The incongruous partnership

Reviewed By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

PAKISTAN’S political history has been chequered and turbulent. The failure of its civilian leadership to work out a stable and feasible democratic system has cost the country dear. There have been numerous breakdowns in the constitutional structure while the army has been a frequent intruder in politics. This has been a favourite subject for commentators and analysts to study since the factors that have led to this aberration offer a vast field for research. Even though much has been written about this subject in recent decades, the fund of information and material appears to be inexhaustible.

Recently researchers have attempted to prove that there has been a direct link between the army and the religious parties in Pakistan and this has been at the root of the malaise in the country’s politics. Husain Haqqani, a former activist of the student’s wing of the Jamaat-i-Islami, journalist, adviser to Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif and researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, is the author of Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military. In this book his thesis is, “The alliance between the mosque and the military has been forged over time, and its character has changed with the twists and turns of Pakistani history.”

Haqqani is not the first one to address this issue. Hassan Abbas, another researcher in an American thinktank, in his book Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism covers the same subject. Both reach a similar conclusion though Haqqani is more convincing because he takes pains to document his sources and gives comprehensive footnotes.

The way for Pakistan to adopt an ideological identity was paved during the freedom struggle and the early years of Pakistan when Islamic rhetoric was lavishly used even by the secularist Mr Jinnah to win Muslim votes for the Muslim League. In the post-1947 years the army which was always in control — until 1958 from behind the scenes — used the Islamic idiom to consolidate its own hold over Pakistan’s politics and also achieve its other aims such as confrontation with India, friendship with the United States and strategic depth via Afghanistan.

Since the army has had the upper hand by virtue of its military power it has sought to impose its institutional supremacy within the country

This equation between the army and the mosque was so firmly entrenched that when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took over the reins of government in 1972 this pattern did not change. In fact, Bhutto tried to cater to the whims of both sides and enlisted the help of the military as well as the Islamists to sustain himself in power. He protected their interests — the Hamoodur Rehman Commision’s report was kept classified and it was Bhutto who had the Ahmadiyyas declared non-Muslim. To please this civil-military complex he adopted an avidly anti-India stance and diluted his socialist rhetoric with Islamic ideals.

Under Ziaul Haq’s rule, the partnership between the mosque and the military was further consolidated. While the mosques grew in number, the military was kept busy mobilising support for itself, mainly against India and the USSR in Afghanistan. After 1988, when democracy was supposedly restored, the civilian governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif could not resist the military’s pressures and its hold on policy making in areas of its interest such as Afghanistan, Kashmir and the nuclear programme. That is why the Islamic/military strand in Pakistan’s policy remained unchanged throughout the ‘90s.

Since the army has had the upper hand by virtue of its military power, it has sought to impose its institutional supremacy within the country. It has used force to achieve this end. This has created psychological and political layers of insecurity in the nation. The alliance between the mosque and the military, according to the author, maintains and sometimes exaggerates these fears to its advantage. It has proved difficult for the country’s weak, secular civil society to assert itself.

As a result Pakistan has historically suffered from many faultlines and contradictions that have led to instability, insecurity and the breakdown of law and order. Thus there is a perpetual struggle for power between various sections of society — the military and civilian sectors, ethnic groups, provinces and the various schools of Islamists — and the conflicts never seem to be resolved.

In these conditions when the political process has not had a chance of normal development, the American support for the army has had a negative impact on the country’s domestic and foreign policy. For instance, the fear of India and the exaggerated role of Islam in the country’s politics and economy have emerged as key factors in Pakistan’s national life.

That would explain the rationale of many policies adopted by the governments in power. Pakistan’s support for forces which challenged Indian power — the Sikhs, insurgents in Kashmir and the disgruntled neighbouring states — was designed to undermine New Delhi. The military used the Islamists to further its aims.

On its western flank, the army has found the Islamists most useful to acquire strategic depth which it lacks. The early military leaders were trained in the British strategic doctrines and they had failed to enlist the support of the ethnic/racist nationalism. Hence, they sought to appeal to the religious sentiments of the masses and encouraged the Islamists to pursue a forward policy across the Durand Line. In 1973, the Jamaat-i-Islami joined hands with the ISI to operate in Afghanistan. This was much before Kabul fell to the Communists.

Pakistan’s generals who are now entrenched in power have juggled to keep the religious parties in their folds as well as the Americans on board. This has become increasingly difficult after 9/11. In response to President Bush’s “you are with us or against us” ultimatum, President Musharraf has had to end his support for the Taliban and agree to intelligence sharing with the Americans. As a result, Pakistan has become a victim of the Islamists’ wrath.

Very convincingly argued, the book, however, ends on a flawed assumption. Haqqani writes that the Islamists can be contained through democratic means. “Washington should no longer condone the Pakistani military’s support for Islamic militants, its use of its intelligence apparatus for controlling domestic politics, and its refusal to cede power to a constitutional democratic government,” he writes. His argument is that even in 2002 the religious parties could win no more than 11 per cent votes. Therefore, they can easily be sidelined through the ballot box.

But this line of thinking could well be a fallacy. The wave of religiosity and anti-American sentiments that grips the country today could work in favour of the Islamist parties in an election. This has happened before in Algeria and Palestine where extremist Islamic groups won their way to the top through a popular vote. In Algeria, they were not allowed to enter the government but in Palestine the Hamas wields power today. It might already be too late in Pakistan to exclude the Islamists from the state structure through the electoral process.

This is a lucidly written book which sheds light on the complex military-mosque alliance that has shaped Pakistan’s destiny.

Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military
By Husain Haqqani
Vanguard Books, 45 The Mall, Lahore.
Tel: 042-7243783
ISBN 969-402-498-6
397pp. Price not listed

When religion & politics mix

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

WAS last week’s shocking carnage at Karachi’s Nishtar Park on Eid Milad Nabi a tragedy waiting to happen? People still find it difficult to fully comprehend why any one would want to kill scores of innocent people in cold blood on an occasion considered auspicious by all Muslims.

The ghastly attack wiped out the top leadership of the Sunni Tehreek, which was evidently the main target of the perpetrators of this evil deed.
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Hudood laws must go

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

LAST Tuesday was women’s day in the National Assembly. Four bills directly relating to them were introduced in the house. The most important of these was the one moved by the PPP (Parliamentarians) simply titled the Hudood Laws (Repeal) Bill 2005. The Hudood Ordinances, the most anti-women and anti-social of laws to be placed on the statute book in Pakistan, were never brought before the Assembly.

They were promulgated as ordinances by a military dictator and have from their inception remained anathema to most women and human rights activists in the country. Once the implications of the Zina Ordinance came to the forefront, women rallied round the Women’s Action Forum, which was created in September 1981, to fight this evil law.
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Religion has nothing to do with it

By Zubeida Mustafa

‘Even the Crusades that have been projected for centuries as religious wars between Christianity and Islam were basically a struggle for the control of trade and territory, financed by the merchants of Venice,’ says Hamza Alavi

AS the active conflict in Iraq draws to a sanguinary close, there is much speculation about the future scenario in the region. Although it is generally accepted that the Americans, with their overwhelming military might, will succeed in subduing Iraq, no one doubts that the country is still nowhere close to peace and stability.
Continue reading “Religion has nothing to do with it”

Hamza Alavi: The activist academic


By Zubeida Mustafa

Thirty-six years ago Hamza Alavi shot into fame in the academia when he wrote an article in the newly-founded The Socialist Register. He propounded the thesis that the middle peasants were initially the most militant elements of the peasantry and could therefore be a powerful ally of the proletariat movement in the countryside. Since this hypothesis reversed the sequence suggested in Marxist texts — that poor peasants are the main force of the peasant revolution — Alavi became quite controversial.

That is how he has always been — controversial. His thesis labelled the Alavi-Wolf thesis (as it was reiterated by Eric Wolf four years later) is “still alive and kicking and refuses to die”, to use Alavi’s own words. It was still being debated in 1995. “I made a distinction between the Marxist theory and the practical Mao,” Alavi says reminiscently today. Continue reading “Hamza Alavi: The activist academic”

How the laws treat the second half

By Zubeida Mustafa

The role of legislation in the emancipation and empowerment of women has been the subject of much debate in discourses on women’s rights. Can laws reform the status of women when society is not prepared to introduce changes? In other words can transformation in the condition of women in a society be brought about through law making rather than the social process? Continue reading “How the laws treat the second half”

A scholar and a gentleman

By Zubeida Mustafa

Has Pakistan been reduced to such a hopeless state that even the most creative and prolific of intellectuals have run out of ideas on how the country can be redeemed? Hopefully not. But a meeting with Professor Khalid Bin Sayeed provided no reassuring answers. It left me wondering how Pakistan will be saved from certain disaster and who will play the role of the savior. Continue reading “A scholar and a gentleman”

Commission Report too good to be real

By Zubeida Mustafa

The women of Pakistan have received the best gift they could have wished for on the golden jubilee of the country’s independence. A commission headed by the Supreme Court judge, Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, has presented a report to the government on the status of women. If its recommendations are accepted and implemented it would be like a dream come true. But will that happen?

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No ambassador can be greater than his country

By Zubeida Mustafa

It had been a really windy day. The Karachi University campus wore a dusty look. That was not unusual. In those days there were few trees and greenery to shield it from the sprawling sandy wastes where Gulshan-i-Iqbal stands today. When we reached the University we found the tables, chairs and blackboard in the Seminar Room coated with dust which had also drawn wavy patterns on the floor.

We had learnt to ignore the natural elements as the price we had to pay for the spaciousness of the campus. This day was no different until Dr Khurshid Hyder reached the University in time for her class. She was teaching us International Relations. No sooner had she arrived, that every one was acutely made aware of how unacceptable it was for academics to be in unclean surroundings. She went straight for the broom and without much ado began sweeping the room. Of course that stirred every one into action and the students promptly took over the clean-up operation. She had given the lead. Continue reading “No ambassador can be greater than his country”

Raising daughters: anguish of a mother

By Zubeida Mustafa

45-22-09-1989As the social fabric begins to disintegrate under the stress and strain of ethnic violence, crime and political fragmentation, one wonders who is the worst victim. There is no doubt that it is the youth of today. Denied the normal and stable social environment they need for their healthy mental, moral, intellectual and physical growth, the young suffer the most.

An impression has, however, gained ground that only boys are the main losers because when terror strikes they are generally the ones to fall before the bullets. They are believed to be the most exposed to the devastating impact of the instability and insecurity that prevails today. Girls, after all, are said to be protected in the safe sanctuary of their homes. Continue reading “Raising daughters: anguish of a mother”