JI chief Syed Munawar Hasan. — File Photo.

After a senseless boycott of the 2008 election, the JI is now in the electoral arena without the benefit of the leadership of Qazi Hussain Ahmad, who guided the party’s destiny through 22 tumultuous years.

His biggest triumph came in the 2002 election, when the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) formed a government in the then NWFP. He cashed in on anti-American sentiments following the US-led attack on Afghanistan. Does Syed Munawar Hasan, the new chief, have any other strategy in mind?

As its experience with the Pakistan National Alliance (1977), the Islami Jamhuri Ittehad (1990) and the MMA (2002) suggests, the JI stands a better chance of making its presence felt in parliament when it has electoral allies. If its attempts at ‘seat adjustment’ with ‘like-minded parties’ do not work out, the JI will have to prove it can be on its own.

Of late, there has been a toning down of its main plank, the Islamic ‘system’. The emphasis has been on political issues of the day — from Aafia Siddiqi and drone attacks to America’s hand in the assassination attempt on Qazi Hussain Ahmed.

Worldwide, Islamist parties are attempting to recast their philosophies in the light of today’s realities. The radical changes made by the Indian JI can perhaps be ignored, because its acceptance of secularism can be understood in a country where Muslims are in a minority. But greater changes are in the offing in the Middle East and Maghreb, where forces unleashed by the Arab Spring are trying to find newer grounds for relevance in today’s world. In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party repudiated his mentor Necmettin Erbakan’s philosophy and publicly embraced secularism. Once in power it has made stunning changes in state policies from within. One can see the same process in embryonic form in Tunisia and Egypt. There is no evidence that the Pakistan JI has bothered to listen to these stentorian voices.

The JI’s biggest asset is its well-oiled party machine staffed by dedicated, educated and honest cadres. Unfortunately the party has so programmed its cadres they are unable to think originally and question decades-old doctrines, some of them continuing since its foundation in 1941. To the cadres, obedience to the Amir is an article of faith. Questioning it is a little short of blasphemy. Herein lie the roots of the JI’s stasis.

The only major change, effected when the party’s founder, Maulana Maudoodi was alive, was to give up its rejection of the electoral process. But this was essentially a tactical decision that acknowledged and conformed to modern political ethos. The change served the party well and made it part of the lawmaking process. Since then, there has been no attempt at redefining the party’s ideology. What the party has to offer to the people of Pakistan now is not clear.

The MMA’s five-year rule in the NWFP was singularly devoid of welfare programmes, it made no attempt to develop infrastructure, and male doctors were not to touch female patients. The JI-dominated coalition also allowed the Nato supply line to continue — a stance contrary to its policy today. With powerful media outlets on its side, the JI is in a position to convey its message to the masses. Unfortunately it has nothing concrete to offer. On terrorism it has been observing purdah.

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Comments (22)

April 18, 2013 9:07 am
JI does not have an actionable agenda... mere rhetoric and lip service.. case in point Afia Siddiqui... why does not JI go to USA and file an appeal in the court? why they keep on marches after marches in Pakistan where no one has the power to change Afia's fate?
April 18, 2013 10:59 am
April 18, 2013 12:03 pm
Will continue to remain a fringe player in pakistan electoral system.
Moderate Muslim
April 18, 2013 12:36 pm
I hope there is no place for this guy and his party in the elections. We need a secular country and not theocracy. Religion is between oneself and God and not be imposed on the public.
April 18, 2013 1:14 pm
JI's or JUI's win will be the last nail ...Goodbye Pakistan
Sajjad Saleem
April 18, 2013 1:30 pm
I dont agree with the writer because JI has a very clear stance against terrorism. In past few days after bombing in some ANP gatherings. Only Munawar Hasan condemned the terrorism. Also JI did great job in KPK when in government. Many small dams were built, KPK first give free books to students, later Punjab copied too. Hostels were built for out-city labor. No JI member was caused of any kind of corruption. They spent 70% of the budget for women education
Salim Akbani
April 18, 2013 1:53 pm
Religious based parties no matter where they exist, are Conservative, regressive and marginal. They are more inward and backward looking, rather than progressive and forward looking. Pakistan needs forward movement in the 21-Centure. JI and their kind are incapable and unsuited for the future.
Ehsan Ali
April 18, 2013 2:44 pm
They should send some intellectual policy makers to listen to Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Turkey and learn from them. When half of the Islami Jamiat Talba's former members getting higher education in the USA and out of them majority staying in the USA after the studies ( getting jobs or doing business ) and sending money back home to JI, Ji really should re-think what is this Anti USA policy means to average people of Pakistan or even their own members. Don't we all want to migrate to the USA or we can say differently that how much economics is important to everybody in this day and age. Just think about how far we are willing to go to change our personal or family financial situation? What is more important and how the USA fits in the equation and adjust accordingly. Can we think beyond our stereotype slogans?
April 18, 2013 2:53 pm
JI was opposed to the creation of Pakistan. Since then it has only tried to show itself as its supporter for personal influence and gains in politics. It has not done much more than labeling other muslims as kafirs. What have they done for general uplifting of poor Pakistanis? I will not vote for them because of their record.
tahira, USA
April 18, 2013 2:58 pm
This is the easiest thing for them to do to emotionally exploit the local public in their favor. Their madrassas keep poor students away from studying any subject that will improve their critical thinking skills. It is only through those skills that the students will discover the truth behind their masked hypocrisy.
April 18, 2013 4:32 pm
JI are just like the rest of the political parties but with more religious lip-service to their bow and lacking any ground breaking ideas to win over the electorates!
April 18, 2013 7:15 pm
I hope so too. They don't represent Islam and their interpretation is totally misguided.
April 18, 2013 9:19 pm
Islamic laws do not accord with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and are based on primitive Judaic and bduin tribal social customs and practices that have no place in a civilised society
Jalaluddin S. Hussain
April 18, 2013 10:02 pm
If JI is really interested in the release of Mohtrama Afia Siddiqui they should better file a proper Appeal in an American court which has jurisdiction. Their followers in the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) may help them.
April 18, 2013 10:10 pm
A political party with undeveloped stone age brains.
April 19, 2013 4:20 am
Amazing that they want to move to the US considering the large number of innocent people killed for the creation of Pakistan! It's just unbelievable.
April 19, 2013 5:15 am
Then, who represent Islam?
April 19, 2013 5:27 am
We need a bold and corruption free leadership. Only JI can give this to the people of Pakistan.
April 19, 2013 5:33 am
I think JI should be given a chance. They deserve it and we need it.
April 19, 2013 5:57 am
inshallah will be leader of islamic revolution all over the world.....
April 19, 2013 6:27 am
How do you know he does not represent islam? Do you know what islam is? Is there anything else that is important in your life.
April 19, 2013 12:20 pm
JI is a True representation of ISLAM. We have to Vote for JI .
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