Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fazlur Rehman: A Godly or Worldly Maulana?

The Taliban in Kandahar were urging people to come for the speech of Pakistan’s prominent religious leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman to the city’s Eid Gah (a place where Muslims offer only Eid prayers). They were making these announcements till late night in 1999, a day before the Eid-ul-Azha-(a ritual when Muslims sacrifice animals), on the muddy streets of Kandahar from mobile loudspeakers fixed on motor cars. 

Maulana Rehman's scheduled speech had been advertized in madrassas (religious seminaries) in Pakistan well before Eid. Restaurants and chai khanas (tea shops) in Kandahar were full of Arab 'guests' and Taliban on the eve of Eid.
Two things attracted tens of thousands of Taliban and their followers to Kandahar for the occasion. One was the speech of the Maulana, who is leader of Pakistan’s religious party Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam (JUI) and member of Pakistan’s lower house since 1988. And second, they were lured that Eid prayers would be led by ‘Amir-ul-Momineen’ Mullah Omar, then leader of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
"Afghanistan is a true model of a Muslim state," the Maulana told the gathering at the Eid Gah, a walled ground spread over a 100-acre land (Taliban boasted it to be the biggest Eid Gah in Asia). While the sturdy Maulana offered his Eid prayers in the leadership of reclusive Mullah Omar, the hundreds of vehicles standing outside the Eid Gah were carrying black & white striped flags of the JUI and Afghan Taliban’s white flags, showing how deeply intertwined Afghan Taliban and the Maulana's faction of JUI were. The event went unreported in Pakistani as well as international media though a reference was made to the gathering in a brief documentary of a Japanese TV, NHK.
The Maulana, also known in Pakistan as Maulana Diesel for having sought diesel supply contracts from the government of Pakistan as quid pro quo for supporting the slain Benezir Bhutto's government, was then about 46-year old. Now in June 2011 he will turn 58 (if the reported June 19, 1953 is his birthday). The question is whether his Mullah Omar-led model of a Muslim state still stands valid after a span of a turbulent 12 years. Pakistan’s former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf thought he hasn’t. The former general charged him in October 2001 with sedition for inciting people against the armed forces of Pakistan and overthrowing the government after a US-led military campaign was launched in Afghanistan.
This short and direct clash with Pakistan’s military establishment changed into what media termed as Mullah Military Alliance, a decoded name of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)--a coalition of Pakistan’s traditionally pro-military religious organizations. The coalition’s biggest ever score in Pakistan’s parliamentary elections in 2002 made Maulana Rehman a serious contender for the post of premiership. Though opposition parties termed MMA’s electoral success as ‘doctored’ but the allegations didn't stop it from forming its majority government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP) and a coalition government in Balochistan province. The critics then said empowering Afghan Taliban’s Pakistani masters in the Pashtun border regions was part of military strategy. Most of the Afghan Taliban made their safe havens during MMA rule (2002-2006) in Pashtuns’ borderlands from north to south near Afghan border. A syndicate of Pakistani militants was formed under different names led by different men. Maulana Fazlullah, leader of the Swat Taliban, Maulvi Faqir Muhmmad of Bajaur, Naik Muhammad Wazir of Waziristan and Maulana Nur Mohammad in Pashtun pockets of Baluchistan, until then almost non-entities, got their names in the media. They lived in peace, kept a low profile and reconciled with government on some occasions during MMA rule in the strategic northwest of Pakistan.   However, they got violent after MMA lost power.
A critical view of Maulana Rehman presents a gallery of his political somersaults, thanks to Pakistan’s sensational Urdu press. He openly opposed General Zia's martial law, though his madrassas provided foot-soldiers to the US-funded jehad (holy war) in Afghanistan against the then Soviet Union. Contrary to his peers in religious circles, he supported Benazir Bhutto on Pakistan’s volatile political landscape in late 1980s. That was a step even still considered as a religious taboo among the right-wingers and an antithesis of what his late father Mufti Mehmood stood for. Mr Mehmood led an anti-Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto campaign in the mid-1970s. Mrs Bhutto’s alliance with Maulana Rehman too was contrary to her father’s politics.
At times, Maulana Rehman sounded a pragmatic religious leader. His actions and decisions show he believes in political pragmatism and worldly prosperity. The WikiLeaks says he desired for becoming the prime minister of Pakistan, a state known as a major non-Nato US ally. He aligned his party’s interests with Pakistan military's interests, replacing Jamaat-e-Islami--a life-long bed-fellow of the army. He quit central government recently but kept intact his coalition government in Baluchistan and some positions at the center.
The Maulana gave party membership to rich right-wingers and opportunists in the last eight years and some even were elected MPs and became ministers. During his chairmanship of parliamentary committees at different intervals, he allegedly collected funds for running party politics. He, like many other political parties of Pakistan--PPP, PML(N), ANP--loves to lead his party himself. He encouraged matrimonial bonds of his family’s youngsters with financially sound families. His alleged involvement in a land scandal during Musharraf era explains how much he loves property and wealth. 

3 comments:

  1. Gulshan Ara, you have taken up a very pertinent topic. Pakistani media has become part of the proverbial holy cows; recently there were few, now they have become a herd, or we shall call it a pack because they prey. And they prey on the lonesome common man.
    I look forward to scathing, but objective analyses. Good luck!

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  2. A nicely written blog on one of the most visible hypocrite maulana in the country. Such people have always used masses in the name of religion for their own worldly benefits.
    Good work Gulshan Ara.

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  3. da mor da begharata waghma............der beghona khalak ee mrra krra....

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