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Mullah Ki Daud Masjid Tak: Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman’s run in Balochistan

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Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman of the Islamist political party Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) (Photo: Twitter)

Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman whipped up a storm in the politics of Balochistan through month-long protests engulfing various parts of Balochistan with Gwadar port city as the epicentre. The protests led to a definitive agreement signed by his ‘Gwadar Ko Haq Do’ movement and the Balochistan Government on 17 December 2021.

The maulana belongs to the Surbandar town of Gwadar and is the general-secretary, Balochistan Chapter, of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) - the most significant religious political party in Pakistan. He belongs to a fisherman’s family, where both his father and grandfather used to fish to sustain themselves, so it was natural for the maulana to sympathize with fishermen and poor people.

Rehman joined the Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba, a students’ wing of the JI and was involved in political activities of JI since 2003. Maulana has been a known figure in Gwadar for a long time and has been involved in highlighting people’s vows in the area. Like in 2016, he raised the issue of load-shedding in Gwadar, which even resulted in violent protests. 

Since 2021, Maulana has led various rallies over the issues of necessities like clean water, electricity, medical care, education, employment etc. and mobilized people for asking for their due rights, as he did in the 30 September 2021 rally.

Not just that, he has also held rallies against the drone surveillance on homes and curfew on fishing—the only source of income for thousands of families in Gwadar. The JI leader has gone to the extent of blaming the Frontier Corps (a paramilitary force) for rising terrorism in Balochistan. 

On 16th November 2021, he started the ‘Gwadar Ko Haq Do' movement with sit-in protests which received complete support from the civil society of not just Gwadar but other areas in Balochistan. The maulana raised hopes for the people of Balochistan who have been suffering for 75 years under Pakistani oppression. People from all walks of life—old, women and children joined the protests for the basic rights of life and finally after 31 days when no government intimidation worked and the news of the protests spread nationally and globally, an agreement was signed between the protestors and government. In all, it was a democratic movement from the people of Balochistan which sent a signal to Pakistan that the Baloch people can drop their struggle for independence provided their basic needs are met.

There is no doubt that it was a mass movement, but the maulana is also an astute politician.

The first politician that Rehman invited was JI chief Siraj-ul-Haq—the head of his party. On his very first appearance in Gwadar, the JI chief began by criticizing India and marking India as ‘our number one enemy’ and that it is harassing Indian Muslims. He also made references to Kashmir.

Initially, not many people paid attention to the statement or understood the politics of JI except Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur, who belongs to the Talpur royal family and had participated in the Balochistan freedom struggle during the 1970s. 

The Haq Do movement put up 17 demands to the Balochistan government which included fishing rights, elimination of check posts, recovery of missing people, cases against Maulana and the Haq Do movement to be withdrawn etc. Of the major demands, the government has suggested increasing the fishing periphery from 12 nautical miles limit to 30 nautical miles in the Balochistan’s sea and fishermen to be allowed into the sea without permission. The suggestion was tricky as the Balochistan Government jurisdiction only exists till 12 nautical miles as per Balochistan Sea Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1986 and it also meant impinging into the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Rehman was successful in persuading the government to remove unnecessary checkposts and cases filed against him and the Haq Do movement. But the most important demand over ‘enforced disappearances’ and the recovery of missing persons did not find mention in the agreement. This redline would have perturbed the Pakistani army. Though on 31 January 2022, Maulana reiterated his feeling about the missing persons and called for a long march till Quetta, which is yet to be completed.

The Haq Do movement garnered support from the Punjab Assembly and even politicians from PPP and PML(N) came to meet and extend their support.

Recently he threatened to close the Gwadar Port on 21st July as the Chinese trawlers could be seen fishing in the Balochistan sea while 20 lakh Baloch fishermen continue to suffer. So, the question is if Rehman is still struggling with his demands, what was achieved from the protests?

The maulana comfortably won the Local Bodies Elections in May 2022. The Haq Do movement won 60 seats mainly from the towns of Pasni, Pishukan, Ormara, Jiwani—which were a hotbed during the Gwadar protests. But this election is unique, as no political party could bag as many seats. The independents bagged most seats at 1,250, followed by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) with 250 and the third was the Balochistan Awami Party (current ruling party) with 140 seats.

During the Gwadar protests, I had a chance to talk to Parbat Sachdev, JI minority leader from Balochistan. He said that even as a minority he joined JI because none of the political parties has worked for the development of Balochistan and that is the reason he sees scope that people will vote for the JI. Parbat also stated that the Gwadar protests were not intended for garnering electoral support but surely the JI will benefit in the elections which has certainly happened.

Giving credit to Maulana for his honest fight will be too gracious; he is a politician after all, being in JI for almost 20 years now. Rehman wanted to cash in his reputation and mileage from protests; he didn’t fight elections under the JI banner but rather under the Haq Do movement. While his mother party, the JI, too fought the elections but garnered seven seats only. 

This was a strategic move because Baloch politics has always been dominated by national and regional parties rather than religious ones, which is also one of the primary reasons why Balochistan was always subjugated by Punjab and the Pakistani army. With continuous insurgency movements, the army always had an upper hand to deal with the security situation. Balochistan is Pakistan’s most deprived region which the common people have felt for generations. This is what triggered the Baloch to support Rehman.

He has played smart. He understood Balochistan politics well which is the reason he didn’t contest elections on the JI card but under the Haq Do movement. Initially, his Facebook page and Twitter profile talked about him as the General-Secretary of the JI, Balochistan chapter, but all that has disappeared now though the JI website clearly states his rank and profile.

Currently, the JI is the ruling party in Balochistan but the Maulana still had to go to great lengths and launch a big campaign. Ironically, he couldn’t ask the representatives of his own party in power to bring redemption to the issues which people are face daily.

Baloch National Movement (BNM) Chairman Dr Naseem Baloch says, “Maulana gained popularity by ‘Gwadar Haq Do Tehreek’ which was a group of different ideologies. It gathered thousands of people with the slogan of the release of missing persons, ending humiliation of people at army check posts and Iran-Balochistan border trade, trawling, against shortage of drinking water in Gwadar etc. The maulana also knew that people had no faith in the JI. In the beginning, Maulana had very secular and nationalist slogans. So people believed in him. Maulana is not a man of words, Pakistan and JI both have intentions to impose fundamentalism here, but now the people are aware. A vast majority of Makuran is secular”.

Now that people have supported him, the maulana is beginning to slowly open up his religious agenda. Some of the examples which point towards Rehman’s Islamist agenda include urging his supporters to join the JI, a party which the Baloch have been keeping away from.

In another interview, he criticized the University of Balochistan for allowing boys and girls to sit together, while during his Haq Do movement, he had no objection to thousands of women protestors marching and staging sit-ins in Gwadar port city.

Maulana has also reiterated JI's chief statements and attacked India and Bangladesh. He even called Baloch to join jihad.

Mullah ki daud Masjid tak is a local proverb which fits well for Rehman. The proverb means that a person can go only to the extent where his access lasts. He is professionally an Islamic teacher and is affiliated with the JI—an Islamic party since his student days. With the electoral success in Balochistan, Rehman has completed his circle of vicious politics—starting from Islamism to secularism and back to Islamism. Now that he has successfully practised his art of deception, he will continue with the same antics till he reaches his next goal—become a member of the Balochistan assembly and rise higher in Balochistan politics. Unless the people understand his brand of deception and Islamic politics.

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