By Nayyer Khan
Both Jamat-e-Islami and Pakistan’s deep state were looking for a charismatic character, who had a glitz of the Western culture and a mindset of an Islamist. One senior memeber of Jamat-e-Islami, namely Hafizullah Niazi effectively solved this problem by finding the right person for this job. He happened to be the brother-in-law of Cricket’s super star, male sex symbol and Casanova of International repute, Imran Khan.
The Jamaat Islami (JI) won Pakistan state’s patronage to be given a role in home politics for the first time during the brief, yet eventful tenure of military ruler Yahya Khan, when designing of state’s vital policy matters was assigned to then minister for Information and National Affairs, Major General Sher Ali Khan. Yahya Khan was no different from his predecessors – starting from Jinnah to Ayub Khan – who were hardly observant of Islamic practices in their personal lives; but had used political Islam as a major tool for defining national identity and nation-building. They wished to keep militant Islamism under control to prevent it from destabilizing domestic politics; yet direct it against India and also to use it to counter the leftist and nationalist dominant trends that were at the time working against what they deemed the Islamic ideology underpinning the state. In Sher Ali’s scheme of things the “ideology of Pakistan and glory of Islam” became pet words of our military leadership, which projected the army itself as ultimate defender of the ‘ideology of Pakistan’. Learning the lesson from public agitation against Ayub Khan, Sher Ali convinced Yahya that army should maintain its mythical image before the people as a final savior of the nation whenever national interests so demanded and, therefore, control the national politics from behind the scene; to avoid any situation in which people of Pakistan would ever confront the army directly. For this purpose a weak political government was needed to arise from the first general elections in Pakistan, scheduled to take place by the end of 1970, to be used as a fig leaf to army’s oligarchy.
As per Sher Ali plans the results of the polls were not to be manipulated during; but before the polls by providing the state’s assistance to religio-political parties – especially JI – in shape of financial and propaganda support. The substantial funds of Ayub Khan’s faction of the Muslim League confiscated by the Yahya’s Martial law regime were diverted to JI, in addition to money raised by IB from the industrialists and business class to fund the election campaign of Islamic parties (Hasan Zaheer ‘The Separation of East Pakistan’ Oxford University Press. pp 124-125). Funds were also poured in JI’s pouch by the Saudi government as well as Saudi sponsored Rabita al-Alam al-Islami.