Of course, very little was mentioned in this context by the Professor about the fact that the JI had been one of the many Islamic parties that had actually opposed the creation of Pakistan, calling it a nationalist abomination.
The debate as to exactly what kind of a vision drove Jinnah to demand a separate Muslim country in South Asia, and what should constitute Pakistani culture and nationhood reached a peak in the late 1960s, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto formed the socialist Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and when Sindhi, Baloch, Pushtun and Bengali nationalists had accelerated their agitation for provincial autonomy.
To the JI, the story of Pakistan began not during the Pakistan Movement, but with the invasion of Sindh by Arab commander, Muhammad bin Qasim, in the 9th Century who defeated the region’s Hindu ruler, Raja Dahir.
Sindhi scholar and nationalist, GM Syed, rejected Ayub’s modernist interpretation of Pakistan’s Muslim nationhood, as well as JI’s Islamic version. He suggested that both were not compatible with the cultural and historical moorings of Pakistan’s non-Punjabi ethnicities.
After witnessing the ascendency of leftist parties and student groups in West Pakistan, and the growing agitation by Bengali nationalists in East Pakistan, the JI declared that socialism and secularism were anti-Islam ideologies akin to atheism.
This claim drew the newly-formed PPP into the debate.
Prominent intellectuals in the PPP and those sympathetic to its cause, especially Hanif Ramay, Safdar Mir and poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, retaliated by first emphasising the JI’s pre-1947 anti-Jinnah rhetoric, and then suggesting that Pakistani nationhood and culture were multi-ethnic and multi-cultural and best served by democracy and socialism.
JI’s founder and Islamic scholar, Abul Ala Maududi, wrote that the leftist, liberal and secular Pakistani political organisations and cultural outfits were the ‘Trojan Horses’ through which they had infiltrated the Pakistani society, government to erode Pakistan’s Islamic character.
Interestingly, as the movement by leftist political parties and student groups against the Ayub dictatorship gained momentum in the late 1960s, Ayub’s Information Ministry had already begun to mend fences with the JI.
By the time Ayub resigned in 1969 and handed over power to General Yahya Khan, the JI rebounded to become an ally of the military regime.
General Yahya was a notorious drinker and womaniser but smart enough to use Maududi’s status as a prolific Islamic scholar to blunt the leftists’ push against the military regime.
Informed by his intelligence agencies that an election at best would produce a hung verdict, Yahya agreed to his opponents’ demand to hold the country’s first direct election based on adult franchise.
As Ayub’s idea of Pakistani nationhood dwindled, JI made its own concept of Nazriah-e-Pakistan one of the main planks of its election manifesto.
Expecting to bag an impressive number of seats in the Parliament, JI (along with most other religious parties), was soundly beaten by the PPP and NAP (in West Pakistan), and by the Bengali nationalist party, the Awami League (in East Pakistan).
Yet again the project of moulding an ideology of Pakistan acceptable to all Pakistanis had come to a dead-end. In fact, it seemed that it was now destined to end up in the dustbin of history.
It might as well have, had Pakistan not gone to war with India and then badly lose that war.
Shiekh Mujeebur Rheman’s Awami League had won the highest number of seats in the 1970 election (albeit all in East Pakistan).
In theory, his party should have been invited by Yahya to form Pakistan’s first popularly elected government.
The military, dominated by the Punjabis in West Pakistan, and Bhutto’s PPP, pointed at Mujeeb’s ‘anti-Pakistan rhetoric’ and suggested that he would use the Parliament to separate East Pakistan from the rest of the country on the basis of Bengali nationalism.