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

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 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.