Perhaps the only thing Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) can be congratulated for is the culture of democracy within the religio-political party. After every five years, ordinary party members make themselves heard by electing the man they wish to be led by. That being said, it is hardly ever a nail-biting contest between individuals nominated for the position of “Emir”. The result is always foreseeable, as in the case of Mian Tufail Muhammad, Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Munawar Hasan. Another pattern that repeats itself is the re-election of the sitting Emir. This time, however, the party-members broke away from tradition by showing the sitting Emir, Mr Hasan, the door and instead elected the current KPK Finance Minister, Mr Siraj-ul-Haq. It is important to mention that Mr Hasan had expressed his unwillingness to further lead the party despite being nominated. And because of that, it is difficult to ascertain whether party-members expressed their displeasure with his leadership or merely fulfilled their chief’s request.

Whatever the case may be, a new man sits at the top now. But, what’s exactly new about Mr Siraj-ul-Haq other than being the new Emir? It is quite tempting to attribute change with the arrival of new personalities, however, that is not always the case, especially in ideology-based parties such as the JI. Mr Siraj-ul-Haq may be more subtle, more flexible and even more likeable as compared to his predecessor, but such desirable personality traits can only produce limited results. The problem with Jamaat is not just the words that slip out its leaders’ mouths every now and then, but the thoughts in their heads that makes them say those outrageous things. If Mr Siraj-ul-Haq holds the same views as Mr Hasan, which most believe that he does, and the only distinction between the two lies in the former’s ability to present his case better, sugar-coat words otherwise impossible to swallow, then perhaps there is no reason to open the champagne bottle just yet.

Jamaat possesses serious street power, puts religion at the center of its politics and is reputed to be led by incorruptible men. And still, the voters repeatedly hesitate to display their appreciation in elections for all of that good stuff. Clearly, something isn’t working for the party. It never has. Mr Siraj-ul-Haq will have to seriously contemplate the reason for the Jamaat’s consistent failures, and act accordingly. Reform, at times, requires complete annihilation before anything is rebuilt. Luckily for Mr Siraj-ul-Haq, the time for that hasn’t come yet. Or has it?