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The custodian of Darul Uloom Haqqania

Samiul Haq, considered a hardliner, believed in democracy, opposed taking up arms against the state and advocated a peaceful struggle for enforcement of Shariah

The custodian of Darul Uloom Haqqania

Nearly a week after Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Sami (JUI-S) head Maulana Samiul Haq’s assassination at his Rawalpindi residence, there is no clue yet about the identity of the killers.

The 81-year-old religious leader was brutally stabbed to death in the evening of November 2 when he was alone at home. His trusted, long-time secretary-cum-driver, Ahmad Shah, had gone outside to buy groceries at that time. His original home was Akora Khattak in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Nowshera district, but his family said he used to travel to Rawalpindi’s Bahria Town almost every week to stay at his house to do his writing work in solitude.

His eldest son, Maulana Hamidul Haq, filed the first information report with the police against unknown killers. At a press conference later, he ruled out the possibility of personal enmity as the motive behind his father’s murder. He was reacting to certain media reports that mentioned personal enmity as the likely cause of the murder.

In fact, Hamidul Haq and other JUI-S leaders pointed accusing fingers at the Afghan and Indian intelligence agencies for involvement in Samiul Haq’s assassination. They asked the government to unearth the conspiracy behind the incident and apprehend and punish the killers and masterminds.

Police officials in Rawalpindi have been telling the media that they are investigating the murder from different angles, including the involvement of foreign elements, the role of militants hostile to him, the possibility of personal enmity, etc. Officials said Samiul Haq was offered security guards, but he declined the offer. His Rawalpindi house didn’t have any security and there was no private guard protecting him.

The security cameras installed by the Bahria Town management could provide a clue about the two suspects who reportedly came on a motorbike to kill the Maulana. Shahryar Afridi, the minister of state for interior, said recently that the investigation is in the preliminary stage. This means it would take time as working out a blind murder could be quite challenging.

A number of religious figures have been assassinated in Pakistan in the past so it came as no surprise when Samiul Haq was murdered. However, it was probably the first time that killers used knives to murder a religious leader instead of simply and quickly shooting him dead with a gun or pistol. The brutality of the killers who repeatedly stabbed the elderly cleric in the chest, face and shoulder and left him in a pool of blood showed that they wanted to inflict on him a painful death. It appeared to be a revengeful attack meant to send a dire warning to others with the same ideas and goals.

It isn’t true as widely claimed that Afghan Taliban supreme leader Mulla Mohammad Omar also studied at his madrassa… All claims about Samiul Haq’s influence on the Taliban were exaggerated and it was incorrect to refer to him as the ‘Father of Taliban’. He couldn’t bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiations table.

Following his death, Samiul Haq’s family members have been assigned to carry forward his political and religious legacy. His son Hamidul Haq, who served as member of the National Assembly after winning the Nowshera district seat in the 2002 general election on the ticket of the six-party religio-political alliance, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), inherited his political legacy as he was named as the acting head of the JUI-S.

The religious legacy passed on to Samiul Haq’s younger brother, Maulana Anwarul Haq, who would now be the custodian of the Darul Uloom Haqqania. Hamidul Haq, who also teaches at the seminary like Anwarul Haq, would be his deputy. The leadership of both the party and the seminary would remain in the hands of the family and it isn’t something surprising as most political parties and even other institutions are now run by families.

Samiul Haq had become the custodian of Darul Uloom Haqqania, one of the biggest and oldest madrassas in Pakistan, in 1988 after the death of his father Maulana Abdul Haq, who had founded it in September 1947 in his native town Akora Khattak. Abdul Haq had been a student of Darul Uloom Deoband, but was unable to return to his alma mater after partition of India and independence of Pakistan. He decided to set up a madrassa on the lines of Darul Uloom Deoband. In due course of time, it became well-known and studying there was considered a matter of prestige for the religious students. Its graduates proudly started adding Haqqani to their names.

Abdul Haq later entered politics, contested for the National Assembly seat from Nowshera and won easily against candidates of major political parties. He was known for his religious knowledge and piety and was popular among the electorate. Abdul Haq was part of the undivided JUI and was a colleague of Maulana Mufti Mahmood, the father of Maulana Fazlur Rehman and a top opposition leader during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s rule.

In subsequent years, the JUI split into two factions, mostly due to personality clashes between Fazlur Rehman and Samiul Haq. Their two factions were named after them. Fazlur Rehman’s faction, JUI-Fazl (JUI-F), was bigger with a solid vote-bank in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. In fact, it is still the biggest Islamic party in Pakistan as it is even bigger than the Jamaat-i-Islami.

In comparison, the JUI-Sami (JUI-S), is much smaller and has been unable to win any national or provincial assembly seat on its own. The few assembly seats that it won in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the 2002 election was the result of the JUI-S being part of the MMA, which brought together all major religio-political parties and helped pool their votes instead of dividing whatever vote-bank they had. The anti-US sentiment that swept parts of Pakistan due to the post-9/11 American invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 to topple the Afghan Taliban regime also helped the MMA cause as it spoke out against the US and exploited the pro-Islam feelings.

The octogenarian Samiul Haq wasn’t an important politician or among the leading religious scholars, but he drew his strength from Darul Uloom Haqqania. Many known Afghan and Pakistani Taliban leaders had studied at his madrassa and respected Samiul Haq and their other teachers. However, it isn’t true as widely claimed that Afghan Taliban supreme leader Mulla Mohammad Omar also studied at his madrassa. Samiul Haq remained steadfast in supporting first the Afghan mujahideen in the war against the Soviet occupying forces and then the Taliban when they began resisting the presence of US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan. However, it didn’t mean that the Afghan Taliban took instructions from Samiul Haq.

All claims about his influence on the Taliban were exaggerated and it was incorrect to refer to him as the ‘Father of Taliban’. He couldn’t bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiations table despite repeated requests by the Afghan government or meetings with Western diplomats who believed he could persuade the Taliban to join the Afghan peace process. For most Taliban who studied at his madrassa, their relationship with Samiul Haq was that of a teacher and student.

Samiul Haq also tried and failed to deliver when prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 2013-2014 requested him to use his influence on the Pakistani Taliban to reach a peaceful settlement for ending the conflict in the country. He led the team representing the Taliban in the peace talks with a government appointed committee, but the effort collapsed as the militants were divided and were making unrealistic demands and the army wasn’t fully on board.

Though Samiul Haq was a hardliner in context of his religious beliefs and politics, he believed in democracy and his party regularly contested elections. He opposed taking up arms against the state and advocated a peaceful struggle for enforcement of Shariah in Pakistan. He twice remained member of the Senate and upheld the national interest in the face of internal and external threats. He publicly endorsed the anti-polio vaccination campaign and signed a ‘Fatwa’ in its support despite being aware that the Pakistani militants had violently opposed the drive.

Samiul Haq used his religious clout to get successive governments to accept his demands. In 2016, he managed to convince the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to provide a grant of Rs300 million for Darul Uloom Haqqania and got a promise for another installment of Rs275 million. Though Imran Khan defended the move by arguing that this would help streamline madrassa education with the country’s education sector, this wasn’t true as other madrassas didn’t receive such a huge grant.

Samiul Haq also tried to win a seat in the Senate election in March 2018 by making a pre-election alliance with the PTI, but he didn’t get the desired support and was defeated. His successors too would be drawing strength from Darul Uloom Haqqania in politics, but it is doubtful if they would be able to emulate Samiul Haq.

Rahimullah Yusufzai

rahimullah yusufzai
The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. He can be reached at [email protected]

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