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The State and Religious Fervour


Kalim Bahadur

FRONTLINE PAKISTAN: THE STRUGGLE WITH MILITANT ISLAM
By Zahid Hussain
Penguin/Viking, New Delhi,, 2007, pp. xii 220, Rs. 395.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

The Lal Masjid episode in the first week of July this year in Islamabad is the culmination of the policies pursued by the establishment in Pakistan during the last several decades and they are the subject of the book under review. Like most writers on the history of the ongoing political and social crisis and the rise of extremism in Pakistan Zahid Hussain starts from 9/11 and the decision of General Musharraf to take a u-turn in his support to the Taliban. The seeds of the present crisis were sown in the early days of Pakistan. The Muslim League politicians in the absence of a socio-political programme of nation building began to use Islam for national integration and to resolve regional demands. For the first time the slogan of Jihad was used by the new government in Pakistan when it organized the invasion of the state of Jammu and Kashmir by the tribesmen who were later joined by its army in October 1947. It was General Yahya Khan who used the religious parties to form militant groups to fight alongside the Pakistan army to suppress the Bengalis’ demand for freedom in 1971. In fact this was the beginning of the mullah military alliance.   Later General Ziaul Haq made Pakistan the Frontline state during the Afghan war and declared Islamization as the aim of his regime. His views coincided with those of the Islamists. He wanted to build Pakistan as an Islamic state—a dream of the Islamic parties for long. General Zia saw an opportunity in the Afghan war and joined hands with the United States to defeat the Soviet Union. He put himself forward as the leader of the Islamic world in the fight against godless communists. General Zia’a instrument was the intelligence agencies of Pakistan. The ISI’s power and reach expanded far and wide during the Afghan Jihad. Zahid Hussain rightly points out that the the ISI in cooperation with the CIA organized the largest overt operation in Afghanistan. The ISI saw to it that it controlled the strategic aspects of the operations. The distribution of the weapons and the material support to Afghan Jihad groups remained strictly in its hands. The CIA operatives were not even allowed to enter Afghanistan. The Saudis provided the funds and the United States supplied the weapons.   General Ziaul Haq used Islam to acquire legitimacy which he did not have. His Islamic zeal ...


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