Somewhere in the early 1980s I walked into the Markazi Urdu Board Library in Seokarno Square, Peshawar. I was there to see the librarian, Maulana Fazle Ma’bood, a family friend, neighbour, and the local emir of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). Between his usual white dastaar (headgear) and his flowing white beard was the omnipresent smile. But the man he was talking to had a stern look, which along with his dark Qaraqul (Jinnah) cap and a grey beard, made him look almost angry. I barely caught the name: Qazi sahib.
I was looking for a book by the JI founder Syed Abul Ala Maududi, which the always kind Maulana Ma’bood plucked from a shelf full of the prolific author’s works and handed over to me. As I stepped down and out of the staircase, I saw Qazi sahib walking towards a medical and radiology business concern, which they owned, just steps away from the library. I did not know then that this stern-looking but unassuming man would go on to become the third emir of the JI and, more importantly, the patriarch of transnational jihadism. He was Qazi Hussain Ahmad.
Qazi sahib was born in 1938 in the Kaka sahib village, Nowshera, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. He was named Husain Ahmad after the then president of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind (JuH), Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani, by his father Maulana Qazi Abdur Rabb sahib, who was the JuH’s provincial president. It is not known if Qazi Hussain Ahmad received any formal religious education other than the initial instruction from his father. He did his masters in Geography from the Peshawar University and around the same time enlisted in the student wing of the JI, the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT, or simply Jamiat) and then jumped through the mandatory hoops to become a JI member, eventually holding various leadership positions.
In late 1987, I joined the Khyber Medical College (KMC). One morning, we walked into the college and saw banners going up and boys and girls protesting. It turned out that the KMC Jamiat unit had fired upon a farewell party for the outgoing final year class, beaten several students to pulp, and ransacked the hall. The ‘decadent infidels’ had been vanquished. Jamiat violence on campus was nothing new, but what was interesting was that several IJT members would go missing from college for months on end. It later emerged that the Jamiat boys from the university were being dispatched to Afghanistan for jihad alongside the Mujahideen there. Recruitment and indoctrination sessions were going on in the university hostels. At least two of the Jamiat Nazims (presidents) from the KMC fought in Khost in that period. The war against the Soviets was raging; the Pashtuns were needed as cannon fodder and the JI decided to get a Pashtun face at the top. Qazi Hussain Ahmad was ‘elected’ the Jamaat-e-Islami’s emir that year.
One can disagree with Syed Maududi on political and doctrinal issues, but many concede that his intellect and scholarship remain beyond reproach. Even the late Mian Tufail Muhammad had a fabulously nuanced Urdu translation of Data Ganj Bakhsh’s Sufi masterpiece Kashf-ul-Mahjub under his belt. Qazi Hussain Ahmad could hardly claim a booklet to his credit and unlike the seasoned parliamentarian Professor Ghafoor Ahmed, whom he bypassed for the top slot, Qazi sahib was just a junior senator, having been appointed to the upper house under the military dictator Ziaul Haq in 1986. But he had what others did not: deep ties with the Afghan Ikhwani jihadists. He wrote: “From 1973 to 1977 I toured Afghanistan five times through different channels and it was due to these contacts that Burhanuddin Rabbani, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Maulvi Younas Khalis and their associates moved to Pakistan (to wage jihad)…many Arab Mujahideen came to Pakistan in the guise of clergy or businessmen of whom one was Osama bin Laden…after the fall of the USSR the world became unipolar and Osama bin Laden decided to shatter this myth.”
This newspaper was to later record in its March 20, 2006 editorial that Qazi sahib had admitted that bin Laden had met him several times, including at the JI headquarters at Mansoora, and was a great supporter of the rightwing alliance IJI. Most of us from Peshawar recall the JI and Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami being joined at the hip and Qazi sahib and Hekmatyar holding joint public meetings there. After the fall of Khost (though not to Gulbuddin) Qazi sahib was the second Pakistani leader to drive there, the other one being General Asad Durrani. When the Mujahideen infighting started, the Pakistani security establishment tapped Qazi sahib’s good offices to mediate between Ahmad Shah Massoud and Hekmatyar. But what is less known is that Iran also asked Qazi sahib to facilitate this truce. It is believed that after the US attack on Afghanistan, Qazi sahib may have helped Hekmatyar get sanctuary in Iran. Afghanistan was not the only front that the JI operated on under Qazi sahib. Amir-ul-Azeem was given charge of coordinating jihad in Kashmir. Similarly, Qazi sahib welcomed jihadists from Sudan, Chechnya and Bosnia, and he did fundraising tours for such transnational jihadist missions.
Qazi Hussain Ahmed remained a parliamentarian under two military dictators but constitutional or theological pursuits were not quite his forte. Having been expelled from the then State of Swat, where he was a Geography lecturer at the Jehanzeb College, by the Wali (ruler) for subversive activities, Qazi sahib remained wedded to a life of protest, under state patronage that is. He quit the Senate in 1996 and published a 35-page roadmap called The Pakistan We Want. The pamphlet — chockfull of generics — is not even a pale shadow of the topnotch volumes Syed Maududi had produced. Qazi sahib was an abject failure in his long marches and populist agitation as inside parliament. I met him last during the botched APDM movement.
Jamaat-e-Islami became intellectually poorer under his leadership and also ceded domestic political turf to the Deobandi and Salafi upstarts. It is unlikely that the JI will regain it position as the preeminent urban religio-political force in Pakistan. Stoking the fire of civil wars in Afghanistan and beyond, which eventually spilled over into Pakistan, would perhaps remain his greatest legacy. But even on these grounds more rigid and fierce jihadists are steadily outmanoeuvring the JI. Qazi Hussain Ahmad the patriarch of the transnational jihadists died on January 6, 2012: Surely to God we belong and to Him shall we return.
Source: Daily Times