Why do so many religious political parties have substantial welfare programmes? Is their welfare work merely a means of winning votes or does it serve other purposes? An investigation of the welfare programmes of the Jama'at-i-Islami
parties in Pakistan and Bangladesh shows that they:-
- are involved in a wide range of charitable, welfare and service
provision activities, including health care and training, education,
emergence relief, water supply and orphan support
- charge a basic (below market rate) fee for the services they provide
(except to those who cannot afford to pay), which users are prepared
to pay because of the perceived good quality.
- are organized in very different ways for historical, political and
practical reasons: in Pakistan the Jama'at has established its own
network of specialised or multi-sectoral welfare and service delivery
organizations, whereas in Bangladesh (where the organisation has
periodically been restricted or banned) members play key roles in the
management of apparently independent organizations
- demonstrate the parties' commitment to their religious ideology,
especially social justice, which is seen as central to Islam
- require a very organized party structure, meaning that not all
religious parties can maintain large welfare programmes
- deliver their services through networks of voluntary organizations,
which rely on managers who are party members and volunteers, rather
than paid professionals.
The claim that political parties are 'membership groups' that compete
with other membership groups for citizens' loyalty and resources is
borne out by this study.
Working Paper No. 34, Religions and Development Research Programme, University of Birmingham, UK, 43 pp.
Marker of identity: religious political parties and welfare work - the case of Jma’ at-i-Islami in Pakistan and Bangladesh