The military brass who have begun to embrace the jihadis may have other interests in mind, as well. For instance, Pakistan’s military has been in power, or directing those in power from its headquarters, since the late 1950s. The military brass has traditionally come from landholding families and upper-income groups. In the earlier days, the officers functioned as a close-knit group and had no direct rapport with the majority of the Pakistani population. More recently, the Islamisation of the military has brought those in the higher echelons of power closer to the less privileged section of the society. In other words, the jihadis have helped establish a direct channel between the military brass and a significant section of Pakistan’s population.
“¦tons of money had come in from Saudi Arabia with a distinct motive to spread the most orthodox form of Sunni Islam””Wahhabism, the state religion of Saudi Arabia””and thus secure a permanent stake within the Pakistani military.
The Islamisation process began in the late 1970s, gaining momentum in the 1980s after the now-defunct Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan at the end of 1979. It is widely known by now that the West and Saudi Arabia, among other Arabian nations, put their military and financial muscle together to defeat the “Godless” Bolsheviks. Thousands of hard-core criminals and Islamic zealots from Arabia, Maghreb, Africa and Britain were brought in to serve in Afghanistan. They were armed and trained with the help of the Pakistani military. It was a free-for-all time. Anyone who wanted to fight the Soviets was welcome.
It was during that period that Islamisation of the lower- and middle-level cadre within the military became Pakistan’s unspoken state policy. Because the world learns about Pakistan from what the Western media chooses to print and from the Pakistani English-language media, which is controlled by English-speaking locals who deliberately skirt the issue, the Islamisation process within the Pakistani military was never widely discussed. At the time, of course, it was against the Western nations’ interest to expose such a phenomenon since both London and Washington, two major promoters of Pakistan in the 1980s against the Soviet Union and its sympathisers, were busy using the Pakistani military to deliver a death blow to the communists. According to London and Washington, the primary goal during the Cold War days was to topple the “evil Soviet empire” and raising doubt about the religion, caste or creed of or respect for the rule of law among those who picked up weapons in support of the West was out of the question. In fact, Washington considered all who were actively engaged in bringing down the Soviet Union as “liberators” and had no interest in disturbing them or judging their other acts.
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and currently a Senior Fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, described the White House’s dealings with Pakistani heads of state in those days in his latest book, Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of the Global Jihad. ”. . . Richard Nixon turned a blind eye to the murder of hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis to keep his friends in Pakistan’s army in power, a strategy that ultimately failed,” Riedel writes. “Ronald Reagan entertained Zia-ul-Haq even as Zia was giving succour to the Arab jihadists who would become al-Qaeda. George W. Bush allowed Pervez Musharraf to give the Afghan Taliban a sanctuary from which to kill American and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan.”
“¦although Pakistan came into being in 1947 as the most populous Muslim nation on the planet, “the debate over its national identity has neither been conducted democratically nor concluded.
At the same time, it is likely that some Pakistanis were aware of the Islamisation process. However, Pakistan’s English-medium newspapers and their editors, who stayed in a state of denial for decades and have just begun to emerge as critics of Islamisation, perhaps considered what was going on at the time to be merely a passing phase. Perhaps they believed that the United States and Britain, whom they saw as two of the strongest pillars of democracy in the world and hell-bent against theocratic states, would eventually put a stop to the Islamist takeover of the Pakistani military.
Meanwhile, tons of money had come in from Saudi Arabia with a distinct motive to spread the most orthodox form of Sunni Islam—Wahhabism, the state religion of Saudi Arabia—and thus secure a permanent stake within the Pakistani military. Again, wittingly or unwittingly, the West turned a blind eye to this development and doggedly pursued its principal goal, the devolution of the Soviet Union. Naturally, very few observers outside of Pakistan could get an in-depth understanding of this slow but steady process.