However, according to Maulana Akbar, a Karachi-based spokesperson for the Jamaat, Jameel’s activities have the organisation’s consent.
Akbar denied that Jameel’s recent meetings had left the impression that he was dabbling in politics. “Everything he does is with the consultation and approval of the Tablighi Jamaat’s shura.”
Jameel spoke at a peace rally led by clerics and also met with representatives of political parties. His itinerary included speeches in Lyari, Azizabad and Banaras Chowk.
The Tablighi Jamaat says it has no role in politics or the government.
The preacher also visited Nine Zero, the Muttahida Quami Movement’s (MQM) headquarters. According to MQM’s Wasay Jalil, “The visit was arranged by Jamia Binoria’s Mufti Mohammad Naeem as Jameel had expressed a desire to visit Nine Zero.” Jalil said the preacher did not speak about politics and kept the discussion limited to religious teachings and prayers.
According to Akbar, “Maulana Tariq Jameel was called on by Karachi’s ulema to address the situation of divisions on ethnic and nationalistic lines by using the teachings of the Holy Quran. His meetings at Nine Zero and public addresses were a part of that.”
He emphatically declared that “there were and are no plans for Maulana Tariq Jameel entering politics”.
While the Jamaat’s official stance is that Jameel is acting with its approval, the preacher has become a celebrity in his own right. As one of the Jamaat’s most prominent figures, he was responsible for bringing in former musician Junaid Jamshed and several cricketers to the Jamaat’s fold.
Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies Director Amir Rana disputes Akbar’s statement. “I believe Maulana Tariq Jameel is doing this in his individual capacity,” he told The Express Tribune. “Because he has a lot of influence on the bureaucracy as well as people like Junaid Jamshed, they try to involve Jameel in these activities.”
The Jamaat, which prefers to stay out of the public limelight, reportedly once stopped Jameel from addressing the annual congregation at Raiwind, for fear of cultivating a personality cult. Akbar said it was possible this occurred as the Jamaat’s shura – which comprises experienced elders – consults and decides on who will address the congregation. Rana said the issue of Jameel’s meetings with politicians was taken up in the past by the Jamaat’s elders, but he does not believe Jameel will try to seek a role in politics.
Akbar diplomatically praised Jameel’s gift of speech and said his recent meetings were nothing new, since Jameel’s “counsel” has been sought by several politicians, including former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Shaukat Aziz, as well as former Sindh chief minister Arbab Rahim.
Tablighi Jamaat members have tried to intervene in the political process before. One notable example is the failed coup attempt in 1995 by army officers who wanted to install the caliphate system in Pakistan. Several of the plotters were members of the Jamaat.
Jameel also played a role in the campaign against the Women’s Protection Bill. Weeks after the bill was passed in 2006, he told then-president Musharraf that certain clauses contravened the Holy Quran and Sunnah. According to news reports published at the time, Musharraf decided to consult with other religious scholars after Jameel voiced his concerns.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2011.