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FOREIGN ANALYZES N°37
ISLAMIST POLITICAL PARTIES APPROACH TOWARDS ISLAMIST TERRORIST GROUPS IN PAKISTAN

Dr Farhan Zahid
04-06-2016

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Farhan Zahid
Counter-Terrorism and Security Analyst (Pakistan).





The military regime of General Yahya Khan held first general elections in Pakistan in December 1970. Since then, the Pakistani Islamist parties have never been quite successful at the polls.
Later in 1977, elections were held under civilian government of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Pakistani voted in third general elections on non-party elections under military dictator General Zia ul Haq in 1985. The mysterious death of Pakistan's powerful military dictator General Zia, in August 1988, heralded a new era for democracy. The 1988 elections were held under caretaker government, followed by 1990, 1993, and 1996 elections under civilian rule. Pakistani military dictator General Pervez Musharraf ousted the democratic government of Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff in October 1999, and 2002 elections were held under the military regime followed by 2008 elections.
It was only in highly controversial 2002 elections that the Islamist parties managed to receive 11% of votes and managed to secure two Pashtun dominated provinces, i.e. Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and Baluchistan.  The situation in 2002 was understandable where an alliance of Islamist parties took lead in two provinces by capitalizing on Pashtun votes, sympathetic to predominantly Pashtun Afghan Taliban invaded by the US in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks.
The Islamist parties' alliance, the Muthadia Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) - of which principal Islamist parties Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI and its factions) were part of - failed to receive any substantial votes in Sindh and Punjab provinces. In 2008 elections, which were held again under General Musharraf, the Islamist parties' vote bank touched new lows. It was mainly because of failure of Islamist parties' maladministration and poor management of the provincial affairs; and lowering down of Global War on Terror (GWOT) hype. The alliance managed to win only 7 seats out of 272 general seats of National Assembly, coming down from 48 in 2002.  

 

1970

1985

1988

1990

1993

1997

2002

2008

2013

JI

04

0

--

--

04

--

MMA (63)

0

3

JUI

07

0

07

06

00

02

MMA (63)

07

14



Troy, Kiser and Casebeer, in their modeling of violent non-state actors (VNSA), identify stakeholders as individual and organizations for maintaining internal dynamics of violent non-state actors system . Accordingly, they describe VNSA system as, "For typical VNSA, these stakeholders might include sympathetic state leaders, religious leaders, VNSA leaders, and identity entrepreneurs, and a vulnerable population which the VNSA is trying to influence. The success of the VNSA hinges on its ability to meet the stakeholder requirements; if VNSA can't gather the appropriate human inputs, for example, then in the absence of negative entropy (such as stores of recruits waiting in the wings) the organization will eventually collapse. "
Indeed, there are stakeholders, behind the scene people and organizations, belonging to the same school of thought, ethnic group with political agendas not devoid of violence per se. In case of Pakistani Islamist violent non-state actors, the stakeholders appear to be, in a discreet manner, the Islamist political parties, and their subsidiary organizations - whether charity or proselytizing - are certainly part of a bigger picture. The Islamist parties appear to control sympathetic section of masses, provide manpower and encourage their rank and file - clandestinely of course - and moral support via public gatherings, and in a way provide impetus for negating positive entropic factors. They do not explicitly condem suicide bombings, don't issue clear public statements against jihadists and never appreciate military or police actions against jihadist organizations. At times the spokespersons of Islamist parties issue statements against government reforms such as Madrasah Reforms and de-radicalization programs. Such condemnations apparently keep the Islamist terrorist groups' morale high.
Religious ideologues belonging to Salafists and Deobandi schools of thought never issue Fatwa (religious edicts and decrees) neither against suicide attacks nor against conventional terrorist attacks such as bombings and assassinations. A repeated demand of Islamist parties is to hold dialogue and negotiations with Islamist terrorist organizations such as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Islam and others, which is in a way, a very old tactic of buying time and providing breathing space at times when Islamist militants are squeezed during military or police actions. Islamist parties' support for Afghan Taliban (aka Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) is perennial.   
While attending a conference of Deobandi sect ulemas (scholars) in May 2010, JUI (Sami faction) chief Sami-ul Haq clearly expressed his sugar defense for Islamist VNSAs operating both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said, "What is going in Afghanistan is essentially jihad. They (Afghan Taliban) are fighting for the freedom of their country from foreign occupation. Some of our people (Pakistani Taliban) also want to go there and help their brethrens in their war for freedom (...) The present situation is quite worrisome for us because it can build up pressures against our seminaries (...) The only lasting solution to the issue lies in talks. If the government is willing to talk (to the militants) on some solid, concrete points, we are ready to act as a bridge and mediate between the two parties. But before proceeding in that direction the government has to distance itself from the American policy objectives. You cannot stop suicide attacks and terrorism as long as you are seen to be standing side by side with the United States ."
In the same conference, also attended by representatives from JUI (Fazal ur Rehman faction), regarding the issue of declaring an anti-suicide bombing fatwa, they said, "Neither a fatwa triggered this war nor will it help stop one. If a fatwa could stop this war, we would have peace in our tribal areas and the rest of the country now (...) Whatever is happening in Pakistan or Afghanistan today is a reaction to the American policies, its increasing influence and interference in Pakistan and our government's inability to understand this fact and side with the West. "
Jonathan Paris in his report on Pakistan has predicted an increased role of Islamist political parties, which expand their support base through anti-Americanism and use religious rhetoric as means for furthering their pressure on government. He says regarding the take-over of Islamists that, "Rather than an Islamist takeover, you should look at a subtle power shift from a secular pro-Western society to an Islamist anti-American one (...) The danger for the army, and for Pakistan generally, is not Talibanization but Illumination from Punjab-based militants and their allies. "
For Islamist parties, Paris is very clear about their tactics, he says, "The religious parties have generally been opposed to any police or military action taken against any group which is nominally religious - everything from the Madrassas to the Taliban....On the one hand, there is the danger of consolidation of radical Islamists. The formation of alliances like the Frontier Area Taliban known as the TTP are troubling to the US, UK and Pakistan. The Taliban operating in Pakistan have shown a desire and a capacity to coordinate their operations across different factions. "
Prominent Canadian scholar and journalist Saleem Mansur also accused Pakistani Islamist parties in collusion with previous military regimes for polluting Pakistani society with jihad culture and making Pakistan center of across the world jihadist militants. He indeed described what is very similar to violent non-state actors' internal system dynamics: "The role of Pakistan as the strategic and tactical centre of the global jihad-complex, or jihad-incorporated - indoctrination, recruiting, training, equipping, financing, networking, etc. - is indisputable. "
It is pertinent to shade some light on subject matter covert threats. There are more than 45 Deobandi and 20 Ahl-e-Hadith (Wahabi/Salafist) registered parties in Pakistan . There are 17 JI related parties and factions. Not all of these parties participate in elections; most of these form electoral alliances with either JI or JUI or publicly support these two major Islamist parties. The organizations as listed by Amir Rana, are categorized by type: political, sectarian, jihadist, proselytizing and educationist, but with same agendas and ideologies .

SECT/SCHOOL OF THOUGHT

POLITICAL

SECTARIAN

MILITANT

EDUCATIONAL/

MISSIONARY

TOTAL

Deobandi

4

33

5

3

45

Barelvi

6

22

13

2

43

Ahl-e-Hadith

4

10

3

3

20

Shia

3

16

3

1

23

JI and its

Factions

3

-

4

7

17

Others

4

1

76

10

91

Total

24

82

104

26

239

*


Islamist parties' support to jihadist militant groups is not an unusual phenomenon across Muslim majority countries. Whether it's the case of relationship between Algerian Islamic Salvation Front and Islamist terrorist group "Armed Islamic Group" (GIA) and Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (SGPC); Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Islamic Group (Gammat Islamiya); Indonesian Nahdlatul Ulama and Jemmah Islamiya; Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas; Jamaat-e-Islami India and Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI); Boko Haram in Nigeria; Islamic Court Union and its splinter group Al-Shabab; Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant; Islamist parties' conglomerate Peshawar Seven - which in later years gave birth to Taliban - ; Uzbek Renaissance Party, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Islamic Jihad Union : all these parties have one way or other a relationship with Islamist radical groups. Either Islamist terrorist organizations are born out of Islamist parties or splinter groups. Islamist parties maintain relations with these splinter groups and, in case of Pakistan, avoid condemning their acts of violence.  
Clandestinely supporting or being sympathetic to the cause of these groups is always a key policy measure to build up pressure against the state. It is also true that in most of the countries, Islamist parties in Muslim majority are in no position to come into power by means of popular vote. Therefore, their hatred for democracy and one-man-one-vote system is understandable. A glaring example is of Pakistan where Islamist parties have time and again tried every possible democratic measure such as electoral alliances, costly election campaigns, marketing and adverting campaign about their manifestos, and use of other media. All these measures have so far gone in vain, despite of the fact that Islamist parties are better organized and disciplined  than secular and nationalist political parties. Thus, these splinter groups provide a cushion to Islamist parties for developing a strong pressure tactic against government to grind their axes. Islamist parties usually offer their services for negotiations, mediations and arbitration of issues between government and Islamist violent non-state actors, which at times quite useful for these parties in order to enhance their influence.


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