The latest statement from the military blasting chief of the Jamaat-i-Islami Munawar Hasan for undermining the sacrifices made by the soldiers fighting terrorists has shocked many in the capital. The JI traditionally, has been the mouthpiece for the military during the 1980s Afghan jihad and fighting in Kashmir. It’s also established that the army had used the Jamaat’s street power to put democratic governments under pressure through controlled or sometimes out of control protests. It is also believed that there is a huge following of JI in the armed forces. Even the arrests of Al Qaeda leaders, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, from the residences of JI activists has not affected the military-JI relations in the past.
So, is it a signalling of sorts that the military is trying to portray itself as a national army now as compared to its earlier image of an ideological force whose notion of jihad is similar to Jamaat-i-Islami?
But what prompted this strong reaction by the military needs to be examined. Even pragmatic military rulers like Pervez Musharraf had to seek help from the JI to prolong his tenure. Then why is it that the Jamaat and the military are finding themselves at the crossroads today?
The issue of missing persons that began in 2006 started the rift between the traditional partners when JI followers that included lawyers approached the courts for the release of what they claimed were innocent civilians who were arrested by military intelligence agencies on the allegations of supporting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The courts took up the cases and started questioning the role of the military behind these forced disappearances. JI-backed lawyers were pressurised by the military to drop these cases and to stop pursuing the matter. But the cases continued, despite the fact that they did not reach their logical conclusions.