ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Welfare Work and Politics of Jama'at-i-Islami in Pakistan and Bangladesh

Sceptical of the role of religion in politics, liberal political theorists interpret investments made by religious political parties in welfare work as electoral politics. This paper examines the extensive social welfare network of the Jama'at-i-Islami, the largest Islamic political party in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and finds this voter-centric explanation inadequate. Instead, it argues, such investment serves a more fundamental purpose, that of establishing the religious identity of the party. It further shows that religious political parties plan strategically to balance their religious commitment and practical survival needs: the welfare programmes implemented by the Jama'at in the two countries differ to accommodate the socio-economic and political peculiarities of each context. Why the Jama'at, especially in Pakistan, fails to translate this extensive welfare work into securing more seats in parliament is a question worthy of further investigation. The answer possibly rests in the limited enthusiasm of the Pakistani public for a society based on the shariah.
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