Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and Osama’s death

Analysis, posted 05.22.2011, from Pakistan, in:
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and Osama’s death (Photo: thehindu.com)

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI, "Ensemble of the Muslim Clerics") is a major religious-political party in Pakistan. Active in electoral politics, the party opposes modernization and advocates a Sharia-based system. The party is currently divided in three groups with the one led by Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman forming the bulk of its public support. 

This party has been part of coalition governments at federal and provincial levels. In 2002 elections, it won 53 out of 272 seats in the national assembly and formed government in the (then) NWFP province. Taliban gained strength in the tribal areas during that period due to tacit support of the clerical government. However, in 2008 elections, JUI could only win 7 seats in 342-strong National assembly. 

JUI uses strongly anti-US rhetoric, is considered close to Pakistan’s military establishment and a relentless campaigner to malign the war on terror. It has been a vocal supporter of Taliban though it stopped short of publicly supporting al-Qaeda. However, the party is no stranger to real politick. In December 2010, Wikileaks showed party leader Maulana Fazal ur Rehman hobnobbing with the USA. It possibly infuriated Al-Qaeda and their satellite outfits. Two suicide bombers attacked Maulana Fazal in January on two successive days in March 2011. 

On May 02, Maulana Fazal was in Brussels with a parliamentary delegation when the news about Osama’s killing arrived. He was obviously distraught, shocked and incoherent. He refused to comment on the commando operation. He was visibly impatient with the curious reporters. However, he said that this was regrettable. 

Then the so-called ideological group of his party offered religious prayer for Osama bin Laden in the National Assembly on May 10th. Members of Maulana’s own group joined the exercise. They had not been permitted by the Speaker of the house.

Maulana Fazal sensed that his opponents were succeeding in echoing the public sentiments. So his younger brother a former federal minister Maulana Ata Ur Rehman issued a statement that the Abbottabad Operation was a stain on the rulers of Pakistan. Obviously, he was referring to the American Operation and ignoring Osama’s proven presence in Pakistan. 

Soon After, his party was taking out public rallies to condemn Osama’s killing and to call him a martyr.

Apparently, the strategy of this religio-political party was to let the storm blow and then come out to play to the gallery in Pakistan by sloganeering against the USA.