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 Office of the Amir

The office of the amir was the first administrative unit created in the Jama‘at, and it has remained the most important. Originally the amir was elected by the central shura’ through a simple majority vote, but since the 1956 reforms he has been elected by Jama‘at members, and his term of office is fixed at five years; there is no term limit. A committee of the central shura’ members chooses three candidates, whose names are then put before the members at large. They send in their secret ballots to the Jama‘at’s secretariat, whose controller of elections (nazim-i intikhabat) has been appointed by the shura’ to oversee the process. A list of candidates must be put forth by the shura’ sixty days before the elections, and members must register to vote ninety days before the date of the election.[6] This system tends to favor the incumbent, as the members are not likely to unseat someone who is both administrative head of the party and its spiritual guide. No amir to date has been voted out of office.

The amir is the supreme source of authority in the Jama‘at and can demand the unwavering obedience of all members (ita‘at-i nazm). He is, however, constitutionally bound by the set of checks and balances that were passed following the Machchi Goth affair. All doctrinal issues must be determined by the shura’. Should the amir disagree with the shura’ on any issue, he has a right of veto which throws the matter back to the shura’. Should the shura’ override the veto, the amir must either accept the decision of the shura’ or resign from his post. The amir can be impeached by a two-thirds majority of the shura’. In budgetary and administrative matters the amir is bound by the decisions of the majlis-i ‘amilah, whose members he appoints from among shura’ members. The amir oversees the operation of the Jama‘at’s secretariat.

Insofar as possible this organization is replicated at each level of the party. Each lower-level amir is elected by the members of his constituency to terms varying from one to three years depending on the level in question. These amirs are similarly bound by the decisions of their shura’s. The lower-level amirs also oversee the office of their secretaries-general. However, lower-level secretaries-general are also accountable to the Jama‘at’s national secretary-general, which curtails the autonomy of the lower-level amirs and reduces their control over administrative affairs.

The Machchi Goth affair proved to be an aberration in an otherwise uneventful history of the amir’s office. Since then the constitutional mechanisms governing it have steered the Jama‘at through two succession periods—from Mawdudi to Mian Tufayl Muhammad in 1972, and from Mian Tufayl to Qazi Husain Ahmad in 1987. Each transition followed upon the retirement of the amir.[7] This pattern is in sharp contrast to transitions in other Pakistani parties, and accounts for the fact that the Jama‘at, unlike most other Islamic movements of South Asia, continued strong after the passing of its founder from the scene.

At a meeting in Lahore on January 10, 1971,[8] following the Jama‘at’s defeat at the polls in December 1970, a group led by Sayyid Munawwar Hasan (now the secretary-general) launched a tirade against Mawdudi. They argued that the Jama‘at had been routed at the polls because of him. Old and reserved, Mawdudi had relinquished national politics to the more energetic and charismatic leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party and the Awami League (People’s League), Zulfiqar ‘Ali Bhutto and Mujibu’l-Rahman, who won the elections. Similar views were related to the editors of Tarjumanu’l-Qur’an by other members and supporters during the following months.[9] Implicit in these ventings of frustration was a demand for a new leader. On February 19, 1972, Mawdudi suffered a mild heart attack and decided to step down as the amir. The shura’ nominated Mian Tufayl Muhammad (then secretary-general), Ghulam A‘zam (later the amir of Jama‘at-i Islami of Bangladesh), and Khurshid Ahmad (a longtime disciple of Mawdudi, and currently deputy amir of the Jama‘at). On November 2, 1972, Mian Tufayl Muhammad (b. 1914) was elected amir.[10]

None of those nominated by the shura’ qualified as charismatic leaders, least of all Mian Tufayl. The electorate appeared to have been governed by more pressing concerns than those posed by the party’s Young Turks. They had been disappointed by their performance in the elections and now faced a belligerent opponent in the Bhutto government. By choosing a loyal lieutenant of Mawdudi, an administrator rather than a political maverick, the party opted for continuity and stability. Its search for a more charismatic amir, although not abandoned, was postponed to a later time.

Mian Tufayl was not an effective politician, nor was he able convincingly to assert the powers vested in the office of the amir. Following his election, a good deal of the amir’s powers, accumulated and jealously guarded by Mawdudi over the years, were ceded to others in the party, and authority became more decentralized. That encouraged the formation of independent loci of power, which in turn further divested the amir of authority. Constitutional procedures became even more visibly entrenched, and the shura’, as the original source of authority in the Jama‘at, once again asserted its power and primacy. Mian Tufayl’s fifteen years at the helm of the Jama‘at, to the chagrin of those who had wished to reinvigorate the party’s ideological and chiliastic zeal, led the party farther down the road of legal-rational authority.

A different set of concerns led to the election of Qazi Husain Ahmad to the office of amir on October 15, 1987. After a brief surge in popularity in the 1970s, the Zia ul-Haq years had eclipsed the political fortunes of the party, which became increasing marginalized in national politics. The results were dissension within the party over its policies and performance and the retirement of Mian Tufayl. Aging, and increasingly under criticism, he stepped down as amir, paving the way for a new generation to lead the Jama‘at. The shura’ nominated Khurshid Ahmad, Jan Muhammad ‘Abbasi (the amir of Sind), and Qazi Husain Ahmad (the secretary-general) to succeed Mian Tufayl. The first two were conservative in the tradition of Mawdudi and Mian Tufayl, while Qazi Husain had a populist style and a good rapport with the younger and politically more active members. The party elected Qazi Husain (b. 1938). He came from a family with a strong Deobandi heritage. His two older brothers were Deobandi ulama, and his father was a devotee of Mawlana Husain Ahmad Madani of Jami‘at-i Ulama-i Hind, after whom Qazi Husain Ahmad was named. His Deobandi ties helped the Jama‘at in the predominantly Deobandi North-West Frontier Province. He became acquainted with the Jama‘at through its student organization and joined the Jama‘at itself in 1970. Many, among both the younger members and the conservative old guard, felt that it was time to go in a new direction. Qazi Husain had been responsible for creating an important constituency for the Jama‘at in North-West Frontier Province, which today elects a notable share of the Jama‘at’s national and provincial assembly members. Many hoped he would do the same for the Jama‘at at the national level.

Qazi Husain appealed to both conservatives and the more liberal elements. As the party’s liaison with the Zia regime during the Afghan war, he was favored by the pro-Zia conservative faction, while his populist style and call for the restoration of democracy endeared him to the younger generation who wanted the Jama‘at to distance itself from Zia. The Jama‘at had made a politically sagacious choice by electing an assertive and populist amir. His appeal has to date been more clearly directed toward the Pakistani electorate than toward the rank and file of the Jama‘at. He is the first amir to hold a national office: he has been a senator in the Pakistani parliament since 1985. In November 1992 he was elected to a second term as amir.


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.