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Pakistan: The US, Geopolitics and Grand Strategies

Pakistan: The US, Geopolitics and Grand Strategies

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Pakistan: The US, Geopolitics and Grand Strategies

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Lançado em:
Feb 13, 2012


The killing of Osama Bin Laden highlighted the tense relationship between the US and Pakistani governments. This book considers the evolving nature of this relationship and Pakistan's place within the global order.

Whereas standard accounts focus on the US-Pakistan relationship in isolation, Pakistan: The US, Geopolitics and Grand Strategies provides a broader geopolitical perspective. It analyses Pakistan's relations with the US after a decade of the war on terror as well as Pakistan's regional relations, which provides the reader with a comprehensive understanding of Pakistan's interests.

Contributions from experts in both Pakistan and the West make this book vital reading for anyone seeking to understand this troubled nation.
Lançado em:
Feb 13, 2012

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Pakistan - Pluto Press






Usama Butt


The Islamic reaction of the masses and the Islamic orientation of the state of Pakistan are often judged in a superficial way and viewed from a mostly western perspective. In reality both phenomena comprise causes, factors and actors that cannot be called Islamic in their totality. This chapter argues that until the beginning of the global war on terror (GWOT), the Islamic reaction was a complex and abstract phenomenon that consisted of myriad social, political, religious and strategic factors and actors. These shaped it in an overlapping and interwoven process. After a decade of the GWOT, the Islamic reaction has tilted towards non-state actors. The Islamic orientation of the state is in serious jeopardy, and the future trends look quite gloomy.


Pakistan was formed in the name of Islam, which might be thought ironic, since it is exactly this ideology that is being contested today both within and outside its borders. Whether it is an ideological state in practice is open to argument; come to that, even the ideology remains undefined. Although Islam was the only unifier in Jinnah’s attempt to create an independent state for the Muslims of the subcontinent, the ‘great leader’ sent mixed and confusing signals after independence and before his untimely death about the role of Islam in the running of an Islamic state. Indeed Jinnah’s more consistent claim was that Pakistan was a modern republic.¹ He did not live to see the dawn of Pakistan’s foreign relations policies, although he left no stone unturned in his efforts through his envoy, Mir Laiq Ali, to sell the idea to the United States that Pakistan could act as a bulwark state against the Soviets, especially if it was granted US aid.² This produced a double-edged sword: Pakistan’s foreign relations from the start were split between the ideas of Pakistan as a bulwark state and Pakistan as a pan-Islamic state, with both ideologies being used for different purposes. This was the foundation of the process of Islamic orientation in the elite and an Islamic domestic reaction among the non-elite.

The Islamic orientation is the ‘idea’ of the Pakistani state. In theory it asserts that Pakistan is a country created in the name of Islam and inspired by Islamic laws, values and morals. The term ‘Islamic reaction’ on the other hand refers to a reaction of its populace towards the Islamic orientation of Pakistani state. The first assertion of this chapter is that the Islamic orientation of the elite was more a need than an ideology, while the Islamic reaction of the non-elite was more an ideology than a need. This matrix of ‘need’ & ‘ideology’ co-existed until the GWOT drastically changed its internal and external dynamics.

A second major assertion is that the Islamic reaction is not limited to the Islamist parties, to Jihadists and to religious-based organizations. Rather, it is a widespread phenomenon which also encompasses secular, liberal and ethnic parties. The state-run institutes, the military, the intelligence community, the judiciary and many other bodies are also direct contributors to the Islamic reaction. So what is meant here by the Islamic ideology of Pakistan, however vaguely it is translated, and with the acknowledgement that it is used in the service of the regime, is that a predominant portion of both civil society and the general populace see a huge role for Islam in the running of the state. A number of attitude surveys have consistently reflected this over recent years.³ This is particularly interesting because it is not really borne out in the political landscape of Pakistan. Islamist political parties do not enjoy widespread grassroots support in Pakistan, as their counterparts do in some other parts of the world. For example, the best-ever performance of the MMA alliance (during the Musharraf era) only brought it 11 per cent of the vote; the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt seems much stronger. Yet the role of Islam in the running of the state remains acceptable, as the country’s constitution demonstrates. This suggests that there is a larger force at play, which determines the role of Islam in the running of the state (including both domestic and foreign policies).

A third major assertion is that since the beginning of the GWOT, the relationship between the Islamic orientation of the state/elite and the Islamic reaction of the non-elite has changed drastically. It has developed from an overlapping and interwoven process into a mutually exclusive and confrontational one.

The chapter starts by analysing the causes, factors and actors that constructed the Islamic orientation of the ruling elite and the Islamic reaction of the non-elite before the inception of the GWOT. It then moves on to elaborate how the GWOT has changed the internal dynamics of the Islamic reactions. The argument is that this has become a non-state and anti-elitist phenomenon. In the light of this, we need to consider where the Islamic orientation of the Pakistani state and its elite currently lies. The chapter concludes by assessing the implications and constructing a brief scenario of the possible future. What developments might we see in both the Islamic orientation of the Pakistani state and the Islamic reaction of the masses?


What is meant here by the Islamic orientation of the Pakistani state and the Islamic reaction of the masses is that these are both at heart and in practice abstract phenomena. Clearly the state is neither practically Islamic in the sense that it embodies Sharia (Islamic legal code and practices) or creates/implements laws based on it, nor looks to Islamic ethics and morals for its day-to-day running. It is also not true to call it un-Islamic, as its constitution is inspired by Sharia in theory. In a nutshell there is no easy way to define Pakistan’s Islamic orientation and indeed the Islamic reaction, because these phenomena are extremely complex and essentially abstract in nature. Direct and indirect links to a range of factors and actors have shaped this widespread and deep-rooted phenomenon, which is found throughout Pakistani society. It has an influence on both domestic and foreign policy, as mentioned above. It permeates political parties, including those that are not overtly Islamist or religious, but are at least superficially secular or ethnic in stance. It also holds sway over state-run institutes, civil society, the armed services and affiliated institutions (especially the intelligence services). Below we consider briefly the most important factors and actors.

The Islamic ideology

The most important factor in the construction of Pakistan’s Islamic orientation is Islamic ideology. The state was founded in the name of Islam, and designated as a place where the Muslims of the subcontinent could practise their religion freely. In the founding of Pakistan, the Pakistan movement and its ‘great leader’ used extensive Islamic ideological discourse. However, there is a contrast between Jinnah’s pre-independence and post-independence speeches, and this clearly demonstrates that for him at least, Islamic ideology was mostly a means but not the end in itself. What Jinnah wanted was a ‘cultural community’,⁴ not an Islamic state in practice which would be based on and defined by Islamic ideology, ethics and morals. His pre-Independence use of Islamic discourse was intended to mobilize popular support. Jinnah himself was highly westernised and secular but this did not stop him using Islamic ideological discourse.

There was extensive use of Islamic ideology before independence, not just by Jinnah himself but throughout the Muslim League’s struggle and the process of rapidly mobilizing Muslim support under its banner. The suggestion was that this mass mobilization was intended to achieve not merely a cultural community, but a specifically Islamic state, one that was deeply inspired by Islamic ideology. This mobilization of the Muslim masses followed in the footsteps of early ideological movements, and in particular the Tariqah-i Muhhamdiyah (The Way of the Prophet Muhammad) of Syed Ahmed Shah Barelwi, and the Khilafat (Khilafa or Caliphate) movement of the 1920s, which struggled to achieve the protection of the Ottoman Caliphate. The man who might be rightfully considered the ideological founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Iqbal, supported pan-Islamic movements such as the Khilafa movement. Jinnah however dismissed the Khilafa movement early in his career as ‘religious frenzy’,⁵ but he later used extensive Islamic ideological discourse to promote the cause of Pakistan nonetheless. In short, he was working to accumulate the political capital of Indian Muslims by playing the Islamic card, while presumably hoping to control the outcome and achieve the kind of state he envisaged himself.

After independence, there was almost a U-turn in Jinnah’s thinking – or perhaps rather, his thinking remained consistent but the way he chose to convey it changed dramatically. This is perhaps best shown in his famous 1947 speech in which he stated that ‘you may belong to any religion, caste or creed; that has nothing to do with business of the state…. You will find that in the course of time Hindu would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would ceased to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of the individual, but in the political sense as the citizen of the state.’ This was in complete contrast to, for example, a pre-independence speech in which he stated that ‘The Qur’an is a complete code for the Muslims – a religious, social, civil, commercial, military, judicial and criminal and penal code. It regulates everything.’⁶ The implication here was that Pakistan would be an Islamic ideological state, based on complete Sharia model and inspired by Islamic ethics.

Jinnah’s predecessors took the latter line but without Islamic legal and moral ethics or Sharia as a complete model. They followed the argument that regardless of how ethnically and culturally diverse the country might be, it was essential to use Islamic ideology as a platform for developing a national identity and achieving national unity. To their eyes, a secular national model would be almost impossible to follow; Pakistan had to be set up in contrast to India, as a state for the Muslims of the subcontinent. The early war with India in 1948 reaffirmed this. The Islamic fervour of the independence movement needed to be continued into an Islamic fervour that would recruit thousands of Muslim tribal men to fight for the state. They did so under the command of General Tariq in Kashmir (this was the nom de guerre of General Akbar, after the famous Muslim commander Tariq bin Ziyad, who established Muslim Andalusia).⁷ India was presented as an anti-Islamic force. Very soon Pakistan started to promote pan-Islamic policies, with the objectives of reinforcing its difference from India and consolidating its position as one of the world’s leading Muslim states. To position the country thus in the world at large was also designed to gain economic benefits. Pakistan convened a world Muslim conference in Karachi in 1949, which eventually led to the creation of Motamar al-alam al-Islami (the Muslim world congress). The president of Pakistan’s Muslim League even declared that Pakistan would bring all Muslim countries together into ‘Islamistan’, a single Islamic entity.⁸ Pakistan continued using an Islamic orientation and pan-Islamic policies with a view to obtaining economic or strategic advantage throughout the 1960s and 1970s and well into the period of the Afghan Jihad.

To conclude, although Islamic ideology might have been used as a means and not an end before the independence era, it ended up being an end and not just a means. It has provided both the political and military establishments with a vehicle to achieve domestic, regional and global agendas. This seesaw between means and ends left wide open the all-important question of what it really means to be an Islamic state. While Islamic ideology was being ‘rediscovered’ by the ruling elite as a possible cure for all Pakistan’s domestic, regional and global problems, civil society, the intelligentsia and the general public embraced the early rise of Jama’at-e-Islami (JI), which came out from its Pathankot seclusion to act as a vanguard of the thrust towards Islamic ideology and a watchdog to the newly founded Pakistani society.

The Islamic revivalism or Islamism

The beginning of Islamic revivalism or Islamism in South Asia dates back to Shah Wali-Allah Dehlavi in the mid-eighteenth century. It was transmitted through his son, Shah Abdul-Aziz, to Tariqah-i Muhhamdiyah, led by Syed Ahmed, and then to the Khilafa movement in the 1920s. A number of individuals – prominent among them were Jamal-ud-din Afghani, Sir Syed Ahmed, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Iqbal – cemented the process throughout. By the time Maulana Maududi began to be inspired to build a truly modern Islamist movement in the mid-1930s, Islamism or Islamic revivalism was not a strange phenomenon to the Muslims of India, who were already sympathetic to pan-Islamic ideology.

Islamic revivalism in India was not a complete break from traditional Islam, or an outright modern invention, as Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr⁹ and others claim it to be, but part of a long succession of reactionary movements which were driven mostly by the decline in the position of Muslims under British colonialism. Their polarization of identity in contrast to the Hindu majority, the racist attitude of the British administrators, and the Khilafa movement that brought Muslims under one political banner combined to bring the Muslim community in India to boiling point. In rediscovering their Islamic identity many were supportive and sympathetic to say the least over Islam playing a larger role in the running of their social, economic and indeed political life, as the Pakistan movement and its Islamic ideological discourses demonstrated. It was in these circumstances that the idea of JI gained ground. It was initiated through a literary magazine, Tarjaman-ul-Qur’an, which Maulana edited. He had few close supporters and associates, (founding members of JI), my grandfather Hakim Muhammad Abdullah being one of them, and JI was eventually founded in 1941.

A self-taught intellectual, Maududi sought to modernize the traditional conception of Islamic thought and life.¹⁰ He argued that sovereignty belonged exclusively to Allah. He was a theorist of Islamic revolution, but he did not challenge the existing political system. In contrast to the MB and its leader Al-Banna’s approach of driving change from below, he opted for a more peripheral (top-down) approach, arguing that a state would be reformed once its leaders were reformed. Hence JI became a kind of watchdog to society and a vanguard of Islamic revivalism.¹¹ In its early years JI operated in the seclusion of Pathankot, a phase that Nasr refers to as a quest for ‘holy community’.¹² It moved its headquarters to Lahore after independence. Maududi decided to stay in the newly founded state, and stepped up his organizational capability, so that JI evolved from a holy community into a religio-political organization.

JI’s early years coincided with the rise of the anti-Qadiyani movement, and a growing realization that the aim of Islamizing the state would not be achieved just by acting as watchdog. It was decided that JI would participate indirectly in the 1951 provincial elections while Maulana Maududi was locked away in jail. This decision, fiercely contested by some in the party, was the first seed of an internal conflict that JI has since suffered from.

Any Islamist party faces a dilemma: should it be in essence a political or a religious party? The MB has confronted the same question. It was exactly this dilemma that led to the current shape of the Islamist phenomenon in Pakistan and beyond. Islamist parties today are more politically active than ever before, both in the fast-changing Middle East and elsewhere. This is certainly true of JI in Pakistan, to such extent that some allege that it should now be considered a fully fledged political party rather than an Islamist organization. JI itself rejects this allegation, and claims that its political activities actually comprise around 20 per cent of its total activities.¹³ What is indisputable is that its early activities as a watchdog and its subsequent political aspirations have contributed to the systematic penetration of Islamist ideology into almost every sector of Pakistani society.

JI was always a closed-door intellectual movement, quite contrary to the very open and inclusive MB. Its political aspirations sat awkwardly with this fundamental style, but JI has tried to balance its self-designated roles, as watchdog and as the vanguard of an inspirational Islamic society. Its student wing, Islami Jamiat-e-Talba (IJT), has a more inclusive MB style of approach which has contributed greatly to its wider penetration. IJT has tended to generate JI’s future leaders and members (many of the current JI leaders began in IJT). It set itself in opposition to the military regimes, except in the early Zia era, and its backdoor diplomacy with the army led to a love–hate relationship between JI and the army which still continues. Its political aspirations and activities, in spite of the disagreement of some members (although such activities tend to be the norm rather than the exception in other Islamist organizations globally) have made it a third alternative to the two main political parties. This was most apparent when it came closest to power as part of an MMA alliance in the early Musharraf era.

In conclusion, it would be a mistake to identify Islamic revivalism in modern-day Pakistan entirely with JI. It is rather the end-result of centuries of struggles under the inspiration of Islamic ideology. JI took the right and opportune moment to establish a role as a watchdog of a society that was already open to Islamic ideological discourse. It achieved this primarily through its successful penetration of the intellectual class and through its street power provided by IJT, as well as its complex relationship with the army. But it is exactly this self-designed but successful role of a watchdog that has hindered – and continues to hinder – JI’s later populist discourse. It is clearly a shortcoming that it is unclear whether JI is an Islamist organization that monitors society from a religious stance, or a fully fledged populist political party. On the contrary it is very clear that JI is the only organization within Pakistan that is truly Islamist in nature, and that continues to further construct, reshape and pursue the aim of establishing an Islamized society from the top down. Its successful penetration of almost every level of Pakistani society, and of the political and military establishment, means that it is a driving force that has had a huge impact on Pakistan’s domestic, regional and foreign policies, and will continue to do so in future.

Islam in the service of regime security

Pakistan is a classic third-world state where the ‘regime security’ is paramount amongst other political realities. This has been true under both military and democratic governments. It is for this precise reason that successive rulers have played the ‘Islamic card’, as a major part of their endeavour to give a strong and unified character to the state. In other words, Islamic ideology has almost always ended up being used to serve the interests of the established regime. This is of course in no sense a unique phenomenon in the Muslim world. Many Muslim regimes throughout Islamic history have paid lip-service to Islamic ideology because they believed that to do so would strengthen their grip on power. In Pakistan this has been the case throughout. From Jinnah’s early ideological discourses to Liaqat’s premiership, and through to Ayub, Yahya Khan and Bhutto, Islamic ideology has helped to save the day. It was used by the secularist Ayub in what he described as a ‘Jihad’ against India. It bolstered the drunken Yahya’s war against ‘enemies of Islam’ in what was then East Pakistan. It also served the secular leftist Bhutto’s ‘Islamic socialism’ and pan-Islamism. Whatever the leader’s politics, Islamic ideology was readily available to, and made use of by, each regime.

The rise to power of Zia led to a new era of Islamization in Pakistan. However, it does not follow that Zia himself created Islamization in Pakistan; to suggest that is to overlook the real issues. Zia was certainly more personally religious than his predecessors: he kept a copy of the Qur’an in his pocket rather than a bottle of whisky. JI initially welcomed his coup, but it soon realized that he too was focused primarily on regime security. March Gaborieau, for example, notes that his Sharia decrees:

covered only a small – albeit very public – part of the legal system. Anglo-Indian law was still in force and ordinary courts continued to sit; the power of Sharia branches, attached to provincial courts to ensure that laws were in conformity with the Sharia, was limited to certain aspects of the law, mainly criminal law. Outside their remit was family law, tax and financial legislations and most procedural

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