Pakistan's Islamic Journey


Senior Member
Oct 5, 2009
Pakistan's Islamic Journey

Pakistan's population though predominantly Muslim is not a homogenous Islamic entity. There are not only fissures between the Shias (18%) and Sunnis (75%), but also within the Sunni sect itself. The two major contending schools of Sunni Islam are Deobandi and Barelvi, which originated from Deoband (near Saharanpur) and Bareilly towns in India's Uttar Pradesh in the late 19th century. Both the schools came up in reaction to the western influences, which the Ulemas (religious scholars) believed was threatening to subsume Islamic religion and culture. This became even more pronounced after the setback that the Muslims received at the hands of British during the 1857 War of Independence. The Muslims of Central India were most affected. The Ulemas and the mullahs in Pakistan continue to suffer from the anti-western influence and inferiority syndrome even after passage of about 150 years. While the Barelvis believe in hereditary saints, as intermediaries to communicate with Prophet Mohammad, and seek divine salvation, the Deobandis reject the theology of intercessions between humans and Divine Grace. The Barelvis hold Prophet Mohammad as a semi-divine figure, i.e. hazir (omnipresent), not bashar (material or flesh) but nur (divine light). The Deobandis also venerate the Prophet Mohammad but as a mortal, insane-i-kamil (the perfect person). The Barelvis are therefore more superstitious and unlike Deobandis are given to synergetic and sufi traditions and practices like devotional music (Quawali). It is estimated that Barelvis constitute between 50% and 60% of Pakistan's population, whereas Deobandis are between 15% and 20%. Though antagonistic one major ground for reconciliation is that both the schools follow the hanafi (one of four schools) of Islamic jurisprudence. The stronghold of Barelvis and Deobandis are in Punjab and NWFP respectively. The other major Sunni sect is Ahl-e-Hadith, which constitutes 4% of the population. It does not believe in any particular school of law but Sunnah (the way of Prophet). It is a Wahhabi influenced sect, which advocates Saudi Arabia model of Islamic state. About 64% of seminaries in Pakistan are run by Deobandis, 25% by Barelvis, 6% by Ahl-e-Hadith and 3% by various Shiite originations1. Besides, the other sects are Ahmadias – 2% (declared non-Muslims) and Ismailis – 2%.

The Ismailis are a Shia community who believe that the eldest son of Imam Jaffar (6th Imam) was a rightful successor and ruler of all Muslims, but his position was usurped by Ismail's younger brother Musa. The Twelver Shia emphasize that Jaffar deliberately and consciously chose Musa as his successor. Presently, there are some 15 million Ismailis all over the world and the important branches of the sect are Bohras (predominantly in Bombay) and Khojas (headed by Aga Khan and predominantly in Gujarat). Ironically the founder of Muslim League which served as the main vehicle for creation of Pakistan, Aga Khan was an Ismaili and so was Jinnah who actually created the Sunni dominated state of Pakistan. Prominent Sunni groups in Pakistan have been making persistent demands for declaration of Ismailis as non-Mulims.

The Deobandi groups particularly the Jamait-e-Islami (J-e-I) were fierce opponents of Jinnah and his demand for Pakistan as they did not believe in the territoriality of Islam, as they held that entire world as per Islamic percepts was divided into two – believers and non-believers, and spread of Islam to the non-believer part was a religious duty of the believers. However, Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani created his on breakaway group Jamiat-Ulema-i-Islam in favour of Pakistan. The Barelvis on the other hand were the most strident supporters of Pakistan.

Every ruler in Pakistan has contributed to the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan mostly for survival and political exigencies.

Pre-Ayub Era

The dispute between modernists and radicals predates the creation of Pakistan, but the gap over the years has been increasingly narrowing. Most of Jinnah's followers were modernists. Jinnah had little patience with Ulema. If most Ulema viewed Jinnah as irreligious, Jinnah considered them as corrupt, power hungry theocrats. About imposition of Sharia Law, Jinnah had said, "I certainly do not propose to handover the field to Ulema."2 In the 12th February 2007 editorial of Pakistan's publication, Qaumi Awaz (National Herald Group), a statement attributed to the most influential Islamic organization, Jamiat-e-Ulema Islamia, maintains that "Jinnah did not really do anything extraordinary for Pakistan that he should be remembered". Further the chief of the organization Maulana Fazlur Rahman, who is also the leader of opposition, said, "we cannot accept him (Jinnah) as one of the mujahideen-e-azadi (freedom fighter)". It was primarily "the discrimination against Muslims that led to the partition, not anything that Jinnah did".3

After Jinnah's death, the debate between modernists and radicals intensified. Some radicals even questioned the need for a constitution since the Quran and Sunnah covered all aspects of human life including political. The first generation of politicians can be described as modernists; nevertheless, they considered Islam as a potent force to unify disparate ethnic groups in Pakistan. In the 1956-Constitution, the only concession that the modernists conceded to the radicals in terms of a clause that recognized sovereignty of Allah over the entire universe in the preamble. The first generation politicians never wanted to share power with the Ulema but were cautious not to confront them in the religious arena and curtail their influence.

Ayub Period

In 1958, General Ayub Khan took over power and abrogated the 1956-constitution. He lamented about the Ulema and fundamentalists and was of the opinion that they stymied progress under the pretext of religion.4 He castigated the Ulemas for opposing Jinnah and his idea of Pakistan and then trying to impose their Islamic ideas on the state once it was created. He also accused them of misguiding people about their miserable conditions on account of failings of their government—"they succeeded in converting optimistic and enthusiastic people into a cynical and frustrated community"5. Ayub initially dropped the word 'Islamic' from the nomenclature of Pakistan and the country was officially named as 'Republic of Pakistan'. But later he restored it to Islamic Republic of Pakistan owing to the pressure of religious parties. Ayub was averse to the Ulema's and the religious parties because of their conflicting interpretation of the Islam and its role in the state and society. His setting up of the Institute of Islamic Research to interpret Islam in accordance with the imperatives of the prevailing times, and the introduction of Family Law Ordinance in 1961, which promised emancipation of women in Pakistan was greatly resented by the mullahs and they launched a vicious agitation. Ayub moved swiftly and the religious party Jamiat-e-Islami, which had spearheaded the agitation was banned (restored by Supreme Court) and its leaders were jailed.

Maddudi, most bitter critic of Pakistan until 1947, had established the Jamiat-e-Islami six years earlier. He was of the firm opinion that "the duty of Muslims was the establishment of the Islamic way of life and not setting up of a National Muslim State"6 However, on the creation of Pakistan, Maddudi and his followers were escorted to the newly created country by a contingent of Pakistan Army — "an event now fraught with symbolism".7 He setup his headquarters at Lahore. The Jamiat-e-Islami cadres made invaluable contribution towards relief and rehabilitation of the refugees and later undertook many welfare projects. Over the years, this role of Jamiat-e-Islami expanded and peaked during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 80s. On the political front, Maddudi's interpretations and perspectives on Islam held sway after the creation of Pakistan, as the influence of moderate political parties, especially the Muslim League, had considerably diminished. Under these circumstances, Maddudi was able to prevail upon the Constituent Assembly to give Islamic moorings to the new constitution, resulting in the Objective Resolution. The Jamiat-e-Islami also spread its tentacles in other countries and has chapters in Bangladesh, India and Egypt, where it has close ties with Ikhwanul Muslimeen, the Islamic Brotherhood.

Madrasas he felt were no longer producing enlightened intellectuals but dogmatic and narrow-minded mullahs. A commission was setup to recommend a modern and broad-based curriculum for the madrasas, which unfortunately was not pursued cogently. The religious parties were also kept at bay by Ayub as he wanted to project himself as an enlightened Muslim Leader in the West8. This did not last too long and gradually Ayub began to back-down and allowed the religious forces to regain their influence9. Nevertheless, the provisions of Ayub's 1962 Constitution contained that only a Muslim could be the President of Pakistan and the Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology and Islamic Research Institute were to assist the government in reconciling all legislation with the tenets of Quran and Sunnah. In fact, as soon as Ayub lifted the martial law the debate about the Islamic character of Pakistan resurfaced with full vigour.

The political confusion, which prevailed in Pakistan after the death of Jinnah and till 1958 aided in the legitimacy and growth of the Ulema and the Islamic parties. The Jamiat-e-Islami acquired new found political confidence and began to oppose Ayub and his one-man rule Constitution along with other opposition political parties. In the run up to 1965 indirect Presidential Elections were held, Ayub had begun to use the intelligence services to tap some of the religious groups in mobilizing public opinion against his rival Fatimah Jinnah (sister of Mohammad Ali Jinnah) on the plea that Islam did not permit a woman to be the head of a state. The intelligence agencies even managed to obtain a fatwa from some religious quarters other than Jamiat-e-Islami to this effect.

Ayub was of the view that the mix of religion is to the mutual detriment of both. Nevertheless he considered Islam to be the most important tool of nation building even though he was against the bigotry and theocracy of the mullahs. In fact, he made his intention clear of providing a unidirectional approach to the role of Islam in nation building, when he announced after his take over that he intended to liberate "the basic concept of Pakistan's ideology from the dust of vagueness"10. Even as he gave due primacy to the role of Islam in nation building, he wanted the state and not the mullahs or the Ulema to be its interpreters. In his view Islamic ideology was essential for welding multi-ethnic Pakistan into a unified country and also vital for defence and security of the new state. This vision of Ayub was shared by most military officers even though some had started reading the teachings of religious scholars like Maduddi. Maduddi's writings had become popular to the extent that it fetched Rs.50,000 in 1947, and continues to be a major source of earning for the Jamiat-e-Islami.11 One approach, however that Ayub shared with the religious parties was in treating of India as an enemy of Islam.

Between 1951 and 1958 even as seven prime ministers and four Governor Generals / President, there was one figure who remain unscathed and constant during the political flux in nascent Pakistan i.e. Ayub Khan. In fact, he was key power broker during this period. Though he was averse to the Ulemas and the Mullahs, and their conflicting version of Islam, he nevertheless was a strong proponent of a simplified version of Islamic religion as a critical tool for welding the much disparate ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups. In this regard, he considered an enlightened ruler like himself, most appropriate for the task rather than Muslim theoreticians like Maddudi. The ban on Jamiat-e-Islami was part of Ayub's drive to cleanse politics and regulate the political parties, which was not upheld by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It was during this period that the J-e-I had struck a common cause with secular parties in this opposition to Ayub's rule. In his book, Friends Not Masters, Ayub Khan avers, "considering that the people of Pakistan are a collection of so many races with different backgrounds, how can they be welded into a unified whole whilst keeping intact their local pride, culture, and traditions"12. Ayub Khan's religious thrust was therefore on political Islam, which did not rely solely on Islamic political teaching in matters of statecraft. Towards this, he sought to synthesize the Islamic nature of Pakistan state and modern pro-western thrust. Such a synthesis he believed could serve as a robust bulwark against communism. The religious parties also considered communism as a threat. Apart from their common cause against communism, Ayub and the religious parties held similar views on Pakistan's pan-Islamic aspirations and anti-India ideology. If there were military officers who shared Ayub's enlightened approach to the role of Islam in Pakistan, there were also some who were influenced by Maddudi's religious arguments and writings.

Yahya Period

Soon after re-imposition of martial law in March 1969, Yahya began to consistently harp on national ideology based on Islam. It had nothing to do with personal piety, as whiskey-loving Yahya was known for religious obscurantism in his personal life. It was only a tool to perpetuate his military regime. Nevertheless, the ideological indoctrination of the population affected the military as well, and during his three years tenure, the military's purely professional image acquired a religious bias. As per Brigadier A R Siddhiqi, who was at that time posted with the Inter-Services Public Relations, branch of the military : Expressions like the "ideology of Pakistan" and the "glory of Islam" used by the military high command were becoming stock phrases. Messages issued by the service chiefs and the President on the occasion of Defense Day reflected the ideology overtones. They sounded more like high priests than soldiers when they urged the men to rededicate themselves to the sacred cause of ensuring the "security, solidarity, integrity of the country and its ideology'. They praised the people for this "determination, courage and high ideals in the best tradition of Islam "¦."13. M Yahya Khan, who had retained the charge of Foreign Ministry, guided Pakistan's foreign policy in consultation with two of his close advisors i.e. General Peerzada and General Gulam Umar (Chief of National Security Cell) was at odds when an Indian delegation was invited to attend the Islamic Summit Conference in Rabat in 1969. From Pakistan's point of view, it was a diplomatic blunder in not having thwarted the development, as it would have given India with 60 million populations, an important voice in the Islamic world. Ultimately, it was King Hassan of Morocco and the Shah of Iran, which came to the rescue and the Indian delegation, which had already arrived in Morocco was not permitted to attend the conference. Yahya manipulated this as his victory to the domestic Islamic constituency in Pakistan. He was hailed by Maddudi as "champion of Islam"14. This was in the hope that any new constitution that Yahya proposed to introduce would have be Islamic in character.

In order to keep secular political parties under check, Yahya used the intelligence services of Pakistan (the ISI and the IB) to promote factionalism and split within them, and encouraged religious groups to counter their "un-Islamic philosophy and agenda". The Information Ministry also launched a propaganda of 'Islam and Pakistan being in danger' in order to polarize the country between Islamic and Non-Islamic (communists, socialists and secularists) lines. Censorship, ostensibly to prevent the publication of religiously offensive material was imposed and religious vigilantes were on a overdrive in academic institutions. Most importantly, Mr. Hussain Haqqani, the author of the book, "Pakistan between Mosque and Military" feels that the Yahya regime opened the pandora's box on the question of what was and was not Islamic – a problem that became more pronounced during the subsequent military regime of General Zia-ul Haq15. The intelligence agencies injected substantial funds to bolster weaker parties both main-stream and religious. All this was done to divide any potential opposition to the regime from both outside and within parliament after elections. The engineering of the Pakistan society and electorate however went completely wrong in the 1970 National Assembly elections held on the basis of one-man one-vote, wherein the Awami League emerged as the largest party.

During the East Pakistan crisis the Army raised a 'Razakaar' (volunteer force) comprising non-Bengalis settled in that part of the country. The Jamait-e-Islami and its student using Islamic-Jamait Talaba contributed majorly to this effort. The Razakaar were constituted into two brigades i.e. Al-Badr (symbolic of Islam's first battle under Prophet Muhammad) and Al-Shams motivated students from schools and madrassas constituted the Al-Badr brigade and were trained for specialist operations and the remaining were part of Al-Shams brigade which was employed for protection of key areas and vital installation. The members of these groups were allegedly used as death squads of Pakistan Army to eliminate rivals including those from intellectual community, who espoused the cause of Bangladesh16.

Z A Bhutto Period

When Bhutto took over, the strength and influence of religious parties was minimal due to the appeal of his socialist slogan of 'roti, kapra aur makan', the pressing problems of the day. The 1973 Constitution—the first constitution by a directly elected legislature— adopted during Bhutto's regime had unprecedented Islamic provisions. Importantly, Islam was declared the state religion. Clause 31 of the Constitution enshrines that the state policy of facilitating Muslims of Pakistan to order their lives in consonance with the principles of Islam. The progressive Islamization of Pakistan thus became a state objective for the first time. Teaching of Islam and Holy Quran was made compulsory for Muslims and the learning of Arabic to be encouraged. An Islamic Council and Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology were constituted to advice the government regarding the propriety of existing and future laws in the backdrop of the tenants of Quran and Sunnah. These constitutional provisions opened the field for Ulemas and fundamentalist parties. The prospects of petrodollars from Arab countries following the oil embargo, both for economic and funding of nuclear weapons programme made Bhutto more strident in his Islamic posturing. Ayub too had established Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology, but its recommendations were not binding. He even established his institute of Islamic Research, which was entrusted with the brief to interpret Islam in modern context. Bhutto had nationalized education, but allowed the Madrasas to remain free of state control. Bhutto's Islamic agenda through prompted by internal political exigencies prevailing after the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971, received as much impetus by the emerging international situation in context of the Islamic countries particularly the Arab World. There was spurt in the oil prices and the oil producing Arab countries were witnessing unprecedented development and prosperity. The situation promised both internal and external dividends for Pakistan. Internally, in Bhutto's reckoning the country could still be galvanized in the name of Islam with the irritant of Bengali Islam no more operative, and externally a renewed reach out to oil rich Muslim countries would provide the much needed funds and employment opportunities for people in Pakistan. For the oil rich Sheikhdoms, Pakistan became one of the largest source of supply of manpower and in addition the services of the Pakistan military, still one of the best in the Islamic World, were obtained to bolster the security of the Arab monarchy and sheikhdoms.

To ensure the flow of petrodollars, Bhutto over emphasized on Pakistan's Islamic identity in the international fora. He hosted the Organization of Islamic Conference at Lahore in 1974 under the patronage of Saudi King Faisal. The event also provided Bhutto the opportunity to invite Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for the conference and formally recognized Bangladesh. He also sought to use Pakistan's perceived enhanced status in the Muslim world to obtain funds for Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, which acquired added momentum after India's peaceful nuclear test in 197417. The year 1974 was therefore a significant milestone in Pakistan's religious journey, as Bhutto amended the Constitution by which the Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims following protests by fundamentalist Islamic groups, which exploited the clashes between Islamic and Ahmadi students at the Rabwah (HQ of Ahmadi Sect) Railway Station. The agitation was led by the Jamiat-e-Islami with its student wing Jamiat-e-Tulaba in the forefront. Thus, Bhutto pandered to Islamic radicals for short-term political advantages by conceding to their demand (since 1950) of banning the Ahmadis. Ironically, the Ahmadis had supported Bhutto during the 1970 elections because of his liberal and secular agenda. Many felt in Pakistan that the Mullahas had tasted blood and would ask for more.18 Thus Bhutto, the politician, succumbed to the Islamic fundamentalists for political exigencies. He also created the Ministry of Religious Affairs headed by Maulana Kausar Niazi, a former member of Jamiat-e-Islami. Gradually, the Jamiat-e-Tulaba reduced the influence of leftist intellectuals in the universities, who were supporters of Bhutto.

In retrospect, it can be inferred, that Bhutto adopted a more strident Islamic posture under desperate political circumstances. The term of the National Assembly was to expire on 14 August 1977. Elections to the National and Provincial Assemblies were ordered on March 7 and 10 respectively. Bhutto's Pakistan's People Party (PPP) won a landslide victory in the National Assembly by winning 155 (58.1% votes) out of 200 seats. The opposition Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) won only 36 (35.4% votes) seats. The PNA comprised secular parties like Muslim League and the religious parties. The opposition won in the NWFP and all the major cities. There were wide spread allegations of rigging. What gave credence to these allegations was the PNA's unexpectedly massive defeat in the Punjab province, where it won only 8 seats out of 116 seats. The scale of victory had indeed embarrassed Bhutto and he too did not discount the possibility of rigging at behest of some of his over-enthusiastic party men, though he could not acknowledge it in public. He contacted the PNA leadership and offered an arrangement that would increase the PNA representation in the National Assembly. Towards this one possible way that Bhutto had in mind was to hold by-elections in some of the controversial constituencies and leave the field open to the PNA by not fielding any PPP candidate.19 But the PNA was not content with sitting in the opposition and wanted a complete re-poll, however Bhutto felt that conceding such a demand would have been an acceptance of his role in manipulation of the election process.20 The sole aim of the PNA now became the overthrow of the Bhutto regime by a vigorous agitation. It boycotted the provincial assembly polls.

The agitation acquired religious colour as it was spearheaded by the religious parties, who began to demand Nizam-e-Mustafa (the System of Prophet of Islam). Mosques in Pakistan served as the nerve centers in the organization of the agitation. It was under these circumstances that Bhutto decided to play a more aggressive religious card. He announced enforcement of Sharia within six months, prohibition on alcohol and gambling, and declaration of Fridays as holidays. Rajeev Sharma in his book 'Global Jihad' observes that it was ironic that the same Bhutto on the last day of his life had a clean shave before his midnight hanging, as he did not wish to die "like a bearded mullah".21

Bhutto thus expanded the role of Islam in public discourse, based purely on political considerations. Notwithstanding other political and personal considerations that influenced the selection of Zia as the Army Chief, his reputation as a deeply conservative and practicing Muslim was the key factor. By virtue of his conservative family background, Zia had close contacts to several Islamists. Bhutto probably reckoned that the appointment of Zia would placate the religious parties and in addition he (Zia) could also serve as a bridge between them. Bhutto did not object, when immediately after his appointment Zia changed the motto of the army to Eman (faith) Taqwa (abstinence) Jihad fi Sabil Allah (war in the way or for the sake of God). He urged commanders at various levels to lead prayers. Even as a Corp Commander, Zia-ul-Haq distributed religious books written by the Jamiat-e-Islami founder Maduddi as prizes during various competitions in military garrisons.22

Zia Period

The Pak Army having become an Army of an Islamic State was bound to reassess its moorings in British traditions and the drift towards Islamization was a natural corollary. The drift however was massive under Zia, who used Islam and Islamic conservative groups to legitimize his rule. In his first address to the nation, Zia proclaimed that he would strive to establish an Islamic State. The US ignored Zia's Islamization drive due to Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Also during that period, the US viewed Islamic fundamentalism through the Cold War prism and the Asian regional context, which in no way impacted on the security and interests of the US, rather furthered its agenda. The single most contributory factor towards Islamization of the Pakistan Army was the role that the Army and ISI played in Afghanistan in the 80s. It not only brought the Islamic conservative groups and the Pak Army closer, but also conferred legitimacy and respectability to these groups. The Islamic concept of Jihad with its global ramifications received unprecedented impetus. The US, which had opened its purse strings and ensured liberal supply of arms to mujahideens and the Zia regime may itself has been surprised by the efficacy and performance of the jihadi military machine that they had created to thwart Soviet expansionist agenda. It had a far-reaching impact on the professional philosophy and approach of the Pakistan Army at strategic, operational and tactical levels.

In 1979 under Zia, the Hudood Ordinance became operative by which punishments for crimes and omissions were to be meted out in accordance with Quran and Sunnah. The Zina Ordinance permitted the public flogging of men and women for religious misdemeanors. The Federal Sharia Court was established to "examine and decide the question whether or not any law or provision of law is repugnant to the provisions". Zia was nevertheless conscious about the dangers that the move of his posed to the martial law regime. That the move was guided purely by political rather than religious considerations is evidenced by the fact that "he declared that the Sharia Court could not challenge any martial law regulation or order. The military it seemed was above Islamic Law"23. Further, Zia attempted to Islamicise Pakistan's economy. In 1981, interest payments (banned by Quran) were replaced by 'profit and loss' accounting. He also introduced Zakat deduction, as per which 2.5% annual deduction from the money resting in someone bank account was made on the first day of Ramadan. He launched a drive to overhaul the education system to bring it inconformity with Islamic tenets. Government servants were enjoined upon to offer Namaz five times a day. Office schedules were tailored to make this activity conducive. A separate column in the Confidential Reports was introduced to comment on individuals on Islamic knowledge and credentials. The Jamiat-e-Islami was consistent in its support to Zia. Its members and sympathizers were favoured in government jobs in judiciary and the civil service. Zia, in fact, as President and Army Chief attended the annual congregation of Tabligh-i-Jamaat at Raiwind. Encouraged by this, many officers began to openly associate with the Tabligh-i-Jamaat and publicly demonstrated their religiousness, something Army personnel avoided in the past24.

Benazir Bhutto & Nawaz Sharif Period

Benazir though a modernist by education and upbringing was constrained by the challenge the Islamic radicals and Ulema posed because of she being a woman head of Islamic State. Therefore, she tried hard to project that as a woman she could not only protect Islam in an Islamic State but also impart impetus to it. However, the Military-Intelligence establishment and the Mullahs continued to be completely intolerant towards Mrs Bhutto because of her perceived pro-West and pro-India policy. As per Mrs Benazir Bhutto, some Arab militant leaders and Pakistani generals in association with Osama Bin Laden had approached her to support their plan for waging 'war against the US', which she vetoed. The generals serving under Mrs Bhutto in her second term, who were rabid anti-US and pro-militants included Army Chief Aslam Baig and Director General of ISI General Hamid Gul. Mrs Bhutto maintains that Osama Bin Laden tried to pull-down her government by conspiring to assassinate her in association with Ramzi Yusuf, who had also contemplated to attack the World Trade Towers in 1990s.25

Zia's protégé, Nawaz Sharif came from a conservative Islamic family. In October 1998, he tried to introduce the 15th Constitutional Amendment Bill, by which Sharia would have become the supreme law in Pakistan. This would have been invested the Prime Minister with arbitrary powers. Owen in his book, 'Pakistan Eye of the Storm', maintains that he (Sharif) probably "never fully understood that the Sharia Bill would have fundamentally altered the nature of Pakistan State. As far as he was concerned, it would improve law and order in the country and remove irritating constraints on his power such as Parliament and Constitution"26. Before the bill could be passed by the Senate, Musharraf had removed Nawaz Sharif.

Musharraf Period

Musharraf to begin with projected himself as a modernist, caste in the mould of Mustfa Kemal Ataturk of Turkey. Ataturk supposedly had a strong influence on young Musharraf when his father was posted on a diplomatic assignment to Turkey. Musharraf's moderate indulgence of whisky is well known and like many other politicians and generals in Pakistan he does not camouflage it. Soon after his takeover a BBC reporter asked Musharraf's father, if his son prayed five times a day, to which he replied that he did not see any reason for him (Musharraf) to do so, as his father did not.27 In April 2000, Musharraf gave consent to changes in Blasphemy Law. The existing law empowers the police to arrest anyone, on the complaint of any citizen, on charges of vilifying or insulting the Prophet or Quran, which could be punishable by death. Under the proposed amendment, the arrest was only to be effected after investigation by the district administration. In the face of opposition from Islamic parties, Musharraf backed down. Musharraf's address to Islamic scholars and clerics after his takeover is significant—"And now for a few words on exploitation of religion. Islam teaches tolerance not hatred; universal brotherhood and not enmity; peace and not violence, progress and not bigotry. I have great respect for the Ulema and expect them to come forth and present Islam in its true light. I urge them to curb elements, which are exploiting religion for vested interests and bring bad name to our faith "¦28.

Musharraf's February 2000 ban on public display of arms goes unheeded. Religious parties openly flaunt them. The Madrasa Reforms have not been initiated, as he is reluctant to ruffle the religious groups and parties. During his regime, women in Pakistan also seen to be getting radicalized. In an article by Maraina Baabar, published in the Outlook (26th February 2007 issue)29, it was reported that several burqa-clad girls from the seminary of Jamia-Hafsa lay siege to a children's library in Islamabad in protest against the notice issued by the Capital Development Authority to vacate 81 mosques and madrasas, which have been earmarked for demolition. They even re-christened the library as Modern Islamic Children's Library. The girls were armed with lathis and reportedly also Kalishkanov rifles. The Pak Government was compelled to declare that it would review its decision because of mounting pressure from the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan (Fazlur Rahman group), which had threatened violence if the demands were not met. The illegal mosques and madrasas posed threat to VVIP route in Islamabad. One of the academicians, Farhad Taj, who was allowed to visit the library under siege, was made to promise that she would kill the editor of the Danish newspaper that ran offensive cartoon against Prophet Mohammad in 2005. "Watching TV, they said, was banned in Islam. The students and teachers told me that the madrassa is grooming wives and mothers of jihadis, female suicide bombers and female foot-soldiers who will clash with the law enforcement agencies of Pakistan, if necessary". As per eminent Pakistan analyst Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, the siege was a result of Pakistan Establishment's policy of using militancy for its ends resulting in the free flow of small arms and strengthening of the militant groups. Further she maintained that renegade groups of different militant organizations were regrouping and would further threaten the state and society. The MMA led by Qazi Hussain Ahmad, also the Amir of J-e-I, continue to oppose Musharraf for his appointment of a Hindu, Bhagwan Dass as the acting Chief Justice of Supreme Court contending that it was contrary to Islam. Many officers, who grew up in the Zia era consider Islamic orthodoxy and conservatism as assets. The ideological constituency that Zia had created within the Pak Army and polity is still active. Far from being resented, in the Pak Army Zia's legacy, continues to have admirers and adherents. It finds evidence in the fact that Musharraf inducted Zia-ul-Haq's son Ezazul-Haq in the federal cabinet as the Minister for Religious Affairs.

President Musharraf's so called cooperation in the global campaign against terrorism, and his assurances to India that Pakistan will not tolerate terrorists to use its soil, is actually eye-wash or at best less-than-sincere. It is more out of the exigencies of appeasing the US than to placate India. Various terrorist outfits that thrived in Pakistan have only been asked to lie low at the present juncture. Some of these outfits have ostensibly been banned, but continue to gain strength under different names. Maulana Masood Azhar, the mastermind behind the Kandhar hijack, roams freely in Pakistan. The organization Jamait-ul-Dawa (the parent organization of Lashkar-e-Toiba), has growing acceptance in Pakistan especially after its role in the aftermath of the earthquake in POK in 2005. The vote share of Islamist parties under the banner of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in the National Assembly election held in October 2002 was only 11.1%, however it translated in 20% of the total seats, thus emerging as the main opposition group. This was the best electoral performance by fundamentalist Islamic parties since the creation of Pakistan. The MMA known for its links and sympathy with Taliban is in power in NWFP and is a partner in the ruling coalition in Balochistan. The MMA government in NWFP is engaged in a vicious drive to Talibanize the society in the province. The Military-Intelligence establishment continues to retain its links with the elements of ousted Taliban regime in Afghanistan so that they could be utilized as and when the situation permits. Jihadi elements continue to be trained and infiltrated in Kashmir and other parts of India as well for subversion and sabotage.


The rapid process of Islamic radicalization of Pakistan can be gauged by a study that reveals that the numbers of madrasas have grown from 245 in 1947 to 6761 at present. Of these 3135 are in Punjab, 1281 in NWFP, 905 in Sindh, 96 in Balochistan, 151 in POK and 194 in Islamabad. The biggest spurt in madrasas was between 1988 and 2000, when the increase was by 136% (2861 Madrasas). There are about 1.3 million students and 30000 teachers in these Madrasas. Some 15% are foreign students30. A survey conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies (Research Institute of J-e-I) revealed that 20% of the madrasa students were intolerant of other sects31. Another finding revealed that 40% students in Deobandi madrasas and 51% students in Barelvi madrasas, considered other schools of Islam as their adversary, against whom jihad was justified. This growing religious antagonism if not checked may finally consume Pakistan itself.

It is not that Musharraf is incapable of marginalizing the fundamentalist groups, as he has done in the case of political parties especially Benazir Bhutto's PPP and Nawaz Sharif's PML. No Pakistani ruler has so far requisite courage and statesmanship to jettison Islamic fundamentalist groups, both for strategic and political reasons—strategic, because of J&K and political, because of the necessity to neutralize mainstream rival political outfits. Musharraf, though he fancies himself, is no Kemal Ataturk. He at best is a hybrid between Ayub and Zia.’s-islamic-journey-2.html#more-2817


Regular Member
Apr 26, 2010
interesting article, may i know where you copied this article from?

Latest Replies

Global Defence

New threads