LAHORE: Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan is expanding its top decision-making body, the 60-member Majlis-e-Shura (Upper Council), by adding 11 female members to it. For the first time in its 74-year-old history, the JI will be giving women their share in the party’s decision making. For this purpose, the constitution of the party was amended at the Shura meeting recently held at Mansoora. The female members to become part of Shura will be elected by direct vote of the party’s women workers.

The move is considered very progressive in contemporary times, considering the fact that Islamist parties in Pakistan and all over the world hardly give women any representation in decision making. It also improves the public image of religious parties and also refutes the West’s view that women are not given any rights in Islamist organisations.

Samia Raheel Qazi, female leader of the JI and daughter of party’s former chief late Qazi Hussain Ahmed, told The Nation that 10 female members of the Shura would be elected through direct voting of the party’s women workers. “Out of 26,000 JI members in Pakistan, 4,000 are females and they will directly vote for the Shura’s women representatives,” she said. “Jamaat-e-Islami Women Wing secretary general would be the 11th member of the Shura,” Samia explained.

When asked who the popular candidates are, she said it is up to the voters to decide. “The voters will decide suitable candidates,” she said. 

Samia, being an advocate of women representation in political matters, however, was not in favour of fielding female candidates on general seats in elections for national or provincial assemblies. “There is no bar in the constitution for women contesting on general seats. However, our environment doesn’t suit women to take part in elections. JI women workers will contest on general seats when there is suitable environment,” she was of the view. According to sources in the party, expected members of the Shura will be Samia Raheel Qazi, Durdana Siddiqui, Dr Firdaus Kausar, Dr Humaira Tariq, Ayesha Syed, Ayesha Munawar and Dr Rukhsana Jabeen.

On a query whether the party’s members from the religious minorities would also be included in the Shura, JI central leader and spokesperson for the party, Ameerul Azeem, said Jamaat could consider the option for giving them representation in the near future. The party had been having minorities’ representation for many years, but the minority wing was formally established last year, he added. Since the election of Sirajul Haq as the party chief, Jamaat’s style of politics has been rapidly changing. About four months back, a party meeting was held at Minar-e-Pakistan to which prominent personalities from all minorities were invited.

A professor of Islamic Studies from the Punjab University, having an in-depth knowledge about pan-Islamist organisations, said Jamaat was going to restructure all departments. “The JI now speaks against privatisation and advocates farmers’ rights. It is a socialist touch of a purely Islamist party,” he said on condition of anonymity. “The JI is following the lines of Muslim Brotherhood which changed its old style of politics and eventually became a popular party of Egypt,” he said.

JI foreign affairs wing chief Abdul Ghaffar Aziz, however, doesn’t think that the party is following any other Islamic party’s policy, especially in case of giving women representation in its Shura. “The Islamist parties in the world have many things in common, but they make decisions according to their own society’s needs. The JI shouldn’t be compared with the Muslim Brotherhood. Our working is different,” Aziz said.