LAHORE - Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan is set to choose its chief for next five-year through a direct election process starting from January’s second week.

The 100-member executive body (Majlis-i-Shoora) of the JI will meet on January 4-5-6 and suggest three names for the next Amir (chief) for the guidance of the members. But, each member has the right to vote for any other person apart from the Shoora’s proposed names.

Along with incumbent chief Sirajul Haq, some members of the JI also predict Dr Merajul Huda Siddiqui from Karachi, Professor Ibrahim Khan from KP and Liaqat Baloch from Lahore as the strong candidate for the next JI chief.

Over 40,000 members (Rukn) of the Jamaat will vote for the new chief and the entire process of voting and counting will be kept secret.

Asadullah Bhutto, a senior leader of the JI, has been appointed election commissioner to conduct the polls and he will be assisted by three or four members to look after the entire process.

The election commission will start sending ballot papers to members from next month. The ballots will be collected at JI’s district offices and from where they will be sent to JI head office Mansora Lahore. The process will complete before  March 31, the day the tenure of incumbent chief is going to be expired. The election commissioner will announce the winner candidate on the same day but without mentioning the winner’s number of votes. The new chief will take oath as the JI Amir in first week of April at Mansora Mosque.

Founded in 1941 by a known Pan-Islamist religious scholar Syed Adul Ala Maududi, the JI’s intra-party election has always received appreciation from international and local observers. The Jamaat is perhaps the only political and religious party in the country which conducts intra-party election on regular basis.

The 2019’s election would be the 10th poll after the separation of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1971. The JI spilt into JI Hind and JI Pakistan after 1947 and JI Bangladesh in 1971.

After Syed Maududi, his most trusted aid Mian Tufail Muhammad served as JI chief three times from 1972 to 1987. Qazi Hussain Ahmed was the third chief of the JI who had been elected four times from 1987 to 2008. He was succeeded by Syed Munawar Hassan who served as JI head from 2008 to 2013. Hassan was followed by the incumbent Sirajul Haq whose tenure will end on March 31.

Some JI members who spoke on condition of anonymity to The Nation predicted the continuation of Sirajul Haq for next five years as the JI chief but they were not complete sure about it.

“The JI badly failed to attract people and even lost its existing base camps during the tenure of Siraj sahib,” said members.

They cited examples of the recent elections in which the JI even failed to secure couple of seats in KP and Karachi. Similarly, they added that JI’s ‘Corruption Free Pakistan’ failed to get momentum despite the fact that a powerful anti-corruption movement continued in the country.

The Jamaat, they said, could secure only one national assembly and one provincial assembly seat from KP and it could also win only a single seat for Sindh Assembly from Karachi.

“These are not brightening examples and show bad performance of JI current leadership,” they said. Despite all this they said majority of JI voters see Sirajul Haq as a young and active leader whose honesty and dedication for the Jamaat and Pakistan was out of question.

This is worth to mention here that despite considered the most organised political-religio party and having roots in doctors, engineers, students, farmers, and labourers, the JI failed to inspire masses at large during its decades long popular politics in Pakistan. Emergence of the MQM in 1984 started eroding the JI vote by attracting the Urdu-speaking vote towards itself particularly in Karachi. Besides Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf which also snatch most of its vote bank in urban areas during last decade, the JI also lost its Brelvi vote bank to Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan.