Emir JI
Published July 12, 2018

Desperate for a revival

By Zaigham Khan

Sirajul Haq is Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba's third student leader to head the JI. The 55-year-old is also JI’s second leader to hail from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which became an important province for the party's emerging leadership partly due to the relevance of its location in relation to the Afghan Jihad.

Haq's greatest liability is the period of leadership of his predecessor Munawar Hasan, who was voted out of the party’s leadership in 2014 after a five-year-long stint. Hasan’s open support for militancy and the Taliban did immense harm to the JI's reputation and eroded its popularity.

As opposed to Hasan, Haq has tried to emulate the populist style of Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the JI chief who kept the party at the centre of the political arena between 1987-2009.

Though Haq is intelligent, eloquent and energetic, he has been largely unsuccessful in reviving the party. His failure on this front is particularly obvious in the case of Karachi, a city that the JI has always tried to win back from the MQM.

For the 2018 election, JI has joined the MMA reluctantly, knowing that its options may be limited. JI’s leaders were initially hesitant to join MMA because they fear JUI-F, the dominant party in the alliance, and its leader Fazlur Rehman, who has outmanoeuvred the Jamaat before.

Though Haq may be dreaming of a repeat of the MMA’s success in the 2002 elections, the most he can hope for is for his party to win a few more votes than it did in 2013.

Key stances

  • The JI chief wants to make Pakistan an Islamic ideological state. In line with his party’s politics, Haq has called for the imposition of Sharia in Pakistan and says the ‘Madina model’ should be replicated in the country in light of what he called was Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision.

  • The JI chief has also called for the Muslim world to form an Islamic United Nations to counter what he calls proxy wars “thrust on Muslim countries by colonial powers and enemies of Islam”.

  • Not regarded as a hardliner when compared to other JI leaders, it appears Haq is trying to make the party more effective in mainstream politics. At the same time, however, he has on multiple occasions urged the government to consider dialogue with the Pakistan Taliban.

  • Haq is also a vocal proponent of Fata's merger with KP and says not doing so is a grave injustice to the residents of Fata who he said were helpless at the hands of local political agents, who he said enjoy more powers "than Mughal kings".

  • A staunch supporter of the Kashmir cause, Haq proposes a hawkish stance when it comes to Pakistan-India ties. He believes Islamabad shouldn’t hold talks with India until Kashmir issue is resolved.

  • Haq is also a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and links it to an “Islami Pakistan”, which the JI chief says will be an emancipator of Palestinian Muslims and other Muslims who are oppressed. He has also called on heads of Islamic countries to launch a joint strategy from the Organisation of Islamic Countries platform for the liberation of Al-Aqsa Mosque and other occupied territories.

  • At the same time, Haq accuses leaders of Muslim countries of being in cahoots with the Trump administration over the Jerusalem issue, saying "Trump could not dare recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel without making prior consultation with heads of 12 Muslim countries". Haq did not name these heads of states.

  • Haq also opposes politics of ethnicity and addressing JI Karachi’s Youth Convention said people of the metropolis will vote for those who served them in the past, and not along ethnic lines.

  • The JI chief has also opposed suggestions to remove articles 62 and 63 from the Constitution, and has in fact said that these should also be applied on judges, generals and bureaucrats to put in place a culture that is forthright and corruption-free.

  • Although JI entered into a coalition with PTI in KP, the parties had a rocky relationship at best. Soon after the Senate elections this year, Siraj said PTI had voted for Sadiq Sanjrani on “an order from the top”, questioning the credibility of the entire process. Ties between the two parties worsened subsequently and in April, JI resigned from the coalition in KP.