Kashmir - Under the Shadow of the Jamaat

The Jamaat is an ever-present danger for Kashmir and a threat to the whole of South Asia

8 February 2021

Some five years ago, one of Bangladesh's most wealthy and influential Islamists Motiur Rahman Nizami was hanged at Dhaka Central Jail. He had received the death sentence for the horrendous atrocities committed by him and his Jamaat-e-Islami henchmen during the country's 1971 liberation war. This brought to end one of the saddest and most vicious chapters in the history of South Asia.

Yet the Jamaat remains active all across South Asia and continues to propagate its vicious ideology in the name of Islam which, unlike what some people would like us to believe, is essentially a religion of peace and brotherhood. The Jamaat has used religion to further its brutal aims and become a powerful political force in various parts of South Asia.

Chequered History

Although the Jamaat today is the staunchest ally of the Pakistan Army, it was originally opposed to the creation of Pakistan. The Indian Islamist Abul Ala Moududi, who had founded the Jamaat-e-Islami in 1941, had dreamt of creating a monolithic Islamic state in India. He fervently wished India to remain Dar ul Islam or a country ruled by the precepts of Islam as it had been for centuries of Mohammedan rule. However, Moududi fled to Pakistan when he realised Indian leaders had pledged to make the country a democratic, secular state, which he considered to be "haraam".

Moududi was a hypocrite from the outset. Even while professing to run a socio-religious organisation, he actively involved himself in politics in Pakistan where the establishment began to hate him. Moududi despised anyone or any creed that was opposed to his idea of Islam. One of his primary targets was the hapless Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan. He launched a virulent campaign against the Ahmadiyya community in 1953 and was responsible for riots in Lahore which left hundreds of Ahmadiyya followers dead. This was the beginning of the Jamaat's politics of hate and brutality which would have repercussions in the future all over the Subcontinent.

At that time, the Pakistani generals wanted to hang Moududi for his despicable role in the rioting but his popularity forced them to relent and a few years later when some sort of Constitution was drawn up for the country many of the Jamaat's Islamist demands were incorporated in it. This also started the unabated Islamist radicalisation of Pakistan.

The pro-Western, whiskey-sodden Pakistan Army dictator General Ayub Khan who seized power in 1958, despised Moududi and imprisoned him several times but could not eliminate him because of the secret understanding Moududi seemed to have with the American government.

When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto rose to power in the 1970s and championed democracy, Moududi, although he was old and had resigned as the head of the Jamaat, re-emerged to lead an Islamist agitation against Bhutto. This time, he was secretly aided by the Army, which hated Bhutto more than anything else. Moududi was delighted when Bhutto was hanged and became a great supporter of the Pakistani dictator General Zia ul Haq who had seized power in 1977 and hanged Bhutto two years later. General Zia too was a big fan of the radical Moududi and enthusiastically took up his ideas on the Sharia-isation of Pakistani politics and society.

Moududi remained a hypocrite till his last days. One of his particular targets was Western liberalism and secularism. He claimed Western democracies had failed because their leaders had "ceased to attach much or any importance to morality and ethics." He wrote that the "satanic flood of female liberty and licence" had destroyed "human civilisation in the West". He also believed that Jews and Christians "should be forced to pay Jizya in order to put an end to their independence and supremacy so that they should not remain rulers and sovereigns in the land. These powers should be wrested from them by the followers of the true Faith, who should assume the sovereignty and lead others towards the Right Way".

Although he had railed against the West all his life, in the end he went to the United States in a final attempt to save himself from the kidney disease that was threatening him. He underwent several surgeries in Satanic America but nothing worked. He died in an aircraft in the skies and his funeral was held in the American city of Buffalo. His body was later interred in an unmarked grave in Lahore.

Vicious Ideology

Sadly, the vicious ideology that Moududi had left behind has spread to various parts of the Subcontinent including India and Bangladesh where local units of the Jamaat were formed. In Kashmir too, the Jamaat has emerged as a strong political force although their leaders continued to maintain the fiction that they are social workers of an apolitical organisation.

The worst brutality by the Jamaat was committed in Bangladesh during the Bengali nationalist uprising in that country in early 1970s. Bangladesh at that time was known as East Pakistan and here the Jamaat was the right hand of the West Pakistani oppressors and the hated Pakistan Army. In an effort to destroy the fierce Bengali nationalist movement, the Pakistan Army had created the cunningly named "Shanti Bahini", which translated to Peace Force but was exactly the opposite. This was an organisation created for the systematic slaughter of Bengalis, hundreds and thousands of whom were butchered by the Pakistan Army and its agents of the Shanti Bahini.

The Shanti Bahini was headed by the notorious henchman Ghulam Azam, the Jamaat-e-Islami head. Most members of this dreaded outfit were Jamaatis and mostly cold-blooded killers. As one among many scholars have noted: "Shanti Bahini, along with West-Pakistani forces, actively participated in committing war crimes against their own East-Pakistani brothers and sisters. Their activities included killing hundreds of thousands of non-combatant East-Pakistanis, including children, raping East-Pakistani women (especially non-Muslim women), kidnapping and killing scholars, doctors, scientists, amongst others. The Jamaat-e-Islami also created other groups such as the "Al-Badar" and "Al-Shams" (known as the Rajakar Bahini in Bengali) to support the military efforts of the Pakistani Army. Al-Badar was created by Islami Chhatra Sibir, the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami in East-Pakistan. One of the main operations of Al-Badar during the liberation war was to specifically kill "the intellectual people" (known as Budhijibi in Bengali). [see "Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh: Past, Present and Future" by European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), Amsterdam]

This horrendous episode in the history of South Asia was ultimately put to rest only recently after the Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina Wajed came to power. The Bangladeshi people, particularly the youth and intellectuals, had been agitating for years against the Jamaat which had risen to power and had established prosperous commercial enterprises including banks, factories and newspapers during the years of rule by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party which was headed by pro-Pakistan leaders. Even the infamous Ghulam Azam who had personally led gangs of killers against his helpless countrymen during 1971 had been allowed to return and take charge as head of the Jamaat.

However, after coming to power Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina cracked down on the Jamaat mass murderers and set up a judicial tribunal to try them. The tribunal as well as the country's Supreme Court held them guilty and most of the worst Jamaat criminals were hanged. The executed Jamaati leaders included Abdul Quader Molla, Mohommad Kamaruzzaman, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and Motiur Rahman Nizami. However, their execution has failed to eliminate the Jamaat which continues to operate in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and is especially active in the Kashmir Valley as the surrogate of the Pakistan Army.

It was no surprise that the only protest to the hangings of the Jamaat leaders in Bangladesh came from faraway Islamabad, the headquarters of the hated Pakistan Army. Pakistan's foreign office said in statement that "Pakistan is deeply saddened over the hanging of the emir of Jamaat-i-Islami Bangladesh, Mr, for the alleged crimes committed before December 1971. His only sin was upholding the constitution and laws of Pakistan".

This was a preposterous statement considering that no Constitution in the world could possibly make it a duty to massacre thousands of innocent civilians. It also showed the Pakistani mindset: there was no condemnation of the massacres or regret at what their agents and soldiers had done in the erstwhile East Pakistan against their own brethren. Not surprisingly, the idea of the Two-Nation theory that claimed Muslims of South Asia constitute one nation was effectively dead. Muslim had killed Muslim without mercy or hesitation and as far as Pakistan was concerned, they would continue to do so in support of their national objective of annexing regions and territories.

Pakistan Army Ally

This is one reason why the Pakistan Army has supported Islamists - the more vicious and unprincipled the better. This is why the Jamaat-e-Islami has always been a particular favourite. Even Moududi while publicly lambasting the Pakistan Army long sought to curry favour with it and use it to spread his Islamist aims. In his book titled Pakistan's Drift into Extremism: Allah, the Army and America's War on Terror, the Pakistani analyst Hassan Abbas who served in the Musharraf government, writes that the relationship between Islamists and military junta of Pakistan began before 1971. He writes: "The religious parties were also on the lookout for a new opening to pursue their agenda of 'Islamizing' the state. Maududi met Yahya (Chief Martial Law Administrator) early on and declared him a 'champion of Islam' expecting that this would sufficiently work on Yahya and the new constitution that he would envisage would be Islamic." The author in his book has lamented the fact that the Pakistan Army has always courted the mullah to seek legitimacy and popular support.

In practical terms too the Jamaat has proved its worth time and again. When the United States decided to fund the Afghan Jihad in the late 1970s, General Zia roped in the Jamaat as a major player in his secret plans to ensure that it was the jihadist elements who got most of the military assistance and not secular or non-Islamic Afghans. Zia personally met Moududi and the two planned how the Islamisation of the Afghan conflict would proceed. The Jamaat played a key role in funnelling money and arms to Islamist Afghan groups and continues to have deep links with Afghanistan's Islamists to this day.

The Pakistan Amy and its covert operations wing, the notorious ISI, has used the Jamaat-e-Islami in Kashmir and other parts of India to penetrate the government and educational institutions at all levels. This is not only to gather intelligence but also to influence local policies and sabotage moves seen to be against the interests of the Pakistani state. Even journalists have been secretly roped into the Jamaat's extensive India network.

Destroyer of Kashmir Independence Movement

The Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir was formed a year after the formation of the main party by Moududi. The Kashmir unit was formed by the Pir Said-ud-Din, a government teacher who originally belonged to the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. Over the years it has spread all over the Valley with hundreds of thousands of supporters and over 3,000 active rukuns or local activists. During its rise it has often come in conflict with the National Conference as in 1978 and this was one of the primary reasons for the Jamaat to approach the Pakistan Army.

The Jamaat-e-Islami has been most useful for the Pakistan Army in the Kashmir jihad which began in the late 1980s. The Jamaat came out in open support for Pakistan's aim to annex Kashmir. It had first sent feelers to Gen Zia for support for an armed struggle. Then working covertly, it began sending activists along with the independence minded JKLF (Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front) members to Pakistan. It also helped in the formation of the separatist Hurriyat Conference (APHC). It also directly helped create the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militant outfit when the Pakistan Army ordered it to do so in order to destroy the independence minded JKLF and assassinate the pro-India National Conference workers.

The Jamaat's pro-Pakistan agenda is no secret and everyone in Kashmir Valley knows it. The Jamaat has become powerful in Kashmir by penetrating Kashmiri society and the local administration as well as by running schools and organising religious gatherings. It is no coincidence that former Jamaati, Syed Salahuddin, is the chief of the Hizb-ul Mujahedeen and also leader of Mutahida Jihad Council (United Jihad Council) an umbrella group of all jihadist organisations active in the Kashmir jihad.

The Jamaat has directly and indirectly been responsible for the killings of thousands of its Muslim brothers in the Valley. It has behaved true to the ideology of its founders and done in Kashmir what it did in East Pakistan. Today, no one dares to confront the Jamaat in the Valley but the truth must be told and recorded.

Md. Sadiq

8 February 2021