The Slow End of Ideology

India has rejected the politics of loyalty and legacy. Can Pakistan move on too?

In his book, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation, American political psychologist Drew Westen argues that feelings trump cold analysis in the making of political choices. What, then, was the dominant sentiment that resulted in the massive mandate for Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party in India’s latest general election?

As an India-friendly Pakistani currently living in exile in the US, I observed the Indian election through the media as well as the eyes of many Indian friends. That, admittedly, does not qualify me as an authority on Indian politics. But as Benazir Bhutto used to say “There is a bit of India in every Pakistani and there is an element of Pakistan in every Indian.”

Pakistan’s democrats admire Indian democracy and have always done so, even at the risk of being accused of being pro-Indian by the country’s military-dominated establishment. Linked by a shared civilisation and having been one country until 1947, the political sentiments on both sides of the border have remarkable similarities.

Indians have adhered to democracy consistently while the democratic aspirations of Pakistanis have been devoured by an overwhelming military-intelligence complex. But, like India, Pakistan’s democratic process (whenever it is allowed to operate) is influenced by familiar feelings about caste, religion, feudal loyalty and ethnic identity.

In the first few elections after Independence, Indian politics was dominated by the sentiment of gratitude towards those who led the country to freedom from the British. The foremost sentiment in Pakistan, of trying to forge a new nation and to justify the two-nation theory, ended in the military’s dominance. The task of defining Pakistani nationhood could not be left by the military to feudal politicians prone to cutting deals among themselves.

The death of Jawaharlal Nehru resulted in contention for leadership among many equals within the Indian National Congress. Indira Gandhi could claim Nehru’s legacy through the bloodline, making it easy for the people to transfer their emotional loyalty from Nehru, the freedom fighter, to Indira, the freedom fighter’s daughter. Her tragic assassination triggered the emotion of respect for sacrifice, which continued after the assassination of her son and successor, Rajiv Gandhi. In Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) went through similar transitions after the judicial execution of the elder Bhutto and the terrorist assassination of his daughter, Benazir.

Family legacies had worked to build democracies in countries as far apart as Greece and India. The Papandreou and Karamanlis families provided leaders for rival parties in Greece, and the Nehru-Gandhi family was the focal point for the Indian National Congress. Pakistanis sought a similar nucleus in the Bhutto family for struggle against military rule. In India, the Nehru-Gandhi family made policy with a free hand but the Bhuttos in Pakistan have had the added burden of dealing with the machinations of the military-intelligence complex.

The politics of family legacy is often intertwined with ideology. For example, for many, the Nehru-Gandhi family represents India’s secularism and in Pakistan, the Bhuttos are identified with relative pluralism in an otherwise hardline Islamist ideological environment. But the depth of loyalty to a legacy lasts only as long as the memory of the legacy. With each passing generation, India’s memory of its freedom struggle is less sharp. Sentiments of loyalty over past sacrifices, too, cannot last forever.

As has been said by virtually every pundit and columnist over the last few days, India is now swept by the desire for progress and change. Ideology may still be important but performance and results matter more to more and more people.

The dominant sentiment in India’s latest election was embracing aspiration and modernity while rejecting ideology and legacy.The spectre of a communalist Modi did not scare voters because the Modi associated with the Gujarat riots of 2002 did not show up during the election campaign. The Modi people voted for espoused a vision for bullet trains, efficient government, economic opportunity and modernity.

The people are often willing to accept that leaders can change their view. After all, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam of Pakistan, had gone from being an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity in the 1920s to being the principal advocate of the two-nation theory and Muslim separatism. It was sad as well as comical to see globally recognised terrorist Hafiz Saeed appear on Pakistani television to describe Modi’s election as prime minister as affirmation of the two-nation theory.

India appears to have moved beyond ideology as the core emotion of its politics.

An insight into dynamics behind Indo-Pak hostilities

An insight into dynamics behind Indo-Pak hostilities
Hindustan Times- Jaipur, India

January 20, 2014

by Urvashi Dev Rawal

Haqqani: Fear that India doesn’t accept its existence drives Pak militancy

The diplomat’s book, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, was a scathing critique of the alliance between the two countries

Husain Haqqani, diplomat, scholar and journalist, has been a vocal critic of the military-mullah nexus in Pakistan and of political Islam. His views have not always found favour in the Pakistan establishment, especially the military. Haqqani, currently senior fellow and director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute and director of the Center of International Relations at Boston University, has been a votary of friendly ties between India and Pakistan, saying that the two countries should build on their shared history and culture. But a sense of fear holds back the nuclear armed neighbours from realising their potential.

“We need to understand the essential dynamics that drive hostilities. We need to get to the root of issues. In Pakistan, a fear pervades that India does not accept Pakistan’s existence and this drives Pakistan to militarism and militancy. In India, Pakistan is used as bait in its communal politics and that doesn’t do well for either country.”

Asked about Kashmir always being a bone of contention between the two countries and being used to further their respective agendas, he pointed to a lack of political will and said a great idea approach was needed.

“Efforts so far have been technical in nature. We need a great idea approach. We need to recognise our shared history and that we inhabit the same subcontinent. We should resolve our differences,” says Haqqani, a former Pakistan ambassador to the United States.

“When leaders decide that cooperation is more important than conflict then an atmosphere can be created where cooperation is possible. We need more voices that speak clearly on the need for cooperation,” he says.
“We have to root out terrorism from our (India-Pakistan) equation completely. And that onus lies on Pakistan. It has to assure the world community that it does not and will not support terrorism. It is complicated but it can be done. And other countries should help Pakistan in this,” says Haqqani. He adds that India should play a role in helping Pakistan do away with this fear. “I have questioned the logic of that fear, and that is my contribution.
But the fact remains that the voices of war-mongers still carry more weight than moderate voices that call for peaceful coexistence.

Haqqani says, “There are a lot of voices for sanity in India and Pakistan but they don’t get the amplification they deserve because there are forces in both countries that prefer hawkish stances. Unfortunately, in the media too there are hawks on both sides who say provocative things as they are more newsy. Sane voices make a one-time news story but hawkish comments lead to counter-reactions and comments and it becomes a chain reaction. That’s the bane of rational decision making.”

He denied comment on whether a government led by the BJP coming to power in India after the general elections would be more hawkish, saying it was India’s internal matter.

Will the new government in Pakistan led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promote a peaceful agenda vis-a-vis India? Haqqani, whose book Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military was a scathing critique of the alliance between the two, says civilian governments in Pakistan have tried to check the rise of militancy.

“If Pakistan had been democratic for a considerable length of time in its political history, the conservative forces wouldn’t have succeeded. Hafiz Saeed (terror mastermind who is accused of orchestrating the 2008 attacks on Mumbai) offers us only eternal conflict and destruction, while democratic forces offer us development, alternative policies and world views.”

“Pakistan is a fledgling democracy saddled with past baggage. People must understand their history more correctly. Being a Pakistani, I can identify Pakistan’s problems and be a harsh critic. But at the same time I am also optimistic about its future.”

Pakistan’s Murder Mystery

Who killed the country’s Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto? Authorities are now pointing their finger at the former ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

The indictment of Pakistan’s former military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, in connection with the 2007 assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is the latest twist in the country’s complex saga of political intrigue.

Although military dictators have ruled Pakistan for more than half its history,Musharraf is the first senior general to face criminal charges. In the past, Pakistan’s army has blocked trials of its retired leaders even after military defeat or surrender and reports of atrocities against the country’s civilians. The army’s grip on power has not eroded, though an assertive judiciary and a hyperactive media make it difficult to shove things under the carpet.

Putting Musharraf on trial, without exposing others who might have had a role in Bhutto’s assassination, might be the second-best thing from the point of view of generals who still believe that they alone know what is best for Pakistan. But unless it results in full disclosure of facts relating to Bhutto’s murder, and the cover-up that followed, the case against Musharraf will only further divide an already polarized nation.

Bhutto was twice elected prime minister only to be removed from office, ostensibly on corruption charges, by presidents backed by the military. In both her terms, jihadi groups, including al Qaeda, considered Bhutto a danger to their plans of using Afghanistan and Pakistan as centers for their global jihad. In 1989, Osama bin Laden funded an effort to oust her from power by buying off legislators during a parliamentary vote of no confidence. Ramzi Youssef, who was involved in 1993 al Qaeda attack on New York’s World Trade Center, later admitted planning Bhutto’s murder soon after the New York bombing.

From the jihadists’ point of view, Bhutto was a Western-educated woman who represented a vision for Pakistan and the Muslim world diametrically opposed to their own. For them, a Muslim woman leader elected by popular vote symbolized the kind of modernity they hoped to block through jihad. For them, being a woman with a Western education was enough reason to hate Bhutto with a passion.

Pakistan’s generals resented Bhutto for their own reasons. Despite adverse propaganda and ouster from power amid corruption charges, Bhutto remained widely popular among Pakistanis. The army’s senior commanders saw Bhutto as a challenge to their authority ever since Islamist dictator Gen. Zia-ul-Haq hanged Bhutto’s father in 1979 on what are widely believed to be trumped-up charges of plotting to assassinate a political opponent. Bhutto’s spouse, Asif Ali Zardari, was imprisoned for 11 years without conviction for any crime. But even that did not eliminate Bhutto’s support base.

Bhutto’s resilience forced Musharraf to let her return from exile in 2007. On her return, she attracted huge crowds, and a suicide bomber attacked her very first rally in Karachi, killing scores of Bhutto supporters. After this, Musharraf’s administration should have enhanced security for the former prime minister but did not. Instead, Musharraf tried to use security arrangements as a bargaining chip so that he might force Bhutto into a political compromise.

Benazir Bhutto was assassinated after a political rally on December 27, 2007, in Rawalpindi, the garrison town adjoining Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Before her death, she had written to a number of friends that Musharraf should be held accountable if she was killed because of lax security and the possible complicity of some people within his administration who sympathized with the jihadists.

The Bhutto assassination has been investigated by a special United Nations Commission, but Musharraf is the only senior official charged specifically with a role in that murder. The U.N. investigators discovered that an army officer had ordered the hosing down of the crime scene and the police had “deliberately botched the investigation.” Musharraf alone cannot be charged with the conspiracy unless others involved in that conspiracy are also named and indicted. The more important question relating to the links of al Qaeda and its Pakistani affiliates and their role in the assassination also needs to be further explored.
Pakistan’s chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, appears to carry a grudge against Musharraf, who removed him from his position in 2007 only to be restored two years later by the civilian government that followed Musharraf. Chaudhry is not known to always root his judgment in law and could use the Bhutto assassination case to settle his score with Musharraf—the man who both gave him his job and took it away.

But Musharraf’s trial would help Pakistan confront the demons of its convoluted past only if it is free of the taint of political vendetta. Musharraf must certainly be held accountable, but so should everyone else involved in killing the anti-jihadi, pro-Western leader Pakistan could have had.

Americans often worry about nuclear-armed Pakistan as the most dangerous country in the world. Solving the murder of a popular civilian leader who could have taken Pakistan way from its jihadist path could be a starting point for at least understanding the combination of forces that make Pakistan so dangerous.

Above article was published in Daily Beast on Aug 21 2013

Islamism and the Pakistani State

Unlike most Muslim-majority countries, the state of Pakistan has consistently tolerated and even maintained positive relations with Islamist groups. Pakistan’s approach to Islamism differed greatly from the policies of other Muslim countries, which were led to independence in the twentieth century by secular elites. Islamists were deemed by these elites as an obstruction to their modernizing aspirations. The state apparatus was used either to suppress Islamism (Iran under the Shah, Turkey, and Tunisia) or to coopt it within a secular framework (Indonesia and Malaysia). Although Pakistan’s founding elites were also secular, their call for partition of British India along religious lines made it necessary for them to adopt Islamist ideas as part of their nation-building effort.

At a time when the newly-written constitutions of other Muslim countries emphasized the secular character of their states, Pakistan’s first Constituent Assembly adopted the ‘Objectives Resolution’ in 1949, declaring the purpose of the state to be to enable Muslims “to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and the Sunna.”

Although the functionaries of the Pakistani state remained largely secular until the 1980s, the state helped create a Pakistani sense of self as the citadel of Islam, which in turn enabled Islamists greater freedom of organization and movement than in other countries.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Pakistan remained the center of Pan-Islamist activity. Leaders of the Arab Muslim Brotherhood, including Said Ramadan, travelled to Pakistan for conferences proclaiming the unity of the Muslim Ummah. The Grand Mufti of Palestine, Amin al-Husseini, led the Motamar al-Alam al-Islami (World Muslim Congress), which maintained its headquarters in the then-Pakistani capital, Karachi. Abul Ala Maududi’s Jamaat-e-Islami evolved as a cadre-based organization that proclaimed itself the vanguard of the global Islamic revolution.

By the time General Zia ul-Haq seized power in a military coup in 1977, Pakistan’s constitution and laws already had elements of Islamic law grafted on to the British institutions of Westminster-style parliamentary democracy and an Anglo-Saxon legal system. Zia went farther than other Pakistani leaders in flaunting his own piety and initiated deeper Islamization of the educational, the legal and even the financial systems. The Islamists, who had repeatedly failed to win votes from Pakistan’s masses, were able to influence the state without fully controlling it.

Relatively weak efforts, by Pakistan’s secular politicians elected to office after Zia’s death in 1988, to modify or roll-back Zia’s Islamization have not succeeded partly because of the rise in militant Islamism resulting from Pakistan’s role as the staging ground for the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan (1979-1989). In addition to the political Islamists using agit-prop to advance their cause, Pakistan has now become home to tens of thousands of armed men, initially trained as guerilla fighters to face the Soviets. After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) continued Pakistan’s own jihad in Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir as well as in Afghanistan.

The jihadis have, since 1989, been an instrument of Pakistani policy for regional influence. Pakistan, under the leadership of military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, joined the U.S.-led global war against terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11, complicating the Pakistani state’s relationship with the jihadis. At least some jihadi groups declared war on the Pakistani state because of its selective cooperation with the United States.

Pakistan’s status as an ideological state has resulted in the proliferation of Islamic political groups of all kinds. Several of them have received state patronage or at least tolerance at one time or another. Others have operated independently or with the support of fellow Islamist groups outside the country. Now, Pakistan’s Islamists are divided not only by their varied theological approaches but also by their views of and attitudes toward the Pakistani state.

Pakistan’s Islamists can now be categorized into three broad groupings: 1) Islamist groups working with the Pakistani state; 2) Islamist groups trying to take over the state through political means; and 3) Islamist groups fighting the state.


Working with the State

Even after Pakistan’s post-9/11 partnership with the United States, several Islamist groups continue to enjoy close ties with the state apparatus. This includes Deobandi Ulema of the Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) who participate in electoral politics while also describing jihad as a sacred right and obligation. The Deobandis have encouraged students of madrasas toward militancy. The Afghan Taliban, students of Deobandi madrasas in Pakistan who held power in Afghanistan before 9/11, are still seen as allies by Pakistan’s military and the ISI. But a new generation of the Taliban has emerged that is not willing to work within the complex confines of Pakistani realpolitik, which requires modification of the jihadist ideology with occasional compromise.

Maulana Fazlur Rahman, head of the JUI, has tried to manage a balancing act by remaining active in parliamentary politics, alternately aligning himself with various political factions and claiming that he is the only one capable of dealing with the Taliban.  According to American journalist Nicholas Schmidle, who interviewed him for the New York Times, “Rehman doesn’t pretend to be a liberal; he wants to see Pakistan become a truly Islamic state. But the moral vigilantism and the proliferation of Taliban-inspired militias along the border with Afghanistan is not how he saw it happening.”[1]

Rehman claims that the Taliban have been driven to extremism “because of America’s policies” and insists that he is trying to bring them back into the mainstream. Thus, he and others in the JUI do not see as inherently wrong the Taliban’s policies against women and religious minorities or Shia Muslims. Their objection seems to be to their decision to continue fighting while the Pakistani state needs to protect itself by working with the world’s sole superpower, the United States.

As a result, the JUI has become an influential political player with only a handful of seats in Pakistan’s parliament. It was a coalition partner of the Islamist Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), which ruled Pakistan’s northwest Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province from 2002-2008 and of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which governed from 2008-2013. It contested the 2013 elections on the promise of “stabilizing the Islamic system in the country in accordance with the constitution.”[2]After the election, it opted to join the government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif even though Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) has a clear majority in parliament and does not require coalition partners.[3]

A trickier ally of the Pakistani state among Islamist groups is the Wahhabi Lashkar-e-Taiba (The Army of the Pure) founded in 1989 by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. Backed by Saudi money and protected by Pakistani intelligence services, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) became the military wing of Markaz al-Dawa wal-Irshad (Center for the Call to Righteousness) and has been officially banned for several years. The United States froze the organization’s assets, saying that it had been involved in several acts of international terrorism. The November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India were also attributed to LeT.

Saeed now heads his organization with the name Jamaat-ud-Dawa (the Society for Preaching) from a large campus and training facility at Muridke, outside the Pakistan city of Lahore. Pakistani authorities have repeatedly refused to move against either Lashkar, which continues to operate in Kashmir, or Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which operates freely in Pakistan. In return, Saeed has urged Islamists to defend the Pakistani state and to spare it from terrorist attacks even if the state’s policies appear to contradict the global Islamist agenda. LeT and Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s policy seems to be to secure the support of the Pakistani state for organizational survival while limiting criticism of Pakistan.

The result is calibrated support for armed jihad, focused on fighting battles outside Pakistan first. In a recent speech, Saeed said that, “the Muslim Ummah is in a big problem right now with India, Israel and America using all their technological advancements against us and they are attacking Pakistan. The Muslim Ummah needs to reduce all the conspiracies of the disbelievers to dust. The problems in Burma, Kashmir, Palestine, and Afghanistan can only be resolved by making sacrifices in the battlefield.”[4]

In January 2012, Jamaat-ud-Dawa joined several Islamist formations in the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC, or the Defense of Pakistan Council), which was also joined by former ISI chief, Lt. General (ret.) Hamid Gul.  The Council described its purpose as defending Pakistan against “Zionist” conspiracies. “It’s the US desire to leave India in a position where it can dominate the region and serve the interests of Zionist Controlled world,”[5] the DPC declared. It expressed support for Pakistan’s armed forces and its hardline stance against India mirrored the views of the Pakistan deep state and the ISI.

Soon after the U.S. government posted a $10 million reward in April 2012 for information leading to his successful prosecution, Saeed called on the people of Pakistan “to wage Jihad against America in order to save Pakistan and Islam. “Come to us. We will teach you the meaning of jihad… The time to fight has come.” In a sermon ahead of Friday prayers in Lahore, he said that jihad had “caused the USSR to break and now America is failing because of it.”[6] But by June 2013, Saeed was focusing on his fatwa that described “extremist activities within Pakistan” as not being jihad. “Militant activities in Pakistan do not fall in the category of Jihad,” he argued, appealing to “all jihadi organizations not to carry out attacks inside Pakistan.” He claimed that America and India were benefiting from terrorist activities inside Pakistan. But he insisted that Muslims would have to “continue Jihad to maintain their freedom.”[7]

These declarations of support for the Pakistani state have been accompanied by a hardline theological vision that rejects inter-faith dialogue, modern ideas of religious tolerance and an emphasis on Islamic exclusivity. In his speeches, Saeed continues to exhort Muslims to understand that Muslims must maintain a strict distinction from unbelievers. “It is the faith that distinguishes a Muslim from a Kafir [infidel],” he explains. “The real fault is that today’s Muslims, despite believing in Allah, commit the same errors that a Jew will commit, that a Christian will commit; the lacuna which exists in the faith of Hindus will be reflected among today’s Muslims too,” Saeed lamented.

The Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader recommends that Muslims “cut off from the Hindu, the Jew, the Crusader” so that “after the end of Jew-ism, after the end of Christianity, after the End of Obscenity… Islam will Rule the World.”[8] Saeed reserves his greatest criticism for Hindus and advocates jihad against India. This makes him an ally of the Pakistani state, which for years has described Hindu-led India as an existential threat to Islamic Pakistan. According to Saeed, the Prophet Muhammad described those waging jihad in Hind (India) as “superior” to all other jihadis and “among the greatest martyrs.”[9]

Like Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Afghan Taliban groups operating out of Pakistan have also been often at pains to draw distinctions between attacking Pakistan and targeting foreigners or unbelievers. The network of Afghan jihadis led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj Haqqani are considered deadly enemies by the United States because of their frequent attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But the group maintains good ties with the Pakistani state. At one point, it went so far as to publicly demand that Pakistani Taliban should support peace deals in Pakistan’s tribal areas backed by Pakistani authorities.[10]

The main formation of Afghan Taliban, led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, also announced plans to oppose jihadi groups that attacked Pakistan’s military.[11]But the complex dynamic among jihadi groups resulted in multiple clarifications and denials that eventually led to the replacement of the Pakistani Taliban’s public face, spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan.[12] Pakistan’s government continues to work on arranging direct talks between the United States and the Afghan Taliban based in Pakistan.


Trying to Take Over the State

While groups such as JUI, Jamaat-ud-Dawa/Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Afghan Taliban continue to work alongside the Pakistani state, other Islamists adhere to the original Islamist goal of incrementally capturing state power. Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic Society) is closest in ideology and organizational methods to the Arab Muslim Brotherhood, with which it maintains ideological and cooperative links. Established by Abul Ala Maududi in 1947, it has operated over the decades as a political party, a social welfare organization, a pan-Islamic network and a sponsor of militant groups fighting in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

Jamaat-e-Islami received significant amounts of Saudi assistance until its leaders refused to support the Kingdom in the 1991 Gulf War. Jamaat-e-Islami leaders have since repaired their relations with the Saudis and support from private Saudi individuals continues to flow in to the group. But the Saudis have diverted support from Jamaat-e-Islami toward other Deobandi and Wahhabi groups since the 1990s, which reduced the Jamaat-e-Islami’s standing as the dominant Islamist group in South Asia.

The Jamaat-e-Islami states its objective to be the establishment of “a Divine Government,” which it defines as “that universal revolution in the individual and collective life of man which Islam calls for.”[13] Although it engages in politics it refuses to be identified solely as a political party. Jamaat-e-Islami’s manifesto insists that it will “try to bring revolution and reformation through constitutional ways.” It emphasizes molding of public opinion and categorically declares that it “will not implement its manifesto through underground movements; instead, it will do everything openly.”[14]

The Jamaat-e-Islami has not always lived up to its claim of engaging in an open, constitutional struggle for an Islamic government replicating the Rashidun caliphate. It was accused in the Pakistani Supreme Court of receiving money from the ISI for its campaign for the 1990 elections, which the Court said had been influenced by the intelligence agency to block the PPP from winning. The Jamaat-e-Islami denied the charge even though former ISI officials confirmed the allegation.[15] The covert funding did not improve the Jamaat-e-Islami’s electoral performance significantly. The party’s vote bank has remained consistently stagnant and it has never been able to win more than a handful of seats in parliament.

In recent years, Jamaat-e-Islami has aligned itself with other religious and political parties to secure a share in power in the northwest Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. It has taken a staunchly anti-American stance even though it was one of the major conduits of CIA funding for the Afghan Mujahideen during the 1980s. The group’s strategy seems to be to increase its influence within Pakistani society by aligning with hyper-nationalists. Some of its members have gained influential positions within Sharif’s PML-N and the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice, PTI) of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.

Jamaat-e-Islami now acts as the unofficial arbiter of Pakistan’s status as a nation founded on the grounds of its Islamic identity. The party’s current Amir or President, Syed Munawwar Hasan, represents the second generation of Jamaat-e-Islamic cadres, having joined it in the 1960s through its student wing, Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba. Hasan was once a communist and his early training is reflected in his “United Front” approach that characterizes the movement’s recent strategies. Jamaat-e-Islami leaders now speak of threats to Pakistan from the United States, Israel and India and call for the unity of “patriotic and religious parties.”[16]

Jamaat-e-Islami contested the May 2013 election with the scales of justice as its election symbol and with calls for re-establishing a state similar to the one led by the Prophet Muhammad in Medina.[17] Its slogan, “Change of System is the hope of the nation,” was remarkably similar to that of Khan’s PTI. Jamaat-e-Islami’s manifesto claimed that it would end “US slavery to restore Pakistan’s independence and sovereignty,”[18] and promised self-reliance against western-led globalization.

Jamaat-e-Islami’s tie-up with Khan has enabled it to translate its organizational capability into serious political influence, without actually having to win votes. Although Khan is portrayed in the west as an Oxford-educated former cricketer, in Pakistan he articulates views clearly influenced by Jamaat-e-Islami. During the election campaign, he spoke of jihad as “war for my freedom” and said that “Sharia is what makes us human.” [19]  According to Khan, “Sharia brings justice and humanity in society” and “it is the name of a welfare state.”[20] Khan’s PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami formed a coalition government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa after the elections, enabling the Jamaat-e-Islami to put its “United Front” strategy into practice in government.

While the Jamaat-e-Islami seeks to take over the state through constitutional means and political stratagems, Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Islamic Liberation, HT) has an exactly opposite approach for establishing the caliphate. The movement, founded in 1953 by Palestinian Taqi-ud-Din Nabhani is legally banned in Pakistan but its members have been active in their covert struggle to transform Pakistan into the starting point for a global caliphate.[21]

According to HT’s ideology, “The Islamic countries are Muslim Lands that were divided by the agents of Kafir colonialists, as part of their plan to abolish the Khilafah. According to Sharia unifying them into one state is obligatory.”[22] The movement targets Pakistan as a country that is particularly ripe for its vision of global Islamic revival. Its anti-western rhetoric and calls for abrogation of military cooperation with western powers have resonated with the harder-line anti-western sections within Pakistan’s military and intelligence services.

Hizb ut-Tahrir operates clandestinely and has been involved in several coup plots in other Muslim countries. In 2011, Pakistani authorities arrested Brigadier Ali Khan and four other officers for working with HT to establish an Islamic caliphate in Pakistan. Pakistani officials believe that HT is “often overlooked because it is not always visible and does not conform to stereotypes” and were surprised by its ability to attract senior officers within the military. [23] HT was once linked to a plot to assassinate Pakistan’s then-President, General Pervez Musharraf, and “has been persistently targeting Pakistan Army officials for enlisting” as members. It has made at least three known attempts to penetrate the Pakistani army.[24]


Fighting the Pakistani State

Just as the Pakistani state’s dichotomous stance towards Islamist groups has resulted in its sponsorship and support of some groups, there are other Islamists who consider Pakistan’s state apparatus as their principal target. While Americans see Pakistan’s efforts against jihadi groups as inadequate, Al-Qaeda in Pakistan sees them as too much. According to Al-Qaeda’s spokesperson for Pakistan, Ustad Ahmad Farooq, “If [there is] a force that is fundamentally responsible for throwing this entire region into bloodshed and war, it is the Pakistani army.”[25]

In an interview released by Al-Qaeda’s media wing Al-Sahab, Farooq argued that the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan were “inseparable.” According to him, the division between Afghanistan and Pakistan was not natural and those who can understand jihad in Afghanistan against the Americans “should also be able to understand the jihad in Pakistan.”

Al-Qaeda and its associated groups, including Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the virulently anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) have been responsible for several terrorist attacks inside Pakistan, including those on Pakistani army headquarters, several ISI buildings, the Mehran naval air station in Karachi and the Kamra Air Force base. It has been reported that former ISI functionary, Ilyas Kashmiri, leads what he calls the 313 Brigade as the operational arm of al-Qaeda.[26]He is often able to tap into Islamist sentiments within Pakistan’s military and intelligence services for information that enables him to plan and conduct attacks on well-protected military facilities.

After the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. Navy SEALs in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad, Al-Qaeda issued a video urging rebellion in the Pakistani army.[27]

The video showed four TTP members recording their statements before their suicide attack in May 2011 on the Mehran Naval base in Karachi and described it as revenge for the killing of Osama bin Laden. One of the militants in the video said, “Everyone knows that the Pakistani Army was alongside the American army in the operation in which Sheikh Osama was martyred.”

Although Al-Qaeda and its associated groups have been unequivocal in their opposition to the Pakistani state, the state has responded to their threat with equivocation. Pakistan’s media often plays down attacks by these groups, especially the LeJ, as “sectarian terrorism,” and every attack is followed by conspiracy theories linking attacks within Pakistan to Pakistan’s external enemies. “Pakistan has been seemingly trying not to fight the terrorists attached to al Qaeda for various reasons and has been relying on other national hate objects like the US, India and Israel, to deflect attention,”[28] observed an editorial in the liberal Express-Tribune newspaper.

The Pakistani state’s embrace of some extremist Islamists makes it difficult to create national consensus or even discipline within the military and intelligence services about fighting the terrorists. It is difficult for many Pakistanis to understand why Hafiz Saeed, who advocates terrorist attacks in the name of Islam, is a hero, while Osama bin Laden or Hakeemullah Mehsud, leader of the TTP, is not. Pakistan’s national discourse encourages Islamists to wield influence disproportionate to their numbers. It also allows militant groups to organize, recruit, train and fight from Pakistani soil.

The Pakistani state lacks clarity in its approach to militant Islamism; Pakistan’s politicians are often part of expedient political alignments with Islamist groups; and Pakistan’s media allows Islamist views, including conspiracy theories, to prevail without allowing arguments against their beliefs to be amplified. As a result, Islamists with different strategies for acquiring political power continue to flourish in Pakistan while the writ of the state continues to weaken.


[1] Nicholas Schmidle, “Next-Gen Taliban,” The New York Times, January 6, 2008.

[2] JUI-F, election manifesto, 2013.

[3] “Fazlur Rehman Meets Nawaz Sharif: JUI-F To Sit On Treasury Benches In NA, Senate,” Express Tribune, June 9, 2013.

[4] “Hafiz Saeed’s Advice for Pakistan to Emerge as a Leader of the Muslim Umma,” July 5, 2013

[5] Difa-e-Pakistan Council website, “About Us,”

[6] “Hafiz Saeed calls for Jihad Against America,” AFP, April 6, 2012.

[7] “Attacks in Pakistan are no jihad: Hafiz Saeed,” Express Tribune, June 17, 2013.

[8] Hafiz Saeed on the difference between Muslims and non-Muslims, 5-part video series on You Tube,

[9] Hafiz Saeed on jihad in Hind,

[10] “Kurram Agency: Haqqani warns Hakimullah not to ‘sabotage’ peace … deal,”The Express Tribune, May 2, 2011.

[11] “Mullah Omar-led Afghan Taliban ready to attack Pakistani Taliban,” Dawn, June 8, 2013.

[12] Mushtaq Yusufzai, “TTP sacks its spokesman over threats to Afghan Taliban,”The News (Pakistan), July 10, 2013.

[13] Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan website,

[14] Ibid.

[15] “JI denies receiving ISI fund,” The News (Pakistan), March 4, 2012.

[16] “JI urges patriotic parties to foil conspiracy against democracy,” Business Recorder, January 3, 2013.

[17] “JI will make Pakistan a state similar to Madina: Hafiz Naeem,” The Nation (Pakistan), April 13, 2013.

[18] Jamaat slogan & election manifesto for 2013 elections,

[19] Imran Khan’s press conference in Peshawar, October 11, 2012,

[20] Imran Khan’s interview with Shahid Masood,, December 15, 2011.

[21] Manifesto of Hizb ut-Tahrir for Pakistan, “Pakistan, Khilafah and the Re-unification of the Muslim World,”

[22] Ibid.

[23] Muhammad Amir Rana, “The Hizb ut Tahrir Threat,” Dawn, July 11, 2011.

[24] Malik Asad, “Hizbut Tahrir made three attempts to penetrate army,” Dawn, October 29, 2012.

[25] “Al-Qaeda’s Official for Pakistan, Ustad Ahmad Farooq, Justifies the Taliban’s jihad Against Pakistan, Says: ‘If [There Is] a Force That Is Fundamentally Responsible for Throwing This Entire Region into Bloodshed and War – It Is the Pakistani Army’; ‘It Was Pakistan that Activated its Airspace, Territory, Airbases, Centers, and Everything…For America,’ Memri Special Dispatch No. 3096, July 14, 2010,

[26] Syed Saleem Shahzad, “Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike,” Asia Times, May 27, 2011.

[27] “New Al-Qaeda Video Urges Rebellion In Pakistani Army, Reiterates: Dr. Warren Weinstein Kidnapped To Secure Release Of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui,” Memri Special Dispatch No. 4570, March 13, 2012,

[28] “Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the State,” Express Tribune (editorial), November 14, 2011.

Mamnoon Hussain: The New Man in Pakistan

He may be a figurehead, but the president who is elected today is worth keeping an eye on for signs of where Pakistan is going.

Pakistan will elect a new figurehead president Tuesday, completing the first successful transition in the country’s history from one elected civilian government to another. The man widely expected to win the election, Mamnoon Hussain, is a virtually unknown member of the conservative Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), the political party led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which returned to office in legislative elections held in May. Sharif will now control all constitutional levers of power.

Mamnoon Hussain, the next figurehead president of Pakistan. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty)

Governing Pakistan and addressing its myriad problems, including the continuing menace of terrorism, will be no easier for Sharif than for his predecessors.

In May Pakistan’s electorate voted largely along ethnic lines. Sharif’s majority is derived primarily from support in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, which is home to an overpowering majority of the country’s soldiers, civil servants, journalists, and judges.

Lacking support in other regions, Sharif will only heighten divisions in an already polarized nation if he presses his advantage in numbers without seeking consensus on even minor matters. As it is, Punjabi dominance has fueled resentment among smaller ethnicities, including an ongoing insurgency in Baluchistan along the border with Iran and Afghanistan.

Sharif is two months into his third term as prime minister. His previous two terms were interrupted by Pakistan’s all-powerful military, the last time in 1999 when Gen. Pervez Musharraf overthrew Sharif’s government in a coup d’état.

Although he began his political career as a protégé of Islamist military dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq, he is said to have matured into a pragmatic conservative with wide popularity among Punjabis. But his success in office depends largely on his ability to rebuild Pakistan’s economy as well as wresting control of foreign-policy decision making, which continues to remain in the hands of the all-powerful military.

So far Sharif’s foreign-policy views have been far from clear, adjusted for the benefit of the audience of the moment. His hands are somewhat tied by the anti-Western, hypernationalist rhetoric unleashed during the election campaign by his party as well as by the supporters of cricketer turned politician Imran Khan.

The bombast fuels a Pakistani view of self that contrasts greatly with how the rest of the world sees this nuclear-armed, terrorist-infested Muslim country of 180 million people.

Sharif has promised to fight terrorism with the help of the West and to resume the peace process he had started with India in 1999. If he can deliver on these promises, he will earn the gratitude of a world that worries about Pakistan as an epicenter of global jihad. But Sharif and Khan both represent a major problem that afflicts Pakistan’s politics. Leaders say one thing to Westerners in English and another to their compatriots in local languages.

The bombast fuels a Pakistani view of self that contrasts greatly with how the rest of the world sees this nuclear-armed, terrorist-infested Muslim country of 180 million people.

Pakistan’s national discourse is based on denial of the concerns of other nations. During the 1980s Pakistan denied it had a nuclear-weapons program only to celebrate its existence after nuclear tests in 1998. Jihadi terrorist groups and their leaders are still hailed as heroes, and some even openly participated in the election process without fear of penalty.

Pakistan’s media, both free of government restrictions and unrestrained by concerns about accuracy, constantly feeds conspiracy theories to a nation that tends to blame outsiders for its problems.

Conspiracy theories are often a substitute for examining harsh facts, such as the discovery of Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. Nationalist bombast supersedes the need for analyzing the country’s underlying economic and social problems.

In such an environment, the parties of Sharif and Khan ran campaigns that created expectations without offering concrete solutions. For example, Sharif has promised to build a bullet train from Karachi to Lahore without explaining how he would pay for it. Similarly, Khan’s demagoguery about shooting down drones drew applause from his enthusiastic followers without examining its implications for U.S.-Pakistan relations.

It is important that Pakistan remains a democracy and makes peace with its neighbors. But if Sharif is to succeed in halting Pakistan’s perilous descent, he must forge national consensus and change the Pakistani worldview. Instead of offering to pay Pakistan’s bills, as has been the case in the past, the international community must now encourage Pakistan’s elected leaders to fully take charge, tame the militants, and educate their own people about the country’s problems.

Islamists and Democracy: Caution from Pakistan

Husain Haqqani, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and professor of international relations at Boston University, is the author of Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military (2005). He served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States between 2008 and 2011.
Success in free elections held after the “Arab Spring” protests in Tunisia and Egypt has brought Islamists to power through democratic means, and Islamist influence is on the rise throughout the Arab world. Much of the debate about liberal democracy’s future in Arab countries focuses on the extent to which the Islamists might be moderated by their inclusion in the democratic process. There is no doubt that the prospect of gaining a share of power through elections is a strong incentive that favors the tempering of extremist positions. But until the major Islamist movements give up their core ideology, their pursuit of an Islamic state is likely to impede their ability to be full and permanent participants in democratization. The real test of the Islamists’ commitment to democracy will come not while they are in power for the first time, but when they lose subsequent elections.
Islamists have been a constant feature of the Muslim world’s political landscape for almost a century. They have proven themselves to be resilient under even the most repressive political orders because of their ability to organize through mosques. Secular-nationalist leaders in countries such as Egypt and Jordan have alternately used and crushed Islamists to avoid losing power. Secular autocrats and their apologists have often cited the threat of Islamists taking power as a reason why democracy might be hard to practice in Muslim societies. Such societies, it has been argued, may have either secularism or democracy but not both, as the latter could lead to the erosion of the former under the influence of Islamist ideology.

The opposing argument was that the absence of democracy and freedom strengthened the Islamists since they were the only dissenting force that could covertly organize—by dint of their access to places of worship— at times when political opposition was banned. According to this argument, the absence of democracy made it difficult for Muslim societies to embrace secular pluralism and thus handed the Islamists a political advantage. Islamists have cashed in that advantage during most of the elections held after the overthrow of authoritarian secular regimes. The question now is whether the Islamists will accept pluralism and give up power in the event of an electoral defeat or will insist on pursuing their notion of an Islamic utopia at all costs, thereby preventing the emergence of secular democratic alternatives. Even if Islamists play by democratic rules while in power, there is reason to doubt that they—or at least their more fervent followers—will give up their power if they lose an election. The world still has not seen any examples of governing Islamists being voted out of power, but Pakistan does present an example of what can happen when an Islamist (or at least partially Islamist) government is succeeded by a non-Islamist democratic party. Pakistan has never elected an Islamist party. In fact, Islamist parties have never won more than 5 percent of the vote in Pakistan in any year except 2002, when a coalition of Islamist parties won 11 percent.

Yet the country did have a partly Islamist regime under the military rule of General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. Zia amended Pakistan’s constitution and decreed that some provisions of shari‘a would be included in Pakistan’s penal code. He also made blasphemy punishable by death and made it possible for police to arrest individuals accused of blasphemy immediately upon the filing of a complaint. After Zia’s death in a mysterious 1988 plane crash, new elections brought to power the secular Pakistan

People’s Party (PPP), but a quarter-century later the country continues to be plagued by the extreme Islamist policies introduced under Zia—policies that have proven very difficult to reverse. The Pakistani experience, to which we shall return later in this essay, suggests that there is reason to fear that legislation passed under Islamist influence may be similarly hard to undo in the Arab countries where Islamists have been elected to power. For now, the Islamists are not averse to acquiring power through the democratic method of free elections even if they remain hostile to Western ideas of individual liberty and pluralism.

The Islamists’ idea of democracy usually consists of majority rule, which is easy for them to accept when they are in the majority. Elected Islamist leaders in Egypt and Tunisia have said that they are willing to embrace what Alfred Stepan terms “the twin tolerations,”1 including the notion that elected officials can legislate freely without having to cede to claims that all human laws can be trumped by laws that God has directly revealed. Full acceptance of the twin-tolerations concept would allow future elected governments to change laws rooted in Islamic theology that might be introduced by Islamist-controlled legislatures during their current tenure. If the experience of countries such as Pakistan is any guide, however, Islamists who lose elections nonetheless tend to resist the secularization of laws, with this resistance often taking the form of violence or threats of violence.

The current willingness of Arab Islamists to moderate their stance while taking part in the democratic process appears to be directly tied to the sheer tentativeness of the Arab democratic experiment. The emergence of democratic governance in the Middle East is undoubtedly a positive development, as is the inclusion of Islamists in the process. It would be unrealistic to suppress the Islamists forever, as the fossilized

Arab dictatorships had sought to do, and still hope for secular democratic values to evolve. But it is equally important to guard against the prospect of Islamist dictatorships replacing the secular ones, even if Islamists have initially come to power through free and fair elections.

Suspicion of Democracy and Secularism

Most Islamist movements, including the Arab Muslim Brotherhood and its South Asian analog the Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic Assembly), have a history of questioning Western democracy as well as the basicprinciples of secularism. Radical groups such as the pan-Islamist Hizbut Tahrir and the British group al-Muhajiroun have gone so far as to describe Western democracy as sinful and against the will of God. Several jihadist movements have taken a similarly extreme position. Other Islamist groups, however, have offered their own versions of democracy that allow for the election of officials but limit the authority of legislators. Disagreements also exist over whether non-Muslims and women are entitled to exercise the franchise or to hold public office on the same terms as practicing Muslim men.

The views of various Islamist factions are important because they provide the context for anticipating the path of Islamist politicians. Many Western observers want to project the future trajectory of Islamist political parties solely on the basis of recent pronouncements by Islamist political leaders. This approach is flawed because Islamists have a strong sense of history; their political behavior cannot be easily comprehended or predicted without taking history into account. The group most relevant to the contemporary Arab political scene is the Muslim Brotherhood. Most Islamist groups in the Middle East, ranging from political parties hastily assembled after the Arab Spring to the terrorists of al-Qaeda, trace their roots to the Brotherhood and its ideology.

At its founding in Egypt in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood described itself as an organization dedicated to Islamic revival. Two years later, it registered under Egyptian law as a welfare organization, a legal status that (formally at least) precluded its direct involvement in politics. Its founder Hassan al-Banna (1906–49) gradually unveiled a strategy of political participation and even mounted an abortive run as a parliamentary candidate in 1942. To this day, however, the Brotherhood sees itself as an ideological movement dedicated to the cause of Islamic revival rather than as a political party.

Banna declared that the Brotherhood’s aim was the “Islamization” of Egyptian society through an Islamic revolution that would begin with the individual and extend throughout the community. He identified four stages of this process: first, to make every individual a true Muslim; second, to develop Muslim families; third, to Islamize the community; and finally, to establish an Islamic state in Egypt. In some ways, Banna’s view of this historical progression is reminiscent of Marx’s stages of history. It is based on the belief that events will move in one direction and that Islamization will eventually be attained. But implicit in this revolutionary expectation is the notion that different historical stages require different kinds of strategies. Once a critical mass of Islamized individuals is present, a more directly political strategy—including but not limited to contesting and winning elections—can be adopted.

Unlike Marx, Banna did not lay out the details of the historic progression called for by his theory of inevitable Islamization. This has led Islamists into incessant internal debates regarding the stage that their organization (or society at large) has reached, and which strategy is best suited to it. For this reason, the Brotherhood’s position on democracy and party politics has not been consistent. At one time, Banna opposed the very idea of political parties and advocated a political system that would eschew them. But since Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak opened parliamentary elections to multiple parties in 1984, the Brotherhood has taken part in polls save for two occasions on which it chose to boycott the voting. Although it was not allowed to form a party, it participated as one in all but the most formal sense (its candidates would run as nominal independents, with everyone knowing their real affiliation). After Mubarak fell in early 2011, the Brotherhood formed the Freedom and Justice Party, which dominates Egypt’s parliament and whose chairman Mohamed Morsi won election to the presidency in June 2012.

Like other ideological movements that seek to change the entire sociopolitical order, the Brotherhood has often debated and shifted its strategies. Its objectives of Islamizing society and establishing an Islamic state, however, have remained constant. The question for those trying to gauge the prospects of democracy in the Arab world is whether the Muslim Brotherhood’s acceptance of democratic norms is permanent or is just another strategic shift meant to serve the higher ideological goal of establishing an Islamic state. In this connection, it is worth noting that the Brotherhood’s decision to contest elections by setting up a party—avowedly separate and distinct from the main movement—allows the Brotherhood to maintain a stance of ideological purity while placing some of its members in a position to undertake political compromises.

Banna’s speeches and writings about Islamic revival were exhortatory rather than descriptive. For example, he declared that the Muslim

Brotherhood wanted “the foundations of modern Eastern resurgence” to be built “on the basic principles of Islam, in every aspect of life.” The task of describing “the precepts of Islam” on which this revival was to be built would fall to others. 2 Mawdudi, Qutb, and the Islamic State One of the most detailed accounts of an Islamic political theory was offered by Sayyid Abu’l-A’la Mawdudi (1903–79), the founder of the

Jamaat-e-Islami in the Indian subcontinent, who is considered the seminal

ideologist of global Islamism. Mawdudi elaborated the idea that in

an Islamic state sovereignty belongs explicitly to Allah (God), and thus

that the principal function of an Islamic polity must be to enforce the

rules laid down in the Koran and early Islamic traditions.

“A more apt name for the Islamic polity would be the ‘kingdom of

God’ which is described in English as a ‘theocracy,’” Mawdudi said in

a 1948 lecture. But he clarified that Islamic theocracy is “something

altogether different from the theocracy of which Europe had a bitter

experience.” The theocracy that Islam would build, said Mawdudi,

[Is] not ruled by any particular religious class but by the whole community

of Muslims including the rank and file. The entire Muslim population

runs the state in accordance with the Book of God and the practice

of His Prophet. If I were permitted to coin a new term, I would describe

this system of government as ‘theo-democracy,’ that is to say a divine

democratic government, because under it the Muslims have been given a

limited popular sovereignty under the suzerainty of God. The executive

under this system of government is constituted by the general will of the

Muslims who have also the right to depose it. 3

According to Mawdudi’s theory, “every Muslim who is capable and

qualified to give a sound opinion on matters of Islamic law, is entitled

to interpret the law of God when such interpretation becomes necessary.

In this sense the Islamic polity is a democracy.”4 But it is a limited democracy,

as not even the entire Muslim community has the authority to

change an explicit command of God. Sayyid Qutb (1906–66), the Egyptian

writer and radical Brotherhood ideologist, claimed that jahiliya (the

state of human ignorance that preceded the Koran) continues to exist in

all times. Qutb further asserted that all those who resist the notion of

the Islamic state, or who seek to dilute it with contemporary ideologies,

are in a state of jahiliya. The Qutbists would be willing to denounce as

10 Journal of Democracy

unbelievers (takfir) any who refuse to acknowledge the sovereignty of

God as embodied in a state ruled by Islam. 5

These ideological roots of the Muslim Brotherhood and its allied

movements have not disappeared and could resurge if their dominance

within fledgling Arab democracies falters.

Even now, Islamists serving in the

governments of various countries are

divided over the extent to which they

should push what they consider to be

Islamic laws. Some Western commentators

have expressed the hope that Islamists

might be content with dispensing

patronage to their supporters and

providing relatively just and decent governance.

But this optimism is misplaced.

It is unlikely that Islamists can avoid pressure from their ideological

core to push for a greater role for Islam in the public sphere.

The brunt of Islamization in contemporary times has been borne by

women and religious minorities, and debates over what Islam does and

does not allow have been endemic in all countries that have attempted

even partial Islamization. Cultural issues such as bans on alcohol,

changes to school curricula, requirements for women to wear head

coverings, and restrictions on certain images or even on music have

always been major Islamist rallying points. There is no way that Islamists

in government can completely ignore their movement’s promises

regarding all these matters, even though the implementation of

Islamist measures is sure to divide society and create a backlash. The

problem would become especially acute when Islamists, after partially

legislating shari‘a while in office, lose their majority.

If “the law of God” is reversed after being implemented for a few

years, violent opposition is inevitable. Such a situation began in Pakistan

after General Zia, who came to power in a 1977 military coup and

remained as president till his death eleven years later, partially enforced

shari‘a. The winner of the first election following Zia’s death was the

secular PPP. The Islamists had only a few seats in the new parliament.

Yet by using Islamist “street power,” issuing fatwas, and pronouncing

condemnations from the pulpits of mosques, they refused to allow any

new legislation that they viewed as contravening shari‘a, which they

said can never be reversed once it has been written into the legal code.

To this day, secular legislators trying to amend Pakistan’s blasphemy

laws, for example, do so at the risk of death threats and assassination.

Upon gaining independence from the British Raj in 1947, Pakistan’s

secular founders had spoken vaguely of creating a state inspired by

Islamic principles. But Islamist agitation forced Pakistan’s early leaders

to expand the relationship between religion and the country’s legal

It is unlikely that

Islamists can avoid

pressure from their ideological

core to push for

a greater role for Islam

in the public sphere.

Husain Haqqani 11

structure. Unlike neighboring India, which was able to agree on a constitution

less than thirty months after independence, Pakistan’s Constituent

Assembly remained bogged down with working out the details of its

country’s fundamental law for nine long years. In an effort to placate

Islamists, the Assembly in 1949 adopted an Objectives Resolution that

outlined the underlying principles of the constitution. This resolution

declared that “sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Allah

Almighty” and that “principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance

and social justice as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed.”

Moreover, it pledged the Pakistani state to ensuring that “Muslims shall

be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres

in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in

the Holy Quran and the Sunnah.”

These principles were incorporated into the Pakistani constitutions

of 1956, 1962, and 1973, but secular Pakistanis expected them to

amount to nothing more than lip service to the religious sentiments of

the country’s vast majority. The Islamists, however, had other ideas.

They invoked what they termed the nation’s foundational principles to

seek changes in laws based on their beliefs—and they did this without

winning elections. In 1974, for instance, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali

Bhutto’s elected secular government (1973–77) found itself forced by

violent street protests to amend the constitution to declare members of

the Ahmadiyya sect non-Muslims. Three years later, more protests—

this time under the pretext of disputed elections—resulted in legal

bans on alcohol and nightclubs, plus the shift of the weekly holiday

from Sunday to Friday. These Islamic measures did not suffice to keep

Bhutto in office. Zia’s coup, which made him Pakistan’s third military

ruler, had the support of Islamists and may have been planned as the

culmination of the anti-Bhutto protests.

Zia was personally religious and deeply influenced by Mawdudi’s

writings. He spoke publicly of the need to implement fully what had

hitherto been a vague promise of government based on Islamic principles.

This led to the deepening of Islamist influence in education, academia,

the bureaucracy, the media, the military, and the law. The state

became an instrument for trying to achieve the Muslim Brotherhood’s

version of good Muslim individuals and families within a fully Muslim

society. In a 2 December 1978 speech, Zia spoke of the need to create a

Nizam-i-Islam or Islamic system, which he described as “a code of life

revealed by Allah to his last Prophet (Peace be upon him) 1400 years

ago, and the record of which is with us in the form of the Holy Quran

and the Sunnah.”6

This announcement was followed by the establishment of shari‘a

courts and the passage of several drastic laws. Among these was the

Hudood Ordinance of 1979, which banned alcohol, forbade theft with

punishments that could include the amputation of a hand, and forbade all

12 Journal of Democracy

sexual contact outside marriage with penalties that could include death

by stoning. Also controversial were the blasphemy laws of 1980, 1982,

and 1986. The state took it upon itself as well to mandate the timing of

prayers, the observance of the Ramadan fast, and the collection directly

from citizens of zakat, the annual charitable contribution that all Muslims

who have the means to do so are required to make as one of the

“five pillars” of Islam.

With respect to the blasphemy laws, Pakistan’s Penal Code and

Criminal Procedure Code were amended so that various religious offenses

would be punishable at a minimum with imprisonment and at a

maximum with death. The “use of derogatory remarks in respect of holy

personages” is an offense punishable by three years’ imprisonment and

a fine. Defiling a Koran is an offense that results in life imprisonment,

and the “use of derogatory remarks against the Prophet” is punishable

by death. Between 1986 and 2010, more than 1,200 people—over half of

them non-Muslims—were charged under the blasphemy laws. In 2010,

the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy,

gained international attention (she remains in prison as of this

writing in March 2013).

In early 2011, at the height of the controversy over the Bibi case,

Governor Salmaan Taseer of Punjab (Pakistan’s largest province) and

Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated

(Taseer by one of his own bodyguards) for requesting leniency for Bibi

and publicly supporting a review of these harsh laws. The murder of

secular reformers democratically trying to reverse previously decreed

Islamization measures in Pakistan makes one wonder whether something

similar might happen in Arab countries if Islamists lose an election

after having been in power. 7

Until recently, fears that radicals and jihadist groups would gain influence

were cited as a reason for excluding Islamists from the political

process, especially in the Arab world. Now that the Islamists are dominant

participants in fledgling democracies, it remains to be seen whether

they will seek to marginalize the radicals or to maintain them as insurance

against future attempts to reverse Islamist ideological gains.

Hard Secularism and Soft Islamism?

Optimists often cite the example of Turkey’s Justice and Development

Party (AKP), which has Islamist roots yet has ruled Turkey since

2002 without imposing a theocracy. But the AKP emerged in the context

of Kemal Atatürk’s hard secularism, which since 1924 had imposed

upon Turkey la¦cité in the French Jacobin tradition. The Turkish Republic

was not just secular in the U.S. sense, according to which the state

must not impose a religion; rather, the Kemalist state actively opposed

any public manifestations of religiosity, which it saw as preventing

Husain Haqqani 13

Muslims from attaining full modernity. The AKP presented itself as a

conservative party, Islamic only in the sense that the Christian Democratic

parties of Europe are Christian.8 Even its Turkish forerunners, the

National Salvation Party and the Welfare Party, which were disbanded

by the Kemalist army and judiciary, were hardly comparable to ideological

movements like the Muslim Brotherhood or the Jamaat-e-Islami.

Turkey’s Islamists were circumscribed in their ability to demand Islamization

by the strong secular foundations of Atatürk’s republic. The

AKP has never described itself as a movement to establish an Islamic

state. It has focused instead on rolling back the restrictions on public

manifestations of Islam that Atatürk and his successors imposed. There

are many Turkish citizens, however, who remain worried that after the

rollback of some of the harshest aspects of la¦cité, an Islamist movement

resembling the Muslim Brotherhood might yet emerge in their country.9

The constraints of living under hard secularism in the past may also

help to explain why the Ennahda (Renaissance) party in Tunisia stands

out among the post–Arab Spring Islamist groups in being able to claim

closer kinship with Turkey’s AKP than with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

The Tunisian party’s ideologist, Rachid Ghannouchi, has made

what can be understood as an argument against the concept of rule by

a vanguard Islamist movement claiming to exercise God’s sovereignty.

As Ghannouchi said in a widely publicized speech:

Throughout Islamic history, the state has always been influenced by

Islam in one way or another in its practices, and its laws were legislated

for in light of the Islamic values as understood at that particular time

and place. Despite this, states remained Islamic not in the sense that

their laws and procedures were divinely revealed, but that they were

human endeavors open to challenge and criticism. . . . The primary orbit

for religion is not the state’s apparatuses, but rather personal/individual


According to Ghannouchi, the state’s duty above all is to provide

services to people—to create job opportunities, provide education, and

promote good health—and not to control the hearts and minds of its


But the mainstream of the Islamist movement—including the Muslim

Brotherhood and the Jamaat-e-Islami—has yet to revise its ideology as

drastically as Ghannouchi appears to have revised that of Ennahda. And

it remains to be seen what Ghannouchi and his “soft” Islamists will

actually do in practice. Most Islamists continue to view the authoritarian

experiments undertaken to Islamize Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and

Sudan as legitimate. Mawdudi’s concept of “theo-democracy” and the

Islamic Republic of Iran’s doctrine of velayat-e faqih (guardianship by

the supreme Islamic jurisprudent) are examples of the truncated view of

democracy held by Islamists. Just as communists advocated a “dictator14

Journal of Democracy

ship of the proletariat” that in practice meant domination by communist

parties in the name of the proletariat, there are legitimate grounds to

suspect that what mainstream Islamists actually seek is a dictatorship

of the pious


1. Alfred Stepan, “Tunisia’s Transition and the Twin Tolerations,” Journal of Democracy

23 (April 2012): 89–103.

2. The quoted words are from Banna’s essay “To What Do We Invite Humanity,”

available at

3. Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi, The Islamic Law and Constitution, 7th ed., trans. and ed.

Khurshid Ahmad (Lahore: Islamic Publications Ltd., 1980): 139–40.

4. Maududi, Islamic Law and Constitution, 140.

5. On Banna, Mawdudi, and Qutb, see Ladan Boroumand and Roya Boroumand, “Terror,

Islam, and Democracy,” Journal of Democracy 13 (April 2002): 5–20.

6. The English text of Zia’s speech may be found in Pakistan Horizon 32, 1–2 (First

and Second Quarters 1979): 277–280. On the Nizam-i-Islam, see John L. Esposito, Islam

and Politics, 4th ed. (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1998), 175–76.

7. The problem of “blasphemy” in Pakistan is much more than just a juridical matter of

excessive prosecutions or even a matter of lethal attacks on a few high-profile ministers.

Mere informal allegations of insults against Islam can trigger mass violence, as occurred

when numerous homes in a Christian quarter of Lahore were burned in March 2013 after

two local men, one a Muslim and one from Pakistan’s Christian minority (which forms

about 1.6 percent of the population), fell into a personal quarrel and the former accused the

latter of saying something—reports did not specify precisely what—that was disrespectful

of Islam. See Andrew Buncombe, “Muslim Mob Burns 150 Homes over Christian ‘Blasphemy,’”

Independent, 10 March 2013, available at


8. Vali Nasr, “The Rise of ‘Muslim Democracy,’” Journal of Democracy 16 (April

2005): 20.

9. On the AKP’s behavior so far, see Berna Turam, “Turkey Under the AKP: Are

Rights and Liberties Safe?” Journal of Democracy 23 (January 2012): 109–18.

10. Rachid Ghannouchi, “Secularism and Relation between Religion and the State

from the Perspective of the Nahdha Party,” trans. Brahim Rouabah, Center for the Study of

Islam and Democracy–Tunisia, 2 March 2012, available at http://archive.constantcontact.


سیاسی اسلام کے بے ایمان چوہدری


حسین حقانی

 کبھی کبھی میں سوچتا ہوں کہ اگر امریکہ اور پیپلز پارٹی نہ ہوتے تو ان وسعتِ مطالعہ سے محروم کالم نویسوں کا کیا بنتا جو ان کو گالیاں دے کر رزق کماتے ہیں۔ اللہ تعالیٰ کی رزاقیت کا کمال ہے کہ پتھر میں کیڑوں کو بھی رزق فراہم کرتا ہے اس لئے بعض لوگ سرکاری ملازمت کے ساتھ کالم نویسی کے پردے میں گالیاں دینے کے کاروبار کےذریعے رزق کماتے ہیں اور رزاقِ عالم ان کی کم علمی پر صرف راز کا پردہ پڑا رہنے دیتا ہے۔


گزشتہ دنوں توہینِ رسالت کے نام پر دنگا فساد کی تازہ مہم شروع ہوئی تو ایک بار پھر امریکہ، پیپلز پارٹی اور اس خاکسار کو بھی رگیدنے کی دکان پُر رونق نظر آنے لگی۔ اس موضوع پر امریکہ کے اخبار وال اسٹریٹ جرنل میں شائع ہونے والے میرے مضمون پر تبصرہ کرتے ہوئے ایک صاحب[اوریا مقبول جان کی طرف اشارہ ہے] نے ، جو شاید عبرانی نام رکھنے پر اپنے والدین سے اتنے ناراض ہیں کہ اپنا غصہ قابو میں نہیں رکھ پاتے، اسے میری منافقت کا پردہ چاک کرنے کے مترادف قرار دیا۔ نہ میری دلیل پر غور کیا نہ اصل موضوع پر۔ بس مذہبی جذباتیت کے گرد لفاضی کا تانہ بانہ بُن کر امریکہ پر برس پڑے۔

حقیقت یہ ہے کہ حضور صلی اللہ علیہ واٰلہ وسلم کی شان میں کوئی گستاخی ہو تو ہر مسلمان کا دل دکھتا ہے۔ لیکن گستاخانہ بات کا چرچا صرف وہ لوگ کرتے ہیں جو اِس گستاخی کی آڑ میں سیاست کرنا چاہتے ہیں۔ برصغیر ہندو پاک میں یہ دھندا پرانا ہے۔ 1927ء میں پنڈت چموہتی نے حضور اکرم کی شان میں گستاخی کرتے ہوئے “رنگیلا رسول نامی کتاب لکھی تو کسی نے اس کتاب کو پڑھا تک نہیں۔ 1929ء میں پنجاب کے احراریوں نے اس کتاب کے خلاف احتجاج کیا تو مسلمانوں میں غیرت کی لہر دوڑ گئی۔ کتاب کے پبلشر کو عدالت نے بری کر دیا تو علم دین نے اُسے قتل کر دیا اور اس کی حمایت میں بھی بڑی پُر زور تحریک چلی۔ لیکن میرا سوال یہ ہے کہ کیا غیرت کی اس تحریک سے حضور پر نور کی شان میں ہونے والی گستاخی کا ازالہ ہو گیا؟ گستاخانہ کتاب آج بھی انٹرنیٹ پر دستیاب ہے۔ اس کتاب کے نام پر تحریک نہ چلی ہوتی تو نہ کوئی کتاب پڑھتا ، نہ اس کا چرچا ہوتا۔ پچھلے ستر /اسی برسوں میں غیرت و حمیت کے نام پر چلنے والی تحریکوں نے مسلمانوں کو مضبوط کرنے کی بجائے مزید کمزور کیا ہے۔

اوریا مقبول جان

 1967ء میں ٹرکش آرٹ آف لونگ (Turkish Art of Loving)نامی کتاب میں بھی حضور اکرم کی شان اقدس  میں گستاخی کی گئی۔ کتاب نہ زیادہ فروخت ہوئی نہ پڑھی گئی۔ لیکن1971ء میں سانحہء مشرقی پاکستان کے تناظر میں پاکستان کی منظم ترین مذہبی سیاسی جماعت نے اس کتاب کے خلاف احتجاج کا فیصلہ کیا۔1970 کے انتخابات میں شکست اور مشرقی پاکستان میں فوجی کاروائی کی حمایت کو نبی رحمت کی شان میں گستاخی کے خلاف مظاہروں کے ذریعے دھونے کی کوشش نے غیر اہم کتاب کو اہم بنا دیا۔ کتاب آج بھی فروخت ہو رہی ہے۔ اس کے خلاف مظاہرے صرف اس کی تشہیر کا ذریعہ بنےہیں۔ سلمان رشدی کی “شیطانی آیات”(Satanic Verses) کا معاملہ بھی ایسا ہی ہے۔

یو ٹیوب پر مصری مسیحی کی بنائی ہوئی فلم بھی دنیا کے پانچ ارب انسانوں میں سے صرف چند سو نے دیکھی ہوگی کہ مصر میں اسلام کے نام پر سیاست کرنے والوں نے اس کی آڑ میں مقبولیت حاصل کرنے کی کوشش کر ڈالی۔ پوری دنیا کے مسلمان جو عسکری ، اقتصادی اور سیاسی کمزوریوں کی وجہ سے توہین یا ہتک پر جوش میں آجاتے ہیں غیرت ایمانی کی تازہ ترین دعوت پر متحرک ہو گئے۔ سیاسی اسلام کے بے ایمان چوہدریوں نے ایک بار پھر ایک ایسی بات کی۔ پہلے [توہین آمیز فلم کی ]تشہیر کی جو کسی کی نظر میں نہ تھی، پھر اُس تشہیر کے بعد اُ س کے خلاف احتجاج کیا۔

مجھ جیسے گناہ گار نے (جسے تقویٰ کا دعویٰ ہی نہیں ہےبلکہ جو اپنی نوجوانی میں ان ٹھیکیدارانِ اسلام کے ساتھ وقت گزار کر ان کے طور طریقے سمجھ گیا ہے) صرف اس بات کی نشاندہی کی تھی کہ غیرت ایمانی کے نام پر بلوہ کرنا بعض لوگوں کی سیاست کا تقاضا ہے نہ کہ حضور سے محبت کا۔ اس نفاق کا پردہ چاک ہونے کا طعنہ صرف وہی دے سکتا ہے جو تعصب میں اتنا ڈوبا ہو کہ دوسرے نقطہء نظر کو سمجھنا ہی نہ چاہتا ہو۔

“رنگیلا رسول ” سے لے کر “شیطانی آیات” تک ہر گستاخانہ تحریر کی تشہیر خود سیاسی مسلمانوں ہی نے کی ورنہ یہ گستاخانہ باتیں کبھی اہمیت حاصل نہ کرتیں۔ دنیا میں کہیں نہ کہیں کوئی نہ کوئی ہمارے دین اور ہمارے نبی کے خلاف کچھ نہ کچھ ضرور کہے گا۔ ایسی باتوں کو ڈھونڈ ڈھونڈ کر مسلمانوں کے جذبات بھڑکانے سے نہ دین کی عظمت میں اضافہ ہوگا نہ مسلمانوں کی کمزوریوں کا ازالہ۔

 حضور اکرم کی شان میں گستاخی کرنے والوں غیر اہم جاہلوں سے نمٹنے کے لئے ہدایات قرآن پاک میں موجود ہیں۔ سورۃ الاعراف کی آیت199 میں حکم ہے ” عفو سے کام لیجئے ، بھلائی کا حکم دیجئے اور جاہلوں کو نظر انداز کیجئے”۔ سورۃ الفرقان کی آیت 63 میں اہل ایمان کی تعریف یوں کی گئی ہے “رحمٰن کے بندے وہ ہیں جو زمین پر انکساری سے چلتے ہیں، اور جب جاہل اُن سے کلام کرتے ہیں تو وہ کہتے ہیں سلام”۔ سورۃ النحل کی آیت 125 میں کہا گیا ہے کہ “لوگوں کو اپنے رب کے راستے کی دعوت حکمت اور موعظت سے دواور اگر بحث کرو تو شائستگی سے دلائل دو”۔

اکیسویں صدی میں مسلمانوں کے بہت سے مسائل ہیں۔ ان مسائل کے حل کے حوالے سے ہمارے درمیان بہت سا اختلاف رائے بھی ہوگا لیکن اس اختلافِ رائے میں شائستگی کا دامن وہی لوگ چھوڑتے ہیں جو دین و مذہب کو سیاست کا سیلہ بناتے ہیں۔ اُن کی نگاہ میں ہر وہ شخص جو اُ ن کی رائے سے اتفاق نہیں کر تاوہ غیر ملکی ایجنٹ ہے، گستاخِ رسول ہے، اسلام کا دشمن ہے۔ حقیقت یہ ہے کہ اسلام اور رسول کی عظمت سڑکوں پر مظاہرے کرنے والوں کی وجہ سے نہیں ہے۔ اس عظمت کے تحفظ کا ذمہ خود اللہ تعالیٰ نے لیا ہوا ہے۔ کوئی کتاب یا کوئی فلم حضور اکرم کی شان میں کمی نہیں کر سکتی۔ کوئی کالم نویس اسلام کی عظمت کا ضامن نہیں ہے۔ اسلام محفوظ ہے اور مسلمانوں کے زوال کے دنیاوی اسباب کا علاج بھی سمجھدارانہ دنیاوی فیصلوں ہی سے ممکن ہے۔


ملا کی سیاست کی ضرورت ہے وگرنہ

اسلام کو ہر بات سے خطرہ نہیں ہوتا

Politics Begins at 60

In its 60 years of independence, Pakistan has never changed its government through an election. Monday’s election results offer an opportunity for Pakistanis to change that aspect of their history. Notwithstanding considerable manipulation beforehand, the people voted overwhelmingly against Pervez Musharraf.

Almost every candidate who served in Musharraf’s government lost. So did all major leaders of the King’s Party Musharraf cobbled together soon after taking power in a 1999 military coup. The Islamists used by Musharraf as bogeymen to garner western support were also trounced.
Pakistan’s all powerful army, now under the command of General Ashfaq Kayani, is beginning to distance itself from politics. The army’s refusal to side with Musharraf’s political allies sealed their fate. Now, the army must help Pakistan back on the constitutional path by undoing the arbitrary constitutional amendments decreed by Musharraf as army chief a few days before relinquishing his command.

The depth of opposition to Musharraf, coupled with his tendency to change or break rules to stay in power, had raised serious doubts that Musharraf would manipulate the election results in favour of his allies. In the end, international pressure and a tendency to overestimate his own ability stayed Musharraf’s hand.

That does not mean, however, that Musharraf would not try now and manipulate the situation again to cling to power. That would be a terrible and disastrous mistake. Some members of the Bush administration have repeatedly described Musharraf as an indispensable ally in the war against terrorism. Economic and military assistance from the US and other western countries has been crucial for Musharraf’s political survival thus far and has probably contributed to his arrogance and hubris.

This might be the moment for Musharraf’s western backers to help him understand that annulment or alteration of the election results will only plunge Pakistan deeper into chaos.

Pakistan already faces an Al-Qaeda backed insurgency along its border with Afghanistan, which is spilling into other parts of the country. Any attempt by Musharraf to insist on retaining absolute power, rather than allowing opposition leaders Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari to return Pakistan to normal constitutional governance would only anger the vast majority of Pakistanis who have just voted for moderate anti-terrorist parties. The ensuing chaos could strengthen the violent Islamist insurgents.

Musharraf was not on the ballot on Monday but the election was all about his fate, and that of Pakistan. Last year, he had got himself ‘elected’ president by Pakistan’s outgoing parliament, itself chosen through a dubious election in 2002, and fired 60 per cent of superior court judges to forestall judicial review of the presidential election.

Election results show that Pakistan’s two major opposition parties, the pro-western centre-left Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the centre-right Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), together have secured an outright majority in the National Assembly and Musharraf’s allies have been wiped out. Even if he remains president, he would no longer remain the most powerful man in Pakistan.

Apart from failing in combating terrorism, Musharraf’s government has squandered goodwill through its arbitrary actions against the political opposition and judiciary. The economic achievements of the last eight years have benefitted only a small sliver of the country’s 160 million people.

The election campaign was marred by violence, which the government blames on terrorists. But the targets of violence have been the secular opposition parties — the most notable victim being Benazir Bhutto. Opposition politicians justifiably expressed doubts as to why the terrorists have not attacked pro-Musharraf groups given that he is the man supposedly fighting them.

Musharraf would have damaged his diminishing credibility further if he had rigged the results and then suppressed likely protests by force. Losing the election might actually be better for him — and Pakistan. Now he must work out an honourable exit.

The two parties that have emerged with popular support from this election should get full support from the international community. Democracy might prove more effective in combating terrorism than the propping up of a discredited and despised dictator.

This article appeared in Indian Express on February 20, 2008

Pakistanis have Spoken

In 60 years as an independent country, Pakistan has never changed its government through an election. Monday’s election results offer an opportunity for Pakistanis to change that aspect of history. Notwithstanding considerable manipulation beforehand, the people voted overwhelmingly against their highly unpopular ruler Pervez Musharraf. Almost every candidate who served in Musharraf’s government lost. So did all major leaders of the King’s Party Musharraf cobbled together with the help of his security services soon after taking power in a 1999 military coup. The Islamists used by Musharraf as bogeymen to garner western support were also trounced.

Pakistan’s all powerful army, now under the command of General Ashfaq Kiyani, is beginning to distance itself from politics. The army’s refusal to side with Musharraf’s political allies sealed their fate. Now, the army must help Pakistan back on the constitutional path by undoing the arbitrary constitutional amendments decreed by Musharraf as army chief a few days before relinquishing his command.

The depth of opposition to Musharraf, coupled with his tendency to change or break rules to stay in power, had raised serious doubts that Musharraf would manipulate the election results in favour of his allies. In the end, international pressure and a tendency to over-estimate his own ability stayed Musharraf’s hand.

That does not mean, however, that Musharraf would not try now and manipulate the situation again to cling to power. That would be a terrible and disastrous mistake. Some members of the Bush administration have repeatedly described Musharraf as an indispensable ally in the war against terrorism. Economic and military assistance from the United States and other western countries has been crucial for Musharraf’s political survival thus far and has probably contributed to his arrogance and hubris.

This might be the moment for Musharraf’s western backers to help him understand that annulment or alteration of the election results will only plunge Pakistan deeper into chaos.

Pakistan already faces an Al Qaida backed insurgency along its border with Afghanistan, which is spilling over into other parts of the country. Any attempt by Musharraf to insist on retaining absolute power, rather than allowing opposition leaders Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari to return Pakistan to normal constitutional governance would only anger the vast majority of Pakistanis who have just voted for moderate anti-terrorist parties. The ensuing chaos could strengthen the violent insurgents.

Musharraf was not on the ballot on Monday but the election was all about his fate, and that of Pakistan. Late last year, he had himself “elected” president by Pakistan’s outgoing parliament, which was itself chosen through a dubious election in 2002, and fired 60 per cent of superior court judges to forestall judicial review of the presidential election.


Election results show that Pakistan’s two major opposition parties, the pro-western centre-left Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the centre-right Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), together have secured a majority in the 342 seat National Assembly and Musharraf’s allies have been virtually wiped out.

Even if he remains president, he would no longer remain the most powerful man in Pakistan.

Musharraf has said in the past that he would rather step down than face the ignominy of being impeached by the newly elected parliament, which would be possible if the anti-Musharraf parties’ tally of seats in parliament reaches two-thirds of the total membership.

The election was marred by violence, which the government blames on terrorists. But the targets of violence have been the secular opposition parties – the most notable victim being Benazir Bhutto who became an icon of democracy for Pakistanis after her assassination on December 27. Opposition politicians justifiably expressed doubts as to why the terrorists have not attacked pro-Musharraf groups given that he is the man supposedly fighting them.

He would have damaged his diminishing credibility further if he had rigged the results and then proceeded to suppress likely protests by force. Losing the election might actually be better for him – and Pakistan. Now he must accept the consequence of defeat and work out an honourable exit.

The two parties that have emerged with popular support from this election should get full support from the international community in restoring democracy to Pakistan, which might prove more effective in combating terrorism than continuing to prop up a discredited and despised dictator.

This article appeared in Gulf News  on February 20, 2008