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PTI settles ideologically

Right-wing is used for being conservative and pro-rich in economic policy making as well as being conservative and pro-religion in social policy making. The ‘confused conservatism’, which was taken for ‘confused liberalism’ by many, persisted for years in the PTI.

That is now changing. Their leader made six personal promises, which in effect means that he will fulfil the obligations imposed upon him by Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution if he becomes prime minister, rather than announcing six succinct changes his party will bring about in Pakistan’s social, political and economic structure. But that’s Imran Khan. I always recall the speech he made in 1992. It is about his dream, his ambition, his greatness, his being the leader. If you happen to be a beneficiary, that’s your good luck.

Anyway, the morning after making these promises, he met the top leadership of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and set up a committee for seat adjustment in the forthcoming general elections. This is a sequel to the seat adjustment that is in the process of being agreed upon between the two parties in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Moreover, old Jamaat loyalists and former student activists of the Jamiat have now joined the PTI in good numbers across northern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. After the alliance is formalised with the JI, and the political influence of Jamaati thinking takes roots within the PTI, the new revolutionary party will at least become clearer in its agenda and on where it wants to lead this state and society.

Some old PTI stalwarts may still think that Jamaat’s organisation and ideology can both be tamed to follow Imran Khan’s whims. But for some cautiously optimistic PTI liberals, the JI will also be laundered – in much the same way as the Nawabs (most recent being the one of Bahawalpur), Legharis, Bosans, Tammans, Tareens, Kasuris, Makhdooms, Khattaks, Sardars, et al, are being washed, cleaned, dried, pressed and presented to the people of Pakistan as crisp and fresh by Imran Khan’s laundry.

How would feudal lords and ladies, big businessmen, those living off shrines and offerings of their disciples, land and trade mafias, tax evaders, etc bring a revolution is a question asked by both critics and sympathisers alike. This question is valid for most political parties but no one else is clamouring for revolution and a transformative change at this moment except for the PTI.

PTI’s lopsided understanding of how capitalism and the political economy of Pakistan work make it oscillate. But its leader is clear on one thing. Coming to power is the only agenda to be pursued. After that, his hand-picked bankers and company executives will run the economy for him, while the electables will keep voting for him in the assemblies as he is a national sports hero.

Pardon me for repeating this, but while the fast bowler has collected bottle tops in the shape of the so-called electables to tamper with the ball and get some extra bounce and swing to win the game, he forgets that snazzy management solutions to the deeply-entrenched and almost organic structural problems fix nothing. If you believe you can change the status quo with those who are the greatest beneficiaries of the existing system, you may be hiding a magic wand from us which you will bring out once you are seated on the throne.

By the way, how the PTI defines the status quo is another question to be asked. Corruption is the biggest issue for the party. But for some of us it is large landholdings, land revenue, resource distribution and monopoly businesses. Unless the economy remains structured the way it is and half of it falls in the informal sector, we will never be able to get rid of corruption.

Will they themselves – or the kith and kin of Sardar Tamman, Tumandar Leghari, Makhdoom Shah Mehmood, etc – allow the appointment of those patwaris and thanedars who they dislike in their respective areas of control?

The PTI is silent on the civil-military relationship and how those affairs of the state and economy where the army has been traditionally involved should fall under civilian control. How would the PTI restructure the superior civil service, which runs the colonial administration and the revenue system? In economic terms, the PTI will remain a purely right-wing party.

But let me come back to where I started and remind my PTI enthusiasts of what the Jamaat-e-Islami – the first PTI ally for the 2013 general elections – stands for in Pakistani history and politics. This is important because the PTI remains an odd mix of those who earnestly want change for the better and those who would use this earnestness to pursue their ambition for gaining political power or remaining in the power that comes with the idle rich class they belong to. This is just going to be a snapshot. A lot has already been written on the JI for those who are interested.

The JI was founded in 1941. It stood for Islamic revivalism in India and elsewhere and its founder Maulana Maudoodi rejected the lessons learnt from the Misaq-e-Madina (Charter of Madina) to be followed in united India. This famous charter was signed by our Prophet (pbuh) and laid out the scheme of creating a composite and plural state and society when he arrived in Madina and founded the state.

This example was quoted and followed by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind since Muslims were also in a minority in India. But the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami also opposed Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah for not being Islamic in his lifestyle and ideas. However, after Pakistan came into being, Maudoodi found an opportunity to create an Islamic state according to his ideals.

The first major political campaign launched by Maudoodi and his JI was the anti-Ahmadiyya movement in West Pakistan. The subsequent loot, plunder, rioting and killing remain a blemish on the social and political history of Pakistan, particularly Lahore where the JI was founded and has since been headquartered.

The JI also ran a political movement against joint electorates in Pakistan – targeting non-Muslim Pakistanis. Maudoodi had a clear view on how non-Muslims should be treated in an Islamic state. About religious minorities, he wrote: “Islamic ‘jihad’ does not recognise their right to administer state affairs according to a system which, in the view of Islam, is evil. Furthermore, Islamic ‘jihad’ also refuses to admit their right to continue with such practices under an Islamic government which fatally affect the public interest from the viewpoint of Islam.”

JI’s role in East Pakistan and the formation of militant outfits like Al-Shams and Al-Badar to strike Bengali activists and intellectuals has again been brought into the limelight through the trials of JI leaders initiated by the current Awami League government in Dhaka. While I do think that it will be better for Bangladesh to have a process of truth and reconciliation, rather than making heroes out of bigoted clerics by passing death sentences against them, the JI cannot be absolved of its doings in East Pakistan.

Some years later, the JI was a part of Gen Ziaul Haq’s martial law government in what was left of Pakistan and busy Islamising the law books according to its own narrow view of religion. Gen Ziaul Haq met the then head of JI, Mian Tufail Mohammed, for consultation the night before Bhutto was hanged.

Even after leaving Zia, the JI was concentrating more in providing young Pakistani men as holy warriors in Afghanistan during the 1980s, rather than restoring democracy within the country.

The JI was aligned with the Americans, the Saudis and the pro-American political and military forces in Pakistan for a long time – until the time the Americans ditched it. In short, the PTI seems to have settled in social and political terms as a right-wing party by embracing the JI.

Email: harris.khalique@gmail.com. The writer is a poet and author based in Islamabad.

Harris Khalique, "PTI settles ideologically," The News. 2013-03-28.