Gartenstein-Ross said that Zia’s policies, coupled with the demographic shift in the junior officer corps, moved the military toward a more religious and more fundamentalist, direction. This new direction was also aided by external circumstances. Soon after Zia came to power, the Soviet Union, ostensibly threatened by Islamic rebels in its own underbelly, invaded Afghanistan. This invasion would prove fateful for the Soviet Union and a bonanza for the Islamists within the Pakistani army. In addition to imposing great costs on the Soviet Union, that in the view of some analysts contributed directly to its collapse, the invasion spurred the U.S. and Pakistan to support anti-Soviet mujahideen. Thus, some of the changes to the organisational culture of Pakistan’s military pushed by Zia were put into practice on the battlefield. The ISI would grow exponentially during this period, and important relationships between Pakistani officials and Islamic militants would develop.
The 1971 defeat had a heavy impact on the soldiers and officers, and it continued to resonate within the militarys educational and training institutions for many years afterwards.
But Umer Farooq, in his article “Islam in the Garrison” in the 16 August 2011 edition of Dawn, argues that to designate Zia as the only one responsible for putting the military on the path of Islamisation would be too simplistic. “There were other forces influencing the military and shaping the minds of its troops. Analysts point out, for instance, that several army officers posted to the Arab states around the Persian Gulf in 1970s and 1980s came back heavily influenced by an orthodox interpretation of Islam. They invariably rose to occupy prominent positions in the military hierarchy under Zia. Many more officers came under religious influence as they worked directly with the Islamic-inspired mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan against Soviet-backed communists. Analysts say that Afghan jihad became a source of inspiration for young army officers who saw it as a victory of Islam against an infidel superpower. Along with the 1979 revolution in Iran, which was led by religious leaders, these developments deepened religious influence among the Pakistan army’s officer corps.
“This coincided with another shift,” Farooq argues, citing Saeed Shafqat, an eminent analyst of civil-military relations in Pakistan. The urban middle classes replaced the so-called martial races of Punjab in the officer corps after the defeat in the 1971 war. By the mid-1980s, urban middle classes were dominating the army. The 1971 defeat had a heavy impact on the soldiers and officers, and it continued to resonate within the military’s educational and training institutions for many years afterwards. “The belief that we were defeated in the war because we were not good Muslims was widespread,” says Shafqat. “Islam started to dominate the training and educational activities in the military after 1971,” he adds.
“All this led to an upsurge in religious activities within the army,” writes Farooq. Individual officers were used to organise zikr meetings, and Zia’s immediate successor as army chief, General Mirza Aslam Beg, continued these policies according to Dr. Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based historian of civil-military relations in Pakistan. When General Asif Nawaz Janjua took over as the chief of army staff (COAS) in 1991, he tried to put an end to the official sponsorship of religious activities in garrisons. “He introduced changes in the functioning of the army. He spoke about reviving professionalism in the army,” says Rizvi. But those who followed Janjua made no serious attempt to revive professionalism.