.

10. Nation (February 2, 1990): 1; and (February 19, 1990): 8.

11. Interview with Chaudhri Aslam Salimi.

12. Interview with Qazi Husain in Dawn (February 9, 1990): 3.

13. Interview with Ghafur Ahmad in the Friday Times (March-8–14, 1990): 1.

14. Herald (October 1990): 62.

15. Election Bureau of Jama‘at-i Islami, circular #19-A/5, October 21, 1991.

16. Interview with Qazi Husain in Takbir (January 31, 1991): 26. Although here Qazi Husain asserts that no concrete offers were forthcoming from the new government either.

17. See interview with Qazi Husain in Takbir (December 27, 1990): 26–27; (January 3, 1991): 35; and (January 31, 1991): 26–27.

18. For a thorough discussion of the Jama‘at’s response to the war and these two considerations, see Mumtaz Ahmad, “The Politics of War: Islamic Fundamentalisms in Pakistan,” in James Piscatori, ed., Islamic Fundamentalisms and the Gulf Crisis (Chicago, 1991), 155–85.

19. See interview with Qazi Husain in Herald (February 1991): 24. Between September 12 and 15, 1990, the Jama‘at participated in a pro-Iraq Islamic conference convened in Jordan, following which it demanded that the government recall its eleven thousand troops from Saudi Arabia. For greater details see the debate between the editor of Takbir and the Jama‘at’s leaders over this issue in Takbir (January 31, 1991): 5–57, and (February 14, 1991): 15–18.

20. Cited in Ahmad, “The Politics of War,” 165.

21. Ahmad, “The Politics of War,” 167.

22. Ibid.

23. Takbir (March 7, 1991): 7–8 and (June 6, 1991): 29–30.

24. Takbir (March 7, 1991): 7–8.

25. Takbir (January 31, 1991): 7; Jang (March 19, 1991): 4.

26. Friday Times (February 7–13, 1991): 7.

27. Ahmad, “The Politics of War,” 176.

28. For a discussion of Sharif’s version of the shari‘at bill, see Ann Elizabeth Mayer, “The Fundamentalist Impact on Law, Politics, and Constitutions in Iran, Pakistan, and the Sudan,” in Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, eds., Fundamentalisms and the State: Remaking Polities, Economies, and Militance (Chicago, 1993), 131–32.

29. Cited in Herald (September 1991): 50.

30. Takbir (October 3, 1991): 9–10.

31. The Jama‘at presented a formal complaint about the MQM’s treatment of its workers in Karachi to the meeting of IJI parties on September 1991. Unable to secure any assurances from the government, Qazi Husain severely criticized the government soon after the meeting; Newsline (October 1991): 36.

32. FBIS-NES -91–217, November 8, 1991, 52.

33. FBIS-NES -91–147, and Takbir (August 8, 1991): 37–38 and (August 15, 1991): 11–13.

34. Interviews; also see Newsline (September 1991): 43.

35. Herald (June 1992): 48.

36. Takbir (October 1, 1992): 9–10.

37. Takbir (September 17, 1992): 26–31.

38. Takbir (July 30, 1992): 6–8.

39. Examples of these allegations may be found in the Jang (May 16 and 19, 1993), Nawa’-i Waqt (May 10 and 14, 1993), and Sharq (May 9, 10 and 12, 1993).

The Rebirth of Democracy, 1988–1993

Preferred Citation: Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza. The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jama'at-i Islami of Pakistan. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  1994.