Today, it is well proven and acknowledged worldwide that the roots of Pakistan’s jihadism lie in its obsession with India, born out of the two-nation theory. Crafted by the fear that its powerful neighbour, India wants to dismember Pakistan and undo the Partition, supports the overall design of policies in Pakistan. The break-up of Pakistan in 1971 and emergence of Bangladesh from erstwhile East Pakistan as an independent nation has reinforced national paranoia. Contrary to convincing the country’s Punjabi elite of the need to come to terms with Pakistan’s size and power and finding security within the parameters of reality, the establishment in turn has fanned “India scare” to divert focus from internal challenges.
Pakistani society has drifted towards religious militancy over the last 20 to 25 years…
Struck by the unexpected reality post 9/11 destruction of the twin-towers in New York, the world awakened to a new-fangled threat. A shockingly spectacular execution of attacks by Al-Qaeda took the world by surprise. The Americans might have responded and hunted the Taliban out of Kabul and forced Al Qaeda to find a new home in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan yet, as veteran Pakistani journalist Imtiaz Gul writes, “One by one, the militants crossed the border into Pakistan and settled in its tribal areas, building alliances with locals and terrorising or bribing their way to power. This place – Pakistan’s lawless frontier – is now the epicentre of global terrorism. It is where young American and British jihadists go to be trained, where the kidnapped are stowed away and where plots are hatched for deadly attacks all over the world. It has become, in President Obama’s words, “…the most dangerous place” – a hornet’s nest of violent extremists, many of whom now target their own state in vicious suicide-bombing campaigns.”
Obama’s observation on one of the world’s most opaque tribal areas of Pakistan’s North West region bordering Afghanistan got vindicated, even more unequivocally this time on December 16, 2014, when terrorists of Teherik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) butchered 132 innocent children of the Army Public School in Peshawar, all in the age group of eight to eighteen years.
Pakistani society has drifted towards religious militancy over the last 20 to 25 years. Anti-American and anti-Indian sentiments are very strong. This is because the mindsets of the younger generation over decades have been built on that discourse. Rizvi, a Pakistani political analyst predicts that Pakistan will have a rough decade ahead as the generation born in the 1980s comes to power. This generation has been raised on extremist ideology taught in schools and repeated on television and in the mosques. The future of Pakistan is all set to be doomed if course correction is not recalibrated in time.
It is ironic to see a country deviating from the path of prosperity and progress towards hate and assured self-destruction…
The old saying that the wise learn from others’ mistakes may not be so true when it comes to those in Pakistan’s establishment. History bears testimony to the ills of religion interfering with the matters of the state. When Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453 AD, the West decided to separate religion from the business of the state. With this decision, the West, which was living in the Dark Ages, suddenly embarked on the path of inventions and discoveries heretofore blocked through religious decrees and brought the world to the wonders of the 21st century. This was only possible after the clergy was denied its divine right to interfere in every matter possible. What will it take for Pakistan to embark on the route to reforms culling the mullahs out of state functioning? Will it ever be able to do achieve that? Or is it that its leadership has taken the country well beyond the culmination point. These are rather more pertinent questions that need to be addressed at this hour.
Into nationhood for 67 years now, Pakistan has developed only one element of national power and that is the military which is so central to the idea of Pakistan today that all other elements of national power have been relegated to a state of irrelevance. The country’s institutions, ranging from schools and universities to the judiciary, are in a state of general decline. The economy’s stuttering growth is dependent largely on the flow of international economic aid. Pakistan’s GDP stands at $245 billion in absolute terms and $845 billion in Purchasing Price Parity thus making it the smallest economy of any country maintaining nuclear arsenals. Twenty-two per cent of the population lives below the poverty line and another 21 per cent lives just above it, resulting in almost half the people of Pakistan living at extreme levels of poverty.
It is ironic to see a country deviating from the path of prosperity and progress towards hate and assured self-destruction. The vision of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, which he presented to the framers of Pakistan’s constitution when he addressed the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, had the basis of equality and secularism. Sadly, secularism has become a dangerous, deadly label in Pakistan. Religious extremists slowly gained in strength and tightened their stranglehold on the country putting its stability at risk.
As the rabid clergy, mostly consisting of madrasa-indoctrinated bigots with medieval mindsets, are completely illiterate as far as contemporary disciplines are concerned. Unfortunately their ideology has started resonating in vast stretches of Pakistani society. For this reason, being liberal and secular has become synonymous with infidelity in the new intolerant society. In 1947, at the time of independence, Jinnah would have never dreamt of a Pakistan in its present state.
Sixty-five years after the death of its founding father, the people of Pakistan are still searching for Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s vision for the country…
Sixty-five years after the death of its founding father, the people of Pakistan are still searching for Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s vision for the country. During much of its existence, Pakistanis have been encouraged to believe that Jinnah created Pakistan in the name of Islam as a theocratic state. Others have disagreed, arguing the Jinnah wanted a Muslim-majority but secular and progressive country. The debate over the two competing and contradictory visions has intensified in recent years as the country reels from growing Islamic extremism and Taliban militancy. At the heart of this debate are some public addresses of Jinnah around the time of the Partition of India in 1947. In his address to the Constituent Assembly in the port city of Karachi on August 11, 1947, three days before the creation of Pakistan. Jinnah had said, “You are free. You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan.” Jinnah had declared, “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
It is a known fact that Jinnah’s words did not go down well with the powerful and ambitious religious ideologues around him at the time, who then made sure the speech was virtually blacked out in the next day’s newspapers. Successive military governments in Pakistan were accused of attempting to downplay, even remove, the speech from official records. Why did that speech unsettle some Pakistani leaders so much? Many believe it was seen at odds with the kind of anti-India, anti-Hindu, Islamic state they were trying to create thus preserving their own power bases. And this is the genesis of the whole problem.
Today, it is well proven and acknowledged worldwide that the roots of Pakistan’s jihadism lie in its obsession with India, born out of the two-nation theory. Crafted by the fear that its powerful neighbour, India wants to dismember Pakistan and undo the Partition supports the overall design of policies in Pakistan. The break-up of Pakistan in 1971, and emergence of Bangladesh from erstwhile East Pakistan as an independent nation, has reinforced national paranoia. Contrary to convincing the country’s Punjabi elite of the need to come to terms with Pakistan’s size and power and finding security within the parameters of reality, the establishment in turn has fanned “India scare” to divert focus from internal challenges.
Sadly, secularism has become a dangerous, deadly label in Pakistan…
Pakistan’s emphasis on religion and ideology at the expense of ethnic, linguistic and sectarian diversity in a complex society is making it bear a heavy price to the extent of risking its very existence. The relationship between Pakistan and jihadism emanating from state-sponsored ideology cannot be understood without understanding the country’s psychological dimension and make-up. Hussain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the US sums up the past sixty years of Pakistan’s existence by stating, “…for the first 30 years of Pakistan’s existence, the clamour was for religiosity within and Pan-Islamism in foreign policy. For the next 30 years global jihadism has been the overarching security and foreign policy idea that has advanced the Pakistani ideology.”
Analysing the evolution of Pakistan since 1947 is important before arriving at any realistic conclusion. In January 1951, Ayub Khan succeeded General Sir Douglas Gracey as Commander in Chief of the Pakistan Army, becoming the first Pakistani in that position. Within a short time of his promotion, however, Ayub Khan became the most powerful political figure. Perhaps more than any other Pakistani has ever emerged till date.
By 1958, Ayub Khan and his fellow officers decided to turn out the “inefficient and untrustworthy” politicians – a task which was easily accomplished without bloodshed by imposing martial law. Ayub Khan justified his assumption of power by citing the nation’s need for stability and the necessity for the army to play a central role – an argument that has been played by all the Generals toppling the civilian government down the line.
He concentrated on consolidating power and intimidating the opposition. To do so, he promoted the Jamat-e-Islami and other religious groups more than the political parties. He also aimed to establish the groundwork for future stability through altering the economic, legal, and constitutional institutions. This whiskey-loving Muslim General did not hesitate invoking the clichéd fears of “Islam in danger” to suppress his political opponents.
Global jihadism has been the overarching security and foreign policy idea that has advanced the Pakistani ideology…
Ayub Khan added the word Islamic to the Preamble of the 1962 constitution. This constitution stipulated that its President would be a Muslim, and the Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology and the Islamic Research Institute were established to assist the government in reconciling all legislation with the tenets of the Quran and the Sunna. Hence began the journey into making of a fundamentalist society that exists today. A chemical process started in the late fifties has made the acid concentration ever stronger and deadlier in the cocktail by each passing decade.
When internal stability broke down in the 1960s, he remained contemptuous of lawyer-politicians and handed over power to his fellow army officer General Yaya Khan. After a humiliating defeat in 1971 war and the creation of Bangladesh, a civilian government led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came to power. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had won the 1971 elections on a heavily leftist map for governance; entrenched as it was in socialist ideals and thereby enjoying massive support. However, it did not take long for the tide to turn. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto brought in the elements of Islamic ideology in Pakistan’s substantive foreign policy. Islam came to the forefront of all policy and law-making decisions and ultimately, emerged as the guiding principle in all policy-related issues. He was responsible for getting all policies whether pertaining to finance, defence, foreign, education or interior ministry, increasingly dressed in Islamic colours. Religion soon after became the official legitimising strategy for all political manoeuvres.
Islam had thus emerged as the most predominant political factor to facilitate in both external and internal scenarios, by the end of Bhutto’s regime and as a result thereof. Although his insistence upon the role of Islam in Pakistani politics during his final days in power could not save his fading popularity however it did serve to reinforce the centrality of Islam for the military regime that followed. The dangerous alliance between military might and religious pressure thus found its seeds in Bhutto’s policy shifts, only to find renewed force under the approaching military rule.
The military regime under Zia-ul-Haq entered the political arena in 1977 as a “caretaker ninety-day government staging a military coup.” His rule spanned over the course of eleven years, permanently scaring the Pakistani society by introducing Muslim fundamentalism at entirely different levels. In less than a year after Zia’s takeover, his main concern was to put the country on the Islamic system.
The process of Islamisation started almost immediately, and soon emerged strongly in the shape of legal amendments…
The process of Islamisation started almost immediately, and soon emerged strongly in the shape of legal amendments. As AK Brohi, General Zia’s Law and Religious Affairs Advisor rightly states, “Whatever Islamisation Zia had been enforcing was more to consolidate his own personal power than to establish a genuine Islamic order.” And in that process he brought the Wahabi ideology to the forefront of Pakistan’s religious landscape displacing the tolerant Sufism seated in the region for almost a thousand years.
CIA secret funds and Saudi money poured in volumes to raise and fund Mujahedeen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan during the Cold War. In the eighties, hundreds of madrasas soon dotted the tribal belt and other regions of Pakistan, churning out Jihadis in thousands to fight in Afghanistan and later in Kashmir. The strategic idea though was always India-centric and Soviet intervention was merely a God-sent opportunity. Carving out strategic space for itself in Afghanistan against India after Soviet withdrawal and wresting Kashmir by unleashing Jihadi power to fight the Indian Army was Zia’s grand strategy.
After Zia-Ul-Haq’s sudden death in an air crash, the leaders of the civilian governments that followed could not muster the strength to reverse the order set in motion by Ayub and cemented by Zia because of military’s ascendency over the complete government and societal apparatus in Pakistan.
Global War on Terrorism
George Bush’s famous words after 9/11 said to garner support of his allies in to a coalition for launching the Enduring Freedom, “…either you are with us or against us” changed the discourse and definition of the campaign against terrorism. The Pakistani establishment, which found itself at the crossroads, was left with no other choice but to go the US way. General Musharraf who toppled Nawaz Sharif’s government after a failed Pakistan army’s adventure in Kargil now stood with the West fighting against those very own Jihadis they had bred in the past decades, integral to their grand strategy. This u-turn polarised the already radicalised society further and now threatened the establishment and the army as never before.
The strategic idea though was always India-centric and Soviet intervention was merely a God-sent opportunity…
The new circumstances forced him into the hard choice of opposing the growing clamour of religious fundamentalists as a matter of survival. The credibility of the army under Musharraf had plummeted to its lowest ebb since the 1971 defeat. He tried to regulate the madrasas and carried out military action on Lal Masjid followed by armed action against Islamic terrorists in the Swat Valley. But he persisted in excluding popular politicians from this process. Limitations imposed on the secular parties by General Musharraf created a political vacuum that was easily filled by the Islamists. It was Musharraf who promoted the idea of the good and the bad terrorists shielding the India-centric Jihadi organisations like the LeT and JuD, duality of policy lay exposed.
Edging Towards A Failed State
A heavily politicised army that lives in self-denial, ever willing to throw down the gauntlet against India despite repeated reversals is what characterises the military idea of Pakistan. Ideological division of this heavily Islamised society on the lines of Shia, Sunni, tribal affinities, Ahmadiyas, Deobandis, Barrelvi and the Wahabis has created many faultlines, now difficult to manage. In pursuit of their domestic, political and trans-border strategic agenda, the establishment has at convenience helped in creation of armed groups and armies of various tribes and theological groups.
Lots of funds pour in from the Sheikhs in oil-rich countries of the Middle East into these organisations of different followings for preaching and spreading the ideology. These organisations run madrasas and carry out charity work alongside supporting armies of terrorists. These madrasas are thus the epicentre around which society spins and economy of the area under influence flourishes. Ideological differences lead to armed clashes largely beyond the control of administration, thus a state within a state goes unchallenged.
As per SATP, Pakistan has 12 domestic organisations and 32 trans-national terrorist organisations. All these terrorist organisations have had the support of the ISI at one time or the other. Out of these who acquiesce with domestic and strategic agenda laid down by the army are categorised as “Good” while those not complying are termed as “Bad”. Tehrik-e-Talliban Pakistan (TTP) are the bad terrorists while the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jamat-Ul-Dawa are the good ones.
A heavily politicised army living in self-denial and ever willing to throw down the gauntlet against India is what characterises the military idea of Pakistan…
Unfortunately, the Pakistani military always thinks of the advantages in letting the Islamists dominate domestic politics and uses them as leverage against India. This obsession with ideology is edging the country into the status of a failed state. There have been numerous instances of military officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted men co-operating with jihadists or deserting their service to join jihadist ranks. But the Pakistani military tends to hold back information on the matter, making an assessment of the extent of this problem difficult. Incidents such as the attacks on the Pakistani naval base ‘Mehran’ in 2011, the Air Force base Kamra in 2012 and the 2014 foiled attempt by Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) to take over a navy frigate in Karachi harbour, point to the persistence of jihadi influence within the ranks of the armed forces – a trend that needs to be arrested at the earliest by this nation possessing nuclear weapons.
The turn of events post the Lal Masjid military action, Pakistan entered the most challenging phase of its struggle for existence. As per US intelligence reports, an estimated 22,000 soldiers were reportedly deployed in Swat and the desertion rate was estimated at around six per cent, a high number but not a crippling one given that some of the soldiers hailed from the areas where they are fighting. The fatwa, which was issued by Lal Masjid leaders Maulana Abdul Aziz and Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, stated that Pakistani soldiers killed while fighting against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in South Waziristan did not deserve a Muslim funeral or a burial at Muslim cemeteries. This fatwa had an impact on Pakistani soldiers and many refused to fight or abandoned their units.
Unfortunately, Pakistan has failed to learn the desired lessons. General Kayani did mention the terrorism as number one enemy of the state. But months later during the passing out parade at Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, he said to the cadets, “Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and Islam can never be taken out of Pakistan – a reminder to secular Pakistanis, Indians and the West that this country will not abandon its support to religious groups with which Islamabad seeks to take leverage in Afghanistan and Kashmir.”
This obsession with ideology is edging the country into the status of a failed state…
The shooting of Malala Yousafzai, two deadly assaults against the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and the Pearl Continental in Peshawar and the terrorist attack on June 08, 2014, on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi by the TTP led General Rahel Sharif to finally launch Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan going against the wishes of the civilian leadership. The Peshawar school attack was the Pakistan Taliban’s answer to that initiative. The genocide of 132 children has once again shaken the establishment as the monster it created stands staring straight into its eyes. This could well prove to be a watershed provided the Army decides to abandon the ideology that it has held so dear since 1958.
The situation is even worse in 2014-2015 as the Pakistan Army faces the blowback of Zarb-e-Azab. The TTP attacked the Army Public School at Peshawar in revenge killing 132 children on December 16, 2014. Pakistan is probably the only democratic country that has used its armed forces with tanks, artillery, helicopter gunships and fighter jets against its very own civilian population. They killed in thousands in East Pakistan before the creation of Bangladesh. In the past, they have used all their might in Sindh, Baluchistan to suppress sub-nationalist voices. And now in Waziristan and Khyber Paktunwa displacing sizeable population out of their homes for counter insurgency, has further polarised the society.
Going by Pakistan’s instinct, they will mount more such initiatives to avenge this carnage. But this will not buy the country enduring relief so long as extremists continue to receive aid and comfort from their Afghani overlords, who themselves are under the protection of the ISI. For example, Mullah Omar, the Taliban ring-leader to whom all Taliban chapters swear fealty and on whose head America has a multimillion-dollar bounty, is widely believed to be holed up in Quetta or Karachi with the ISI’s blessings. The ISI is also in bed with the Afghanistan Taliban’s right-arm, the Haqqani network, which allegedly runs its jihadi operations in Kashmir. Pakistan cannot rid itself of Islamist terrorists without going after their ISI protectors. However, it is hard to see how the country’s civilian rulers, who serve at the pleasure of the army and the ISI can undertake such a task and still survive to tell the tale.
The turn of events post the Lal Masjid military action, Pakistan entered the most challenging phase of its struggle for existence…
In order to achieve long-term stability and recover the state of Pakistan out of its perilous spin, they need to revisit the prophetic words of Suhrawardy who had warned Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly in March 1948 against building Pakistani nationalism around the notion of Islam being under threat. He had advised the elite and the law-makers at that time to refrain from using the rhetoric used to mobilise Muslims for the creation of Pakistan. This was no longer needed after independence. Raising the cry of Pakistan in danger for the purpose of arousing Muslim sentiments and binding them together, he had said, “…may succeed in the short term and you may preserve power to yourself for some more time”. However, Suhrawardy had warned against transforming Pakistan into a state “founded on sentiments, namely that of Islam in danger or of Pakistan in danger.”
A state which is held together by raising the bogey of attacks and friction with enemies will be full of alarms and excursions. In such a country there will be no commerce, no business and no trade. There will be lawlessness and those lawless elements that may be turned today against non-Muslims will develop such fratricidal tendencies which once aroused will act against the Muslim gentry itself.
He also defined the two key issues for the new country. The “fundamental aspect of the foundations of Pakistan”, he had asserted, should be “the goodwill of the people and of the citizens of Pakistan within the state” and “the mutual relationship between the Dominion of Pakistan and the sister dominion, Indian Union.”
Today, Pakistani society is highly radicalised and militarised…
The Army and the ISI have played theological groups against the political parties, sub-national movements and the neighbouring countries for decades now. Pakistan has been a country where the national priority has always been on building stronger armed forces, something that leaves health and education at the lowest ebb of planning. The demographic dividend by some estimate projects 60 per cent of the country’s population between the age group of 19 to 25 years. Out of this population, 80 per cent do not go through the formal education. Instead, they get indoctrinated in various religious seminaries. These are, in fact, the ideal recruitment catchments for terrorist outfits.
The dangers of Pakistan’s demographics being radicalised steadily to alarming levels are a high risk to global peace and stability. In the words of Craig Cohen of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “One possible way to think of the correlation between the nuclear weapons and country’s population is that nuclear weapons are the deadly tip of the iceberg, while demographics are the danger lurking far below the surface. The size, security, and possible use of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in 2020 will be a function of individual decisions by Pakistani leaders and its national security community. These decisions, however, will be shaped by a broader domestic and international context. Demographics will play an important role in determining this context, helping to shape Pakistan’s politics, social cohesion and economic growth. The demographic effects will be indirect and they will operate on a longer timeframe than any democratic political calendar. Demographic change, in the words of one recent study, “shapes political power like water shapes rock. Up close, the force looks trivial. But viewed from a distance of decades or centuries it moves mountains.”
The dangers of Pakistan’s demographics being radicalised steadily to alarming levels are a high risk to global peace and stability…
Today, Pakistani society is highly radicalised and militarised. The thought of a country with its nuclear arsenal under the control of terrorists sends jitters. The American troops pulling out of Afghanistan and leaving it at the mercy of Pakistan who nurtures a dream of wresting control of so-called strategic space makes the region highly volatile. Pakistan Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif’s recent visit to USA saw the waxed ecstatic and assurances of military aid from the Americans.
The strategic relevance of Pakistan leaves Uncle Sam with no other option other than buying guarantees of peace in Afghanistan through aid. And all this even after the Pentagon report on Pakistan’s role in supporting terrorism as a state policy, should not shock many going by their past record of turning a blind eye. However, working towards short term gains ignoring the long term lurking dangers may be detrimental. The US along with other powers must exercise tact in shaping the long-term security scenario in this region towards lasting peace and stability and not otherwise.
India should also refrain from counter rhetoric and work its foreign policy along with other regional powers to force Pakistan change course or else all would be lost in time and space. A sharp u-turn should not be expected from the Pakistan army where conflicting interests are so deep seated. Nonetheless, there is no option other than killing the ideology before the ideology kills them.