OF RELIGION AND POLITICS – Infighting over SIC’s involvement in politics


LAHORE – Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) is facing differences within the alliance over its future strategy. The SIC chairman-led Markazi Jamiat Ulema Pakistan, Sunni Tehrik and Nizam-e-Mustafa Party, an offshoot of JUP-N, are pushing for a greater role in politics while Jamat-e-Ahlesunnat Pakistan, the leadership of Tanzim-ul-Madaris and others are vehemently opposing the idea. Some small parties of the Ittehad are sitting on the fence.
The SIC, an alliance of 23 parties of the Barelvi school of thought, is pitted against the Taliban on the ideological front. Nine months ago when terrorists attacked Data Darbar, SIC Chairman Haji Fazl-i-Karim, an MNA elected on a PML-N ticket from Faisalabad, without mincing words, directly blamed the Punjab government’s negligence for the event. He crossed a line in the sand when he demanded the resignation of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sana Ullah (hailing from Faisalabad as well) for his unholy alliance with terrorist organisations. This was the clear indication of Fazl’s frayed relations with the Sharif brothers. In the beginning, the Punjab government tried to woo its old ally but at the end left him to his own devices.
Thus, Fazl-e-Karim had no other option but to use SIC as a launchpad for his political agenda. In concert with his faithful allies, he even announced the commencement of the political role of SIC in the next general election, while speaking at the Ulema-o-Mashaikh Convention held at I-slamabad convention centre in October 2010. He and his accomplice pledged outside Data Darbar on November 2010 that SIC will contest the coming election under the slogan of Ya-Rasool-Allah and, in a convention being held at Minar-e-Pakistan, will reveal the manifesto of the organisation and candidates for the next general election.
This assertion provoked strong reaction within the SIC. Firstly, they changed the date of the convention which was due to be held on March 23. The cancellation was announced under the pretext of the Cricket World Cup quarterfinal. They set April 17 as the new date for the convention but apparently, this grace period did not work as perceived. Leadership of Jamaat-e-Ahlesunnat (perceived by some as the backbone of SIC) is shying from the position and attempting to decipher the intentions of its chairman and secretary general. They dubbed this their ‘constitutional restraint’, as Jamaat-e-Ahlesunnat (JeA) is a non-political party.
This attitude attracted harsh criticism of the leaders of JeA. In response to this, JeA warned their workers, “Some of our ‘friends’ are those who have not any constitution or manifesto, thus they are the contractors of the Ahlesunnat. Their imprudence, by causing frenzy, can damage both the state and the nation. Therefore beware of them.” This is only an example of why the central committee has only four members, the remaining positions have remained unfilled for two years due to divisions within, sources opined. Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (Noorani), who wholeheartedly attended the founding sessions of SIC, has deemed Haji Fazl-e-Karim to be controversial.
When Pakistan Today contacted JUP Secretary General Qari Zawar Bahadar to discuss the issue, he said, “This man (Haji Fazl) first stabbed Maulana Ahmed Saeed Kazmi, the father of Hamid Saeed Kazmi, ex religious minister, by accusing him of misappropriation and then came the turn of Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani. Fazl then made Markazi Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan to ditch JUP-Noorani, then joined Maulana Abdassttar Niazi’s JUP faction and some time later, announced the ouster of Maulana Niazi from the party. How will the followers of these personalities accept such person as the leader of Sawad-i-Azam (Sunni’s)?”
Markazi Jamat-e-Ahlesunnat (MJA) is another party which is ‘visibly’ not favouring the political role of SIC. MJA Ameer Pir Mian Abdul Khaliq Bharchondvi has aligned himself with JUP-Noorani. He is heading the five members committee of JUP-N, who is responsible for the central election being held on May 22. On Wednesday, Pir Bharchondvi issued a statement in which he asked the SIC leadership in clear terms that he and his party had no intention to attend the convention being held atMinar-e-Pakistan.
Ruiat-e-Hilal Committee Chairman Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, Mufti Muhammad Khan Qadri of Karwan-e-Islam is among the bigwigs who oppose the political role of SIC. The presence of this difference of opinion among the parties of SIC has forced the political hawks of SIC to benign their voices at least at this stage. Therefore, they use rhetoric to accommodate all stakeholders instead of taking a plunge into politics. They now plead with people to rise up against terrorism, to save shrines of saints, to enforce Nizam-e-Mustafa and to protect the respect of Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH).
When Pakistan Today contacted SIC Secretary General Haji Hanif Tayyab, he said, “Whenever Sunni organisations form an alliance, they end up playing a political role. Sometimes, emergency matters demand immediate attention, such as desecration of the Quran, bomb blasts at shrines and the Raymond Davis issue. This brings the impression that there is no political agenda of SIC. Nevertheless we will play a political role as well but the announcement of the candidates for general election will not be announced at the Minar-e-Pakistan Convention.”