article explores the paradox of Pakistan as a country encouraging Islamist militancy
while, at the same time, being a key player in the war against terrorism. It surveys the
challenges facing President Pervez Musharraf. It argues that having a
"strongman" in Pakistan is not necessarily a bad thing given this difficult
situation, but that Musharraf needs to move away from supporting the Islamist parties and
needs to forge ties with the more secular political parties if he is both to survive and
to be effective against terrorism.
reviews Pakistan’s military efforts against al-Qa’ida and the Taliban while emphasizing
the inherent paradox in Pakistani domestic policy, which oscillates between
supporting Islamic radicalism and embracing modernization. Simply put, successive
Pakistani governments have on the one hand fostered Islamic radicalism to further their
ambitions in Afghanistan and Indian-ruled Kashmir, while, at the same time, seeking to
curtail radical Islamism in Pakistan’s own politics. Decades of Islamization coupled with
increased sectarianism have left a tremendous imprint on the Pakistani psyche and have
been a factor undermining the country’s stability. The current challenge faced by the
Pakistani government is to return the Islamist genie to the bottle. This is made an even
more significant challenge because of Pakistan’s nuclear capability
and fragile domestic environment.
The Pakistani government is currently
engaged in a number of costly and intricate military campaigns in the unruly areas of the
country such as Waziristan and the Northwest Province with the clear aim of rooting out
Islamist radicals. At the same time, it has had to deal with sectarian and tribal
coupled with increasing demands for devolution of power.
Furthermore, the government has also introduced legislation aimed at reining in the spread
of Islamist radicalism by controlling the proliferation of madrasas.
As the President himself noted, Pakistanis are religious-minded people who have allowed
themselves to be swayed by militant preachers because of low literacy rates. Yet, President Musharraf via his political party has been
forging alliances with Pakistani-based Islamic militant groups in order to cement his
rule, even though these groups foment sectarianism.
Of equal concern is the ability of banned groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (now Jamaat ud Da’wa) to continue to operate in the
country against the regime.
ROLE IN THE WAR ON TERROR
There is little doubt that Pakistan plays
a major role in the global campaign against al-Qa’ida, especially as its own
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) helped to create the Taliban and promote Islamist jihad.
At the same time, though, this sponsorship gives the ISI tremendous experience and insider
knowledge as to al-Qa’ida’s working and thinking. Almost immediately after the September
11, 2001 attacks, the United States gave Pakistan $50 million in assistance, because
President George W. Bush is determined that Pakistan is central to U.S. security interests
regarding the counter-terrorist issue.
This was a substantial shift in U.S. policy which saw sanctions imposed on Pakistan at the
beginning and towards the end of the 1990s, following growing concerns over Pakistan’s
The American-led international campaign
against al-Qa’ida and all of its affiliates and associates has forced Pakistan to make an
awkward turnaround, silently moving away from supporting Islamist militancy toward a
campaign largely demanding its eradication. As President Musharraf himself said when
interviewed about the change of policy, albeit with considerable understatement, "It
was in our national interest because I knew what would happen now in Afghanistan…..Our
diplomatic association with the Taliban was going to become meaningless, as obviously they
were going to be sorted out."
Military Challenge of Countering the "Terrorists" The Pakistani Province of Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan
and allegedly is the hiding place of the al-Qa’ida leader, Usama Bin Ladin, has
increasingly become a focal issue in the war against terrorism. The murder in 2005 of Faridallah
Khan, a Wazir tribal leader engaged in fighting al-Qa’ida, intensified the fear of many
locals who live in an area partly controlled by al-Qa’ida, which assassinates those who
Khan is one of fifty tribal leaders who have died in Waziristan because of his opposition
to al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and similar groups within Pakistan.
In December 2005, seminary students
operating in North Waziristan calling themselves the Taliban released a list of 200 rival
tribesmen whom they wished to kill.
The appeal of the region as a base to al-Qa’ida and jihadists is easy to understand. As
one Western journalist put it, "Every house is a castle, a vast compound ringed by a
towering mud wall, medieval battlements and fronted by a giant, thick door."
An example of Waziristan’s role as an international terrorism capital is the belief by
investigators that at a March 2004 al-Qa’ida summit held there, a list of bombing targets
for the movement was drawn up, including the London subway operation.
To those who have visited Waziristan, the
province appears locked in a time capsule. The region is administered as it was a century
ago, when the British Empire controlled the country. Power rests in the hands of a
centrally appointed political agent. The political agent has the power to jail anyone for
life without trial, impose collective punishments on villages, convene courts, etc.
Literacy throughout the province is low while poverty is rife. Virtually all the men are
armed, usually with modern automatic weapons. Such conditions tend to bring about general
discontentment and disenchantment, which Islamic militants take advantage of in order to
recruit new members.
Waziristan has a rich history of fomenting
opposition to the Pakistani government. During the 1980s, the province became the center
for those Muslims partaking in the jihad against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The
Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI, supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia,
poured billions of dollars into the campaign. The ISI set up and run dozens of schools
that radicalized young Muslims and prepared them for the battle. The southern part of the
region–especially around Wana and Shikai–became the largest al-Qa’ida training camp
around the spring of 2004; at least 15 camps sprang up around the province, protected by
the Wazir tribe.
Role of Legislation in the Post-9/11 World
UN Security Council Resolution 1373, adopted as a response to 9/11, demanded that
countries submit annual reports to its Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) whose principal
function is to monitor each state’s compliance with Resolution 1373. The significance of
Resolution 1373 was that it amounted to a declaration by the international community to
combat international terrorism.
Due to its proximity to Afghanistan,
Pakistan, Bin Ladin’s main base of operation (at least until Operation Endure Freedom
forced him to flee), has sought to embrace these demands to demonstrate its commitment to
counter-terrorism. Pakistan has submitted five reports to the CTC highlighting its
domestic legislative commitment to countering the threat of international terrorism. At
the heart of its counter-terrorism program is the Anti-Terrorism
Act of 1997, as amended in August 2001, whose aim is to prevent terrorist acts and
sectarian violence in and out of Pakistan. Section 11 of the Act prohibits organizations involved in terrorist activities and
bars membership and support to such organizations.
Military Campaign against Islamic Militancy
The difficulty faced by the United States
and its allies in their Afghan and anti-Taliban campaign is their inability to convince
large sections of the Afghani and Pakistani population to support their efforts to
apprehend Bin Ladin and his associates. The allies’ efforts suffer because of the
inhospitable terrain around the Afghan-Pakistani border coupled with a tribal mentality
that abhors informing to or even cooperating with the central government, considering it
betrayal. Concern over cross-border infiltration has led President Musharraf to suggest
the building of a fence to hinder border movement. Moreover, there is also anger towards
the policies of the Pakistani Army, which uses the Frontier Crimes Regulation to impon of
various homes in the region, and especially in Makin, intensified anger towards the United
States, which, people feel, ose heavy financial sanctions and sets afire homes of
suspected al-Qa’ida members and sympathizers.
The American destructiacts indiscriminately.
Pakistan has attempted to deal with
Afghanistan, with whom it shares a 2450km border, by also establishing a Joint Interrogative Teams (JIT) and Standing
Operating Procedures. The measures are designed to arrest and detain criminals wanted
under national and international law. The Home Departments of the Northwest Frontier (WFP)
and Baluchistan provinces maintain records of
all foreigners as well as Pakistanis who arrive from Afghanistan. Moreover, Pakistan has
deployed regular troops along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and it carries out air
surveillance to prevent the entry of any terrorist from Afghanistan into Pakistan.
The realization that the area is infested
with al-Qa’ida militants, some of whom plotted the assassination of President Musharraf,
forced Pakistani security forces to take action. The government sent 70,000 troops and
paramilitaries into the region, supported by jet fighters, helicopters, and Special
Forces, to flush out the insurgents. After some intense battles, the Pakistani military
forces triumphed. They killed around 300 al-Qa’ida operatives, more than half foreign-born
(mainly from Uzbekistan), under the command of Qari Tahir Yuldashev, a leader of the
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The success of the operation in the southern part of
Waziristan led the militants to move to the northern part of the province where they live
under the protection of Daur tribesmen who appear even less cooperative vis-a-vis the
authorities than the southern Wazir tribe.
In the beginning of October 2005,
Pakistani security forces moved to Northern Waziristan and began a campaign that left
around sixty people dead, including thirty foreigners. This included the killing of Tahir
Yuldashev, also known as Commander Chamak, who by this point was a top al-Qa’ida
The military operation led to the killing of Hamza Rabia, a senior al-Qa’ida operative who
according to Pakistan’s Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Rabia was the head of
al-Qa’ida’s international operations.
Rashid claimed, "He [Rabia] was very important in al-Qa’ida. He was maybe Number
Three or Five."
The military campaign in Waziristan has
also benefited from political strategy. Syed Zaheerul Islam, a top government
administrator in Waziristan, met tribal elders and Islamic clerics in the hope of
encouraging them to cooperate with the government in maintaining security. The four
southern-based tribes–Ditta Khel, Deerhati Khel, Dil Khel and Peerian Degal–have signed
an agreement with Political Agent Syed Zaheer-al-Islam in Miranshah. Hundreds of clerics
attended the signing to support the agreement. The four tribes made an unconditional
pledge with the political establishment not to harbor foreigners and to provide full
cooperation in maintaining law and order in South Waziristan.
However, observers believe that the region
is slipping back to Taliban/al-Qa’ida control as the latter managed to lure tribal
militants by offering them large sums of money. Pakistani journalists report that
"the fighters got Rs 15,000 as monthly salary while the commanders got advances
running into millions for arms and ammunition, communication, and Land Cruisers."
Pakistani analyst Ayaz Amir, a former army officer, diplomat, and politician, has said,
"In effect, the army is confined to fortified bases while the Taliban are filling the
vacuum outside… The result has been brutal gun law."
Historical Legacy & Pakistan’s Education System
Under Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his Muslim
League, which led the movement which created the country in 1947, Pakistan toyed with some
level of secularism. The problem faced by the Pakistani elite soon after independence was
concern over Hindu India, which led to the active pursuit of Islamization, which in turn
led to Pakistan developing an "Islamic" identity.
Consequently, the country focused on Islamic education and whereas in 1947, it had less
than 140 madrasas, within 13 years the figure rose to just over 400. By 1971,
when Bangladesh emerged, the figure stood at 893. Moreover, 1971 was also when the Jamaat-i-Islami movement began having its own madrasas. By the end of the 1980s, there were
almost 3000 madrasas in the country.
According to official estimates, Pakistan has 10,430 madrasas, with the vast majority of students
coming from poor backgrounds.
ruler between 1977 and 1988, General Zia-ul-Haq played a substantial part in encouraging
the madrasas explosion just as Zia used
Islamization to cement his rule. In doing so, Zia won over the country’s powerful Muslim
clergy. The process also involved reforming the legal system to establish Sharia-based courts. Under Zia, legislation was
passed to "Islamize" the economy and eradicate interest-based banks making the zakat (Islamic alms) compulsory. Zia further
promoted Islamic doctrines in the press, through television, education, etc. His program
coupled with the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan provided an impetus to Islamize the country.
Consequently, under Zia, the madrasa
system, as a report by the International Crisis Group put it, "Churned out hordes of
religious graduates with few skills or training for mainstream professions. This growing
army of extremists in Pakistan fought the anti-Soviet Afghan jihad alongside the Arabs and
Afghans and still serves the cause of jihads from India to Russia."
post-September 11 Pakistani authorities have attempted to deal with the madrasa problem. In 2002, the government adopted
the Voluntary Registration and Regulation Ordinance aimed to bring Pakistan‘s
religious schools under some form of regulatory control. The Ordinance demanded that every madrasa maintain accounts and submit an
annual report to the board. The Ordinance also prohibited registered madrasas from receiving any grant, donation, or
aid from a foreign source. Finally, the Ordinance stated that appointments of teachers or
the admission of students would only be possible for those with a valid work visa and
permission from the Ministry of the Interior.
part of its reform program, which includes increasing the education budget,
the government has proposed new legislation regarding the listing of madrasas
and school prayer. The decision to expel foreign students is a positive development and is
an indication of Pakistani attempts to change its reputation as the home of the Islamic
radicalism; however, the attempts at reform have drawn substantial criticism from the
religious Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal
(MMA). Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the MMA, who also serves as the opposition leader,
described the move as an attack on "one of the main pillars of Islam."
Moreover, it is clear that the battle over educational reform will continue.
Pakistani Politics: The Lack of Democratic Tradition & Sectarianism
To sustain the military campaign against
al-Qa’ida and the Taliban, President Musharraf has had to make certain political
concessions. This involved turning a blind eye to leaders of banned groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (Army of the Pure), Sipah-e-SahabaPakistan (SSP),
and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JM) who preach
their radical Sunni ideology. These groups are protected because of their connections with
powerful political organizations, the Jamiat
Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and the Jamaati-Islami
(JI). The founder of JI was Abul A’ala Maududi. JI
supported General Zia when he overthrew Bhutto in the 1970s, and it heavily supported the
jihad in Afghanistan. The JUI largely provides a more militant interpretation of Islam
with roots in the Deobandi movement which seeks the establishment of a Pan-Islamic
State akin to the seventh-century caliphate.
Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LT) is the armed wing of the Pakistan-based
religious organization, Markaz-ud-
Dawa-wal-Irshad (MDI). The MDI is a Sunni, anti-U.S. missionary organization that
emerged in 1989. LT also operates under the name of its associated organization Jamaat ud-Dawa (JUD), which Musharraf placed on
a watchlist in November 2003. The Pakistani government banned LT in January 2002.
The SSP is an anti-Shi’a anti-West Deobandi party with jihadist tendencies. In the 2005
local elections, it operated under the name Millat-e-Islami.
They, in some instances, ran in alliance with Musharraf’s civilian partners. The SSP
appeared on the U.S. State Department list of terrorist groups as it was believed that
some al-Qa’ida activists joined the SSP following the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Jaish-e-Muhammad (JEM) (Army of Muhammad), also known as Tehrik ul-Furqaah, Khuddam-ul-Islam, was created by Masood Azhar in
2000. Its principal aim is to unite Kashmir with Pakistan. Politically, JEM is aligned
with Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F),
a radical political party in Pakistan. JEM draws support from such militant groups as Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI) and the Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM). It has close ties
to the Arabs who fought in Afghanistan and to the Taliban.
This government policy is very much in
line with traditional Pakistani politics in which the army works with the clerics.
It is a particular cause of concern as the six-party coalition
of Islamic parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal
(MMA), which campaigned on a strong anti-U.S. platform, made substantial gains in the
October 2002 elections
and continues to do well.
At the same time, the Musharraf alliance has made life difficult for the leading secular
parties, Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League
(PML) and Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). In the October 2002 election,
Sharif and Bhutto and some of their followers were barred from contending the election as
they faced corruption allegations.
At the heart of the political change is
devolution to more power for local governments. Musharraf promoted this policy soon after
taking control of Pakistan in 1999. The argument put forward by the government in favor of
the process arises from its belief that good governance is linked to poverty reduction,
especially as it became abundantly clear that the poor
were vulnerable to predatory and dysfunctional government service-delivery agencies.
Devolution, on some level, has raised hopes that Pakistan is developing on a
positive note. A review by the World Bank, the Asian
Development Bank (ADB), and the United Kingdom Department for International Development
(DfID) on the December 2003 local government changes has suggested that the reforms have been successful.
At the same time, one has to be wary that the devolution process would lead to sectarian
and tribal tensions in Pakistan.
Pakistani Economy: Enhancing Security and Stability
The problem of poverty and the fragile
nature of the economy lie at the root of many of Pakistan’s problems. Husain Haqqani has
argued that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) stands at $75 billion in absolute
terms, giving Pakistan a purchasing power of around $295 billion. This makes the Pakistani
economy the smallest of any of the countries that have tested nuclear weapons.
Yet there have also been some improvements, as the Musharraf government introduced much
needed structural reforms which lead to a reduction in the size of the civil service, cut
subsidies on energy prices, cleaned up the balance sheets of nationalized banks, raised
tax revenues, and accelerated a privatization process. In 2003, due to remittances from
overseas workers, healthy export growth and an increase in foreign investment and aid led
to steady currency, a current-account surplus, and foreign-exchange reserves of $10
billion. This is more than double their level in 2001.
The only way to defeat militant Islamism
in Pakistan is for the international community to continue to support Musharraf, despite
his, or rather his party’s, clear manipulation of the local elections in August and
October 2005, in which 60 people died and around 500 were injured.
As Pakistan’s strongman and George W. Bush’s "friend,"
Musharraf needs sufficient funds and international support to overhaul the country’s
and, more importantly, the education and social system. Unfortunately, Musharraf has
chosen to continue along traditional military lines by maintaining and forging ties with
militant Islamist groups in Pakistan who not only continue to propagate their ideology but
also continue to propagate sectarianism. Such a policy helps ensure that the central
government can avoid ethnic, tribal, and regional opposition against it. The disadvantage
of such a strategy is that it undermines Pakistani development as it allows violence,
division, and distrust to continue, possibly leading to further insecurity in the
longer-term. As Musharraf focuses on Pakistan’s foreign and economic policy, Islamization has
entered every institution in Pakistan, including
hospitals, colleges, and the direction and personnel of development projects. For
example, wards at the Jinnah Hospital at Lahore have been Islamized. The person
responsible for the renaming of the wards, Dr ImtiazRasool,
a professor of surgery at the hospital and head of Surgical Unit I, had argued for more
Islamic education. He has said, "I think the new generation must be taught
spiritualism instead of western knowledge. It is amazing that students read Shakespeare
and ignore Muslim saints."[51
On the education front, Musharraf must
have the resources to dismantle and challenge the independent Islamic schools that far too
often breed tomorrow’s terrorists. The 2002 Voluntary
Registration and Regulation Ordinance does not appear to hinder the teaching of Islamist
The government’s efforts to moderate the madrasas has led to such groups
asIslami Jamiat Talba (IJT) to demand the removal
of education minister Javed Ashraf from the cabinet due to what IJT claims are attempts to
promote secularism through the deletions in textbooks of Koranic verses pertaining to
It is essential that the Pakistani government not heed the attacks and criticism of the
IJT, MMA, and other religious bodies. Pakistan’s ruling class must develop a bettercentral state education system that promotes a
uniform standard based on a moderate teaching. This would play a significant role in
decreasing sectarianism in the country. Such a move, however, would require tremendous
amount of courage and power, which is why the international community needs to show the
people of Pakistan that it has faith in Musharraf and in the country. Most importantly,
demands for democracy and reform from Western liberals would play into the hands of the
radicals who have proven themselves apt at manipulating the democratic system in pursuit
of their goals.
The development and growth of
civilian-based political parties in Pakistan needs encouragement. Liberal western
democracy must eventually emerge in Pakistan, though this must occur slowly, as the
country is still evolving. The role and power of militant Islamism in Pakistan is strong
partly because of decades of collusion between the authorities and the militants, who have
used the threat of India and Kashmir to keep themselves in power. The danger of demanding
substantial democratic reform would be to allow unsavory Muslim parties into the
mainstream. This would push Pakistan further down the slippery slope of Islamist rule, as
militant Muslims have the means and the finances to recruit and indoctrinate the masses.
The current challenge faced by the Pakistani ruling elite is linking civilian-based
political parties with Musharraf’s Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam, PML-Q). This is a risky but
necessary course as otherwise, Pakistan would continue to engage the jihadists militarily
by helping them to prepare another generation of recruits. The words of Singapore’s former
Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, seem to match Pakistan’s situation: "I do not believe
that democracy necessarily leads to development. I believe that what a country needs to
develop is discipline more than democracy. The exuberance of democracy leads to
indiscipline and disorderly conduct which are inimical to development."
holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. He teaches at the Raphael Recanati
School of the Interdisciplinary Center and is an associate at the Institute for
Counter-Terrorism Policy (ICT).
Pakistani security forces have clashed with tribesmen in different parts of Dera Bugti
after the latter fired rockets at a water plant of the Loti gas field. Amanullah Kasi,
"Gas pipeline to Uch plant damaged in fighting," Dawn, January 4, 2006.
Available online at:http://www.dawn.com/2006/01/04/top2.htm.
 Senators have argued that the insurgency in Balochhistan for
example has arisen from the desire of the people of the province to protect their economic
and political rights. "Senators want more provincial autonomy," Dawn,
February 4, 2006. Available online at: http://www.dawn.com/2006/02/04/top7.htm.
The ICG has concluded that "Pakistan-based
terrorists, foreign or domestic, are two faces of the same coin." "The State of Sectarianism in Pakistan" International
Crisis Group Asia Report No. 95 (Islamabad/Brussels: April 18, 2005), p. 6.
Jamaat ud Da’wa reportedly has around 3,000 workers
running 12 tent cities in Azad Kashmir and the Northwest Province, areas severely affected
by the October 2005 earthquake. Jamaat-e-Islami, another banned grouphas
its own operation under the name of al-Khidmet Foundation. It has deployed 12,000 workers.
"Our ‚??jihadi image’ in the quake-hit areas," Daily Mail, December 22,
2005. Available online at:http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20051222story_22-12-2005_pg3_1.
See for example Martha Brill Olcott & Bakhiyar Babajanov, "The Terrorist
Notebook," Foreign Policy (March/April 2003), pp. 30-40; "Central Asia:
Terrorism, Religious Extremism, and Regional Stability," Testimony of Fiona Hill,
Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institute, before the House Committee on International
Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, July 23, 2003. Available
online at: http://www.brook.edu/views/testimony/hill/20030723.pdf.
Husain Haqqani, "The Role of Islam in Pakistan’s Future," The Washington
Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Winter 2005), pp. 88-89.
All the figures are taken from "The State of Sectarianism in Pakistan," p. 11.
"Pakistan: Madrasas, Extremism and the Military," International Crisis Group
Asia Report No. 36 (Islamabad/ Brussels: July 29, 2002), p. 9. [Report amended on July 15, 2005]. K.
Alan Kronstadt, "International Terrorism in South Asia," CRS Report for Congress, November 3, 2003. Available online: http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/26047.pdf.
"Additional Information Requested by the Chairman of the Counter-Terrorism
Committee," July 19, 2002 (S/2002/797) [02-50547 (E) 300803].
The government agreed to allocate 2.73 percent of Pakistan’s GDP to education in
2005-2006, with Education Minister Javed Ashraf Qazi placing substantial emphasis on
primary education. "4 percent of GDP will be reserved for education in next budget:
Javed" Daily Times, December 31, 2005. Available online at:
"Pakistan’s Local Polls: Shoring up Military Rule," International Crisis
Group Asia Briefing No. 43 (Islamabad/Brussels: November 22, 2005), p. 12; Kronstadt
and Vaughn, "International Terrorism in South
Information obtained from "Patterns of Global Terrorism."
"Patterns of Global Terrorism," International Crisis Group Asia Report
No. 95 (Islamabad/Brussels: April 18, 2005); "Authoritarianism and Political Party
Reform in Pakistan" International Crisis Group Asia Report No. 102
(Islamabad/Brussels: September 28, 2005); Kronstadt and Vaughn, "International
Terrorism in South Asia," p. 17.
Haqqani, "The Role of Islam in Pakistan’s Future," p.86.
 The Economist, March 20, 2003. For a more updated version on the Pakistani economy
see "Pakistan: Selected Issues and Statistical appendix,"IMF Country
Report No. 05/408, (International Monetary Fund: November 2005). Available online at: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2005/cr05408.pdf.