Monday, 7 August 2017

Khyber Mai: The JUI Mullah and the Pakhtun

The Mullah and the Pakhtun
Originally published by The NEWS 2 July 2017

By Zalan Khan
“How can I lend the Mullah my ear and forget the lark and the bulbul?"
 - Ghani Khan
This irreverent comment in a way was an apt description of a time long since gone in Pakistan's Pashtun belt. A time when the religious and religo-political party's were seen as political and social inferiors. This three part series will look at a history of the Pashtun relationship with the Mullah and complex relationship with the Deoband. It will look at how the new Pakistani state, in a desire to create a new identity formed alliances with the weaker JUI and its affiliates. This alliance would transform Pashtun society forever.

For centuries the Pashtuns most famed cultural trait was their code of chivalry. So Pakhtunwali writers like Rajwali Khattak was divided into some key attributes and several main domains. The attributes are derived from the word Pashtun itself, which is said to originate from the letters pey for Pat, which means honour, Sheen which means doing good to others or the needy, Tey for Toora, which literally means sword and bravery, Waw for Wafa, which means loyalty, Noon for Nang which means honour.

The main domains being Nang or honour, Sharam (shame), Peghore (taunt), melmastia (hospitality), nanawati (sanctuary for an enemy) and Badal (revenge). While Islamic religiosity was not included in this code it was seen by some scholars as interchangeable with Islam, while others feel the two are quite separate. This code was associated with a class system led by tribal leaders whose power depended on wealth but was relatively egalitarian. While not empowering to women by any modern definition, it did provide women a level of protection that allowed them to work in certain areas unhindered. Along with this was a rich culture of literature, poetry and dance in the form of the Attan.

In terms of social hierarchy, the Mullah was considered lower down the class system. They were often the source of ridicule or contempt in Pashto poetry and literature. While people's emotions could be influenced and at times erupt in outbursts of religious fervour. The austereness of the Deobandi sect had some appeal to the Sunni Pashtun but at the same time they also remained fascinated with religious mysticism.
The Mullah was also often termed the social inferior in general talk, but this class based dislike did not mean they could always control the religious leader. So for every Pir Roshan and Khushhal Khan Khattak, there was the initial appeal of Syed Ahmad Barelvi and the "Mad Faqir" or Sartor Faqir of Malakand. These brief episodes, were when charismatic men broke through the traditional religious and class hierarchy to rally people to fight and die for their cause against an external threat. This threat could range from fellow the Mughals, Safavid Persians, Sikhs and eventually the British. These rallying events would upturn the regional order before events would return to the old routine.

Following partition in 1947, the Pashtuns of the new state were in a unique situation. They were the only ethnic group in the new country to be divided into three clear parts. The main part in the North-West Frontier Province, the other in Baluchistan and the third FATA cut off from the rest of the country while ruled under the Frontier Crimes Regulations.
Around this time and the beginning of electoral politics in 1936 the dominant politics of K-P and Pashtun areas of Balochistan and the Tribal areas by the early 1940s, was driven by the reformist ethnic nationalism of the Khudai Khidmatgar and the Anjuman-i-Watan in competition against the weaker conservative local elite represented by landlords and tribal leaders.

The modern day JUI was a pre partition party that broke away from the parent JUH in 1946. The party's origins start with its Islamic return to orthodoxy message attributed to Shah Waliullah and his successors. It would provide a platform for opposition to the British Raj and would also be closely affiliated with the Congress and its non-violence movements against the British. They had allied with the Congress in the 1946 provincial elections. This victory proved short lived as it was followed by the 1947 referendum. The Muslim League had traditionally struggled in this region, tailored its appeal to religious appeals through people like the Pir of Manki Sharif.

The new ideological Pakistani state in its first fifteen years looked at the few opposition party's through a ideological prism of their lack of support for the idea of Pakistan. So both the Congress successors and the JUI leadership was considered suspect. But by the 1960s and with the economic boom of that era, state started to give space to Mufti Mahmud and his compatriots in exchange for support. This was reflected in Mufti Mahmuds decision not to support the candidacy of Fatima Jinnah. While religious precedent was cited as a reason, this was not sufficient reason for fellow religo-political Party the JI.
In 1962, Mufti Mahmud took over the leadership of the party after the death of the party leader. It would prove an opportune time to be party leader, especially in his home province.
By the 1960s it was clear there that the Muslim League had made clear inroads into the Pashtun parts of the province. Its main competition was the Pashtun nationalist bloc that would later coalesce under the banner of the National Awami Party banner.

The JUI in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in particular shared many traits of the Pashtun nationalists, they were both pre-partition party's, both with strong anti colonial traditions and had been allies with the Indian National Congress. Where now they took diverging paths as the JUI was free to operate unencumbered unlike their former allies. It's leadership had already seen its influence rise and could see the advantage of exploiting religious sentiment. It would have an opportunity to test this power in the 1970 elections.

Opponents but never enemies
By Zalan Khan
It issued said that once a puzzled JUI leader Mufti Mahmud asked why Wali Khan was so generous to his rival Zulfiqar Bhutto in constitutional discussions. To which Wali Khan is said to have explained  "we are opponents and not enemies."  

The veracity of the story notwithstanding, perhaps it was this story that would influence the JUI of Mufti Mahmud. For the next three decades its relationship with the Pakistani state would be defined by a competitive, occasionally at cross purposes but not a adversarial relationship. It was in this post 1970 era that the ideological test of party's now excluded the religo-political party's.
So by the 1970 election the JUI while not being the clear favourite party, tapped into the same sentiments that worked so well in the 1946 elections and in the early 1950s disturbances in Punjab. Examples of this was voters were be told to vote for the 'book' implying that the party symbol was a vote for Islam. Other campaign tactics were more brazen, stating that the votes cast were being counted in heaven.

The end result was successful, while the largest number of was won by the PML of Qayyum Khan it polled 22.6 % of the votes compared to the JUI's 25.4% and the National Awami Party's 18.4%.
It's appeal was religious and did crossover into Punjab  where it won 2 provincial seats compared to 4 in KP and three in Balochistan. But the Pashtuns of FATA remained cut of from this dynamic because of the Frontier Crimes Regulations.
An even bigger victory for Mufti Mahmud was his defeat of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in his home seat of D.I Khan. It would be here where the National Awami Party in a desire to deny arch rival Qayyum Khan from the Chief Ministry, they supported Mufti to become the first religious leader Chief Minister of the province. The once despised "Mullah" had by a twist of fate become a force to reckon with.
Two events would follow this, as the NAP-JUI alliance solidified as the coalition agreed to a raft of conservative measures in the province but also declared Urdu and not Pashto the provincial language of the province. The NDP, successor to the NAP, would come to the weary conclusion after four decades of relentless crackdowns and persecution that it was best to play by the states rule back.

This alliance would also weaken the linguistic linkages of language across the Pashtun belt from Peshawar to Quetta and Attock to Landi Kotal. Within a generation, written Pashto would only be widely taught in Deobandi Madrassahs.
Despite these breakthroughs it would take an event of global magnitude to breakdown those centuries old social barriers. Also known as, " Brezhenevs Christmas present", on 24th of December 1979 when the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan. This era of militarisation would flood the region with small arms and with K-P having, by conservative estimates, 7 million firearms.

Post Afghan war the growth in the Madrassah network also proved phenomenal. Although Deobandis only accounted around 25 % of Muslims they accounted for over 60%!of the growth. At time of independence there were about 250 madrasahs. Their number grew from around 900 in 1971 to over 8000 official ones and another 25,000 unofficial ones in 1988. With the highest percentage of total enrolled students studying in Madrassahs being from Pashtun dominated districts.

This was complemented by the large scale export of Pakistanis to work in the Gulf. The overall numbers of remittances went from $136 million in 1973 per annum to $6.45 billion in 2008. After 1980, Saudi Arabia's share in this was as high as half , with some recent estimates recently suggesting 30 per cent of which went to K-P. If this was not enough. There was the multi billion dollars worth of foreign aid during the Afghan war and the corrupting influence of billions of dollars generated by the drug trade.

Despite all this the JUI failed to capitalism se n any major electoral breakthroughs in the 1988-1997 period. In both K-P and Balochistan it was on average polling between 10-20 % of the vote. While its vote rapidly declined in Punjab and Sindh in the same period. In the Pashtun belt the vote tended to be higher in the range for NA seats over provincial seats. This reflected the voters, the Deobandi trained politicians led now by Mufti Mahmuds soon Maulana Fazlur Rehman, preference to vote for them on national politics but did not see them fit to solve their day to day issues. Even this had caveats when after an electoral rout in 1997, after being hit by allegations regarding diesel permits being sold out to the highest bidder while chair of the Kashmir committee the JUI-F leader was defeated and the party only polled 7% of the K-P vote.

Despite this, the JUI influence transcended simple electoral politics. It proved especially useful in alliance with the PPP in the mid 1990s by mobilising Madrassah students for the Taliban. It had developed strong trans Durand line networks and its impact on the broader Pashtun society was becoming more noticeable. The Deoband associated tabligh movement became heavily dominated by Pashtuns and broader social conservatism was taking hold. In the eyes of many at the time, this was another one of those periodic outbursts in Pashtun history. The old class and tribal system was shaken but not overturned and still saw the political Mullahs as mostly rural, occasionally useful but not fit for real power.

 Part 3

Makh ke sha!

By Zalan Khan

Not so long ago, a new leader started rapidly rise through the ranks of JUI. This clean shaven had ruthlessly risen up the ranks.

It is said his father was especially proud of his sons new found wealth and status. He returned to a local bazaar where many years back he was hurried away with shouts "makh ke sha " (Pashto: move ahead) at sight of him. He looked around and said, proudly, to someone "look at them, I've gone on so far ahead, they can't even see me!"

Events had dramatically turned by 2001, when he was one of the first politicians Pervaiz Musharraf would meet. Post 9/11, and despite leading aggressive protests against Pakistan's siding with the U.S, this new religo-political alliance was treated with kid gloves by the government. The MMA did not return the favour, taking advantage of a divided opposition. Pervaiz Musharraf had either intentionally created the ideal situation for the MMA. The Muslim League vote, and the MMAs main threat in southern K-P, was divided between the PML-Q and PML-N, the PPP in K-P had been split between Aftab Sherpao and the main PPP, the ANP was no better split between the ANP and the Ajmal Khattak led National Awami Party of Pakistan. If this was not enough both Benazir and Nawaz Sharif were in exile and unable to campaign in the province. This was on top of a condition that all candidates must be graduates, disqualifying several strong candidates.

The MMA campaigned aggressively and in a move reminiscent of the 1970s election skilfully exploited voters emotions but this time against the Military government. The ideological purity tests of the 1950s till 1980s were now being applied by the JUI allies, under the MMA banner, on the state itself, The Q in the PML-Quaid, voters were told was Kaaf for Kafir, the MMA election symbol book, was again overtly implied to be the Holy Book. A vote against the book would be a vote against faith. Unsurprisingly the MMA swept the Pashtun belt from Dir to Quetta. While it did attract a significant number of voters from elsewhere. There was no doubt that a significant percentage of the 3.1 million votes cast nationally and a staggering 43% of K-P votes for the MMA were Pashtuns.

The election marked a major real from the past. Most candidates were newcomers, the choice of Chief Minister was Akram Durrani who was not your typical ulema by any stretch. Nationally they claimed the leader of opposition post. The party's agenda was one of aggressive “Islamisation this would range from aggressive anti Americanism, denial of the rapid growth of and collusion with militant groups. This was in addition to a legislative agenda that included Hasba bills to a retreat on women's empowerment and promotion of interest free banking.

Many of these changes, side by side with anti Americanism were initially popular in a society. It also mainstreamed their image in the voters eyes. With the disintegration of the PML the JUI-F was now the acceptable choice for many old influentials and a new generation of politicians. This ranged from the old Khattak's of Karak to the Zaman of Haripur to the new wealth of Azam Swatis and Ghulam Ali's. This extended to the national sphere where Maulana Fazlur Rehman was the leader of opposition supported by the PML-N. Maulana Fazls politics was overtly ambitious. He saw himself as entirely suitable to be Prime Minister and as leader of opposition would effortlessly hold anti government rallies while keeping communication lines open with Pervaiz Musharraf.

However, things were rapidly changing on the ground, as a wave of heavy violence
hit K-P and FATA. This was combined by the opportunistic support the JUI-F provided PML-Q triggering the collapse of the MMA and the 2008 election defeat.

This period from 2004-2012 was marked by introspection within the JUI-F ranks and in Pashtun society. Scholars like the late Dr. Farooq Khan and Ulema like Maulana Hasan Jan pushed back against growing radicalisation both of whom were assassinated. The failure to push back in time meant the new voters looked for an alternative.

On the 11th of May 2013, a tsunami of new PTI voters nearly overwhelmed the Maulana. He had on two occasions been within inches of being Prime Minister of Pakistan. Unfortunately for him, he had to come to grasp with a new reality. Through social mobility and greater awareness, he could no longer rely on his religious status and networks to ensure electoral success. He had for the first time in Imran Khan found an opponent who could challenge him in his home seat and was immune to attacks on character.

The period of 2013 to 2017 has been one of a realignment by Maulana Fazl. He reached out to protect the ANP. He then built fences with the PMLN and look prepared to contest the next election jointly. At a societal level, the JUIs networks within Pashtun society remain strong. As it showed in its ability to mobilise people at its centenary celebrations. The party now has members coming from the middle class and elites that a generation prior would have looked down on them.

It's religious teachings as seen in madrassahs and tablighi events across the country are dominated by Pashtuns. It blends elements of Pashtun identity under the umbrella of the deobandi sect. And yet despite these successes, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the JUI from 1993-2013, have also inadvertently created a vulnerability. If the Mullah is mainstream, electable and capable of becoming the elite then perhaps he is also capable of becoming unelectable and despised too.
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