ATbar The Crisis of Pakistan: A Dangerously Weak State

The Crisis of Pakistan: A Dangerously Weak State

14/11/2007 | by Kfir, Isaac (Dr.)  
This paper explores several key elements undermining the viability of the Pakistani state: Islamism, tribalism, ethno-nationalism, and quasi-secularism. The demands of each of these movements are difficult to reconcile with the needs of the others. At the same time, these movements exert pressure on a very weak government and state system. Hence, the author argues that unless the current regime undertakes substantial structural reforms, Pakistan may come apart at the seams, with dire consequences for regional and international stability.

At the 60th Formation Commanders Conference in April 2007, President Pervez Musharraf noted that domestic extremism, obscurantism, and religious bigotry posed a greater threat to the Pakistani state than such threats from abroad.[1] With much Islamist activity emanating from Pakistan, the United States has deemed Pakistan as frontline state in the global “war on terror.” Thus the country‟s political stability is imperative for success in this war.[2] Yet the different elements within the country striving to establish dominance and control have created instability.[3] Ultimately, a politically unstable nuclear Pakistan threatens a highly volatile region in which there have been changes in government and politics (Bangladesh[4] and Nepal[5]), increased military spending (China[6]), questions over economic development and policy direction (India[7]), and internal conflict brought about by rampant terrorist and counterterrorist activity (Sri Lanka and Afghanistan).

The current political crisis in Pakistan revolves around a number of issues, all of which begin and end with the question of whether or not Musharraf will remain in power, as well as whether or not Pakistan will hold elections and if those elections will indeed be just and fair.[8] Still, there is a feeling that Musharraf must remain in office in order to counter the rising tide of radical Islamism in the country. It is noteworthy that the other major Pakistani political leaders, specifically Bhutto and Sharif, do not command the support of the military to the extent that Musharraf does, which would make it difficult for them to govern the country.[9] This paper focuses on the three key groups and factors which pose a threat to the Pakistani state: Islamists, tribalists, and ethno-nationalists. In addition, there is a fourth group, which emerged following the suspension of Chief Justice Chaudhary. This group is composed of the professional classes (quasi-secularists), who are angry at Musharraf‟s manner and governance style, which they feel undermines Pakistan's move toward democracy. To that extent, they may be labeled as the pro-democracy group. Interestingly, in addition to members of the professional middle class, this group is composed of Islamists who disliked Musharraf‟s attack on the judiciary, which they view as the protector of Islam in Pakistan. They do not address the role of the military directly, as the military does not pose a direct threat to the viability of Pakistan. The military has traditionally sought to protect the state of Pakistan, and to that end, it has often justified its intervention in politics on the grounds that civilian rule undermines the viability of Pakistan—civilian politicians cater to their own constituencies and do not really appreciate the security situation.[10]

This paper focuses on the aforementioned groups, especially the first three, because of their divergent views regarding the nature of Pakistan, which pose a clear and immediate threat to Pakistan‟s survival as a homogenous state. The tribalists and the ethno-nationalists seem to advocate either growing autonomy or independence, while the Islamists want to strengthen Pakistan's Islamic character. The article concludes that Pakistan is a weak state, bordering on failure. The longer Pakistan remains in this vulnerable position, the more powerful the Islamists will become. It is therefore essential that Musharraf deal effectively with the Islamists, the provinces (ethno-nationalists), the complaints of neglect (high levels of poverty), and the lack of democracy. Without a major change, including Musharraf‟s resignation (either from the military or from the political world), one of two things could happen. First, the Islamist and the Islamist-leaning forces in Pakistan could succeed in the 2007 and 2008 elections, especially as they are already gathering momentum in the provinces. The second possibility is that Musharraf will keep his uniform whilst retaining the office of President, which would lead to mass demonstrations (worse than the Chaudhary protests). Both scenarios would damage Pakistan‟s standing in the world, especially with the United States, at a time when that country faces one of the most critical elections in its history. Musharraf must understand that government and governance are only legitimate if they meet the needs of the citizens, and it increasingly appears that his government is failing to do so.


The term “weak state” differs from that of a “failed state” in that it refers to a condition wherein the government has some level of authority. In a “weak state” condition, the government is able to provide some of the basic needs that a “failed state” cannot.[11] Thus, a “failed state” is one in which the state is unable to protect its citizens from internal and external threats. The term has also come to denote a central authority‟s (government‟s) failure to provide basic services such as education and healthcare to its people. The end of the Cold War, the triumph of neo-liberalism, and the Bush Doctrine have placed government legitimacy at the heart of the debate over state failure; that is, a government‟s ability to protect and provide basic political and civil rights while operating under a mandate given to it by the people.[12] Pakistan has yet to reach “failed state” status, but there is little doubt that it is a weak state, teetering on the precipice of being a “failed state.” The government in Islamabad has little if any control over large sections of the country, especially Waziristan and the North West Frontier Province, which is arguably why it signed various peace agreements with the Waziri tribes in 2005-2006. The agreements, however, achieved the exact opposite of what they were intended to, in that they did not end terrorist activities; if anything, the regions are more dangerous, and security comes not from the state but from the tribes.13 In the words of P.W. Singer: Extremists tend to thrive in an environment where the state has retreated and has no program for improvement. Their message gains traction and appeal that it would otherwise not. A more moderate populace normally might not be sympathetic to radical voices, but, at a loss in times of distress, will listen to their message. Through offering free education and aid distributed through clean schools, compared to the limited contact most have with sub-par government institutions, the leaders of these organizations gain both a receptive audience and evidence of their own superior credentials to lead.[14]

The situation of basic education and healthcare ranges from weak to nonexistent in some parts of the country.[15] This state of affairs has assisted in the process of Islamization as people turn to the private education system (madrassas) to provide their children with education, and more importantly, food and clothing. madrassas, which played a major role in providing willing fighters during the Soviet-Afghan War, have continued to operate and arguably grow. Singer notes that the allure of the madrassa is due to the poor quality of Pakistani (state-provided) education (with teachers often on strike). Poor parents send their children to Islamic schools so that they at least receive some education. However, the major allure of the Islamic schools was and remains the social services that they provide, as the children receive food and clothing. Some madrassas have even paid parents to send their children to study in these schools. Singer notes that Dar al-Ulum Haqqaniyya, with most of the Afghani Taliban leadership members of its alumni, had 1,500 boarding students and 1,000 day students aged six and up in 2001. Each year, Singer claims, the school receives over 15,000 applicants from poor families vying for 400 available places.[16]


The first group threatening the viability of the Pakistani state is the Muslim radicals or fundamentalists, also known as Islamists. This group is on the rise. These Muslims subscribe to a strict interpretation of Islam and work toward the implementation of Shari‟a as the governing principle of their communities. Commentators attribute the growth of Islamism to General Zia al-Haqq‟s Islamization program, which led to a proliferation in the number of Islamist movements (militant, educational, political, and social groups). This is best illustrated with the Jamaati-Islami (the Islamic Association) that Zia—for a short period—allowed into the government. Jamaati-Islami has continued to play a part in Pakistan's domestic and foreign policy through its involvement in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Since Zia, Islamists have remained in the political system, which became most evident with the election of Fazlur Rehman as leader of the opposition in Pakistan‟s parliament in 2004. Rehman is the leader of Jammat-e-Ulema Islam, which reportedly has ties to the Taliban. More recently, the government‟s inability to deal with the rise of Islamism in Pakistan was manifest in its failure to deal with the students of Jamia Hafsa, Jamia Fareedia and the Lal Masjid. Javed Iqbal Cheema, director general of the National Crisis Management Cell, stated his opposition to using force against these Islamists “because we are already confronting difficult situations in Waziristan and Balochistan.” Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao based his opposition to the use of force against the students because of the forthcoming elections.[17]

Two sets of Islamists can be identified within Pakistan, though the distinction has blurred with the rise of the Taliban movement. The first group consists of Sunni Islamists who demand that Pakistan exist as a devout Sunni (Deobandi/Wahhabi) Muslim state. When these Islamists first emerged on the scene, their focus was on combating the Shi‟a presence and influence in the country. Such was the case with Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP, Army of the Friends of the Prophet), formed by Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the vice president of the Deobandi Jammat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) in 1985 in the city of Jhang, which has a large Shi‟a community.[18] Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and its offshoot Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ)[19] subscribe to the Deobandi School and reject the Barelvi School and Shi‟a interpretation, which they hold as deviations from pure Islam and thus campaign to have Shi‟as declared as non-Muslims.[20]The SSP, which also operates under the name of Millet-e-Islami, the largest sectarian organization in Pakistan, plays a role in the political arena through electioneering. SSP leaders have won seats in the Pakistan National Assembly (for example, Azzam Tariq served four terms). The group draws most of its strength from the Punjab province and from the city of Karachi. The SSP holds that the Shi‟a are non-Muslims who have acquired far too much power in Pakistan. The organization boasts 500 offices and branches in all 34 districts of Punjab, with around 100,000 registered workers in Pakistan as well as 17 branches in foreign countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Of growing concern is the ability of these movements, especially the SSP and the LeJ, to resurface and to continue to operate in Pakistan despite their prohibition.[21] A second group of Islamists focuses on the imposition of Shari‟a and the formation of the Caliphate. For such Islamists, who operate as part of the global jihadist movement, Pakistan must exist as an Islamic state (a theocracy). This may explain the proliferation of religious parties in Pakistan. Reportedly, there are some 245 religious parties in Pakistan, of which 215 have their own seminaries, 104 focus on jihad, 82 are sectarian, 20 are oriented toward tabligh (preaching), and 28 take part in the political process.[22] Islamic radicalism and violence is not restricted to the pursuit of the caliphate or the establishment of Pakistan as a Sunni state. The debate over Pakistan's religious direction has also meant that it has had to grapple with intense sectarian violence, as the Shi‟a in Pakistan have their own groups. These include Tehreek-e-Jaferia Pakistan (TJP, Movement of the Followers of Fiqah-e-Jaferia) and Sipah-e-Muhamad (SMP, Army of Muhammad). These groups battle Sunni-based movements. Their aim is to protect Shi‟a interests in Pakistan, and to this end, these groups rely on support from Iran.[23] The existence of these groups, provide an explanation for heightened sectarian tensions in the country [24] as well for the following statement by the International Crisis Group: For almost two decades, the Northern Areas have been afflicted by sectarianism; in recent years Shia-Sunni violence has increased markedly. In 2005 alone, almost 100 people died, many more were injured, and property worth millions of rupees was destroyed. Even more harmful was the long-term damage to social harmony.[25]

Pakistan‟s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATAs) have acquired a reputation for promoting Taliban-like Islamism, as well as being one of the possible hiding places of Usama bin Ladin and leading al-Qa‟ida members. Thus, in 2001, in a desire to confront the rising tide of Islamism and to appease Washington,[26] President Musharraf dispatched more than 80,000 troops to battle Taliban and tribal leaders who had taken control of these areas and were providing shelter to bin Ladin. The ferocity of the fighting extracted a heavy price from the Pakistani state, with hundreds of soldiers killed. More importantly though, due to the tactics used by the military, many local tribes were alienated and angered, causing immense damage to the campaign to eradicate Islamic radicalism in the region. Put simply, instead of quelling the anti-government feeling in the FATAs and the other unruly provinces, two things happened. First, the government failed to quell the insurgency, which has grown since the dispatch of the troops to the provinces. Second, the insurgency allowed the Islamists to continue to operate and show that they are stronger than the government, as they government failed to defeat them. Over time, the tribally based Islamists have become more brazen in their demands and their opposition to the regime,[27] as they sense Musharraf's weakness. The most recent example of the move of Islamism from the provinces to the center was when students from the Jamia Hafsa madrassa in Islamabad took over the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque, of which it is a part), leading to a long standoff between the Islamists and the government. The crisis began when the students demanded that the authorities release two of the school‟s female teachers and six other detainees involved in an attempt to shut down a brothel.[28] The significance of the Jamia Hafsa madrassa is that it caters largely to girls (reportedly it has around 2,000 female students) who, despite being taught geography and math, focus mainly on Islamic teachings. This commitment to Islam is best seen in a comment made by Vice Principal Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who when asked about the limited curriculum stated: “Islam is enough. It is a complete code for modern life.” This is a message that the students are very keen to promote, as noted by Gul Shaida, a student of the Jamia Hafsa madrassa who declared,“After I graduate I want to teach all over the world and I want to tell the world what is Islam and what is Muslim.”[29]


The second force threatening Musharraf and the state of Pakistan is the continuous bloodshed in the tribal/frontier areas.[30] Musharraf‟s controversial deal with the Waziri tribes in September 2006 did not end the troubles in Waziristan (North and South), forcing the government to impose curfews and dispatch troops.[31] Still, the fighting has continued, with hundreds dying in the clashes between security forces and Taliban elements. Of greater concern for the government is the role played by non-Pakistani forces in the region, with most of the foreign fighters coming from Chechnya and Uzbekistan, though there have also been rumors of militants from Morocco and Algeria supporting the Chechens and Uzbeks.[32] Interestingly, tribal leaders claim that those responsible for the clashes with the security forces are not locals but foreigners. This is particularly so regarding the Uzbeks, whom the local Pashtuns accepted as visitors following the American invasion of Afghanistan. In one instance, local tribesmen came across a camp used by the Uzbeks, which held around 200 local tribesmen in underground dungeons (holes in the ground). The Uzbeks poured hot water on the prisoners.[33] These Uzbeki Islamists have attracted considerable animosity from the locals, who have come to see them as interlopers and common criminals. This view is shared by Pakistani military commanders who claim that during raids on Uzbek hideouts in spring 2005 they obtained evidence that the Uzbeks were eating pork and watching pornography.[34] Pakistani government officials appear to support the tribes that claim to be fighting the foreigners and expelling them from the region, which gives credence to the controversial peace plan that the government signed with the tribes in September 2006.[35] In April 2007, council of tribal elders was summoned in South Waziristan, with the tribal elders calling for the setting up of a lashkar (militia) to engage the Uzbeks who are in the province in a jihad. Local traditions dictate that any man of fighting age who does not join the lashkar will be fined and his house burnt down.[36 ]The government has hailed this as a great achievement and as an example of its triumph over the tribal leaders who are sympathetic of the Uzbek fighters, many of whom are affiliated with either the Taliban or radical Islam. The problem, however, is that it is unclear whether the tribes are fighting all the foreign fighters or merely the troublesome Uzbeks. In addition, the central government hardly exercises any control over the areas, which have been used by high-ranking officials such as Mullah Dadullah, a leading Taliban figure in Afghanistan, in their campaigns in Afghanistan.[37]


The third group undermining the viability of the Pakistani state is composed of the ethno-nationalists. They operate across the country but are most visible in the province of Balochistan, where, on March 27, 2007, for example, militants destroyed a power pylon station cutting off electricity to millions. The attack was symptomatic of the type of insurgency active in Balochistan since 2002, in which Baloch nationalists have focused more on infrastructure targets such as the Sui gas plants and the bridge near Kari-Dor. These attacks affect the province‟s economy as well as that of Pakistan. Pakistan‟s economic development is heavily reliant on Balochistan due to the province‟s vast gas reserves and strategic location (it bridges Central, South, Southeast, and East Asia on one side and Central Asia, the Persian Gulf, and the Middle East on the other). The province also hosts a deep-sea port built with the help of China, which highlights the close relationship between China and Pakistan. Ironically, Islamabad seems to be doing what it can to further alienate the Balochs, who then turn to ethno-nationalism and, more worryingly, to the Taliban, as they fight the government.[38] That is, the nationalists (Nawab Khair Baksh,
Nawab Bugti, and Nawab Baksh) see the projects initiated by Islamabad as being part of a plan to subjugate Balochistan.[39] Balochistan has a history of Islamism. During the Afghan jihad, the Pakistani government used the close proximity of the province to establish madrassas that encouraged young men to head to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet occupation (In 1950 there were seven madrassas. By 2003, the number stood at over 1,000). Consequently, there are several tensions in the provinces, stemming from sectarianism (Sunni versus Shi‟a—the province borders Iran), a large Afghan refugee community, and unhappy ethnic Balochs who are angry with what is happening to their province.[40] Another cause for Baloch discontentment with the government arises from the strong-arm tactics adopted by the Musharraf government to quell the insurgency, as seen with the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti in August 2006.[41] His death raised the stakes due to the respect that many had toward Bugti, but it also emphasized Islamabad‟s concern with the rising tide of Baloch nationalism.


The short suspension of Chief Justice Chaudhary by President Musharraf on charges of nepotism and corruption was a major threat to Musharraf‟s rule. Chaudhary has since returned to the bench, as the charges against him were not prove, and under him the Court has continued to rule against the government which such rulings as the one permitting the return of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan. He has also ordered the suspension of inspector general, Syed Marwat Ali Shah and two other senior police officers after the way the police dealt with journalist and lawyers demonstrating against the Supreme Court and Election Commission rulings that allowed Musharraf to campaign for the presidency without relinquish his army position. These rulings have made life very difficult for Musharraf and the government whilst also intensifying tensions within Pakistan. The Chaudhary legal crisis intensified the debate over constitutionalism, democracy, and the role of the military in Pakistan while uniting various factions that traditionally oppose one another (lawyers, members of the secular Pakistan Peoples‟ Party, and Islamists)[42] against Musharraf‟s perceived authoritarianism. Put simply, for over a year now, and especially since the return of Chaudhary to the bench, the executive and the judicial branches have been at log-heads, which has divided the country between those who support the Court and those who support Musharraf. The key Court supporters are the lawyers and some members of the professional classes, as well as the Islamic parties who draw their support from the lower classes of Pakistani society. Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Movement for Justice and a member of the Pakistani parliament has declared: It has become obvious to every Pakistani that, far from presiding over a transition to genuine democracy in the country, Musharraf is intent on dismantling every democratic institution in his way. Over recent months he has assaulted the judiciary, restricted freedom of the press, and put hundreds of members of the opposition behind bars.[43]

Critics claim that Musharraf turned against Chaudhary because as chief justice Chaudhary had ruled against the government on a number of cases. For example, Chaudhary had reversed the sale of state-owned Pakistan Steel Mills, and more importantly, he had demanded that the security agencies disclose the location of missing persons whom the security services denied having detained. In addition, Musharraf‟s opponents claim that Chaudhary‟s suspension was political, as Musharraf saw Chaudhary as a possible threat if he were to continue to serve as president and chief of the army, in violation of the constitution. It is noteworthy that the Court and its justices are generally respected in Pakistan and may explain why Wajih al-Din Ahmad, a former Supreme Court justice, has decided to run for the presidency. Musharraf therefore opted to suspend the chief justice and asked the judicial council, whose composition also raised eyebrows, to examine Chaudhary‟s alleged abuse of power.[44] Throughout the suspension period, Pakistan endured numerous demonstrations which posed a major threat to Musharraf‟s rule: They united Pakistani liberals with pro-Taliban and Islamist elements, which both demanded Chaudhary‟s restoration to the bench.[45] Moreover, by choosing to engage in street demonstrations, the protesters emphasized their willingness to challenge Musharraf‟s authority and that of the army, as Musharraf is the head of the army as well. There is no doubt that there has been an overreaction on the side of the security forces in dealing with the protests; at one point, a private media outlet (Geo) was shut down and Kamran Khan was taken off the air. The event proved so damaging and embarrassing to Musharraf that he issued an apology.[46]


Pakistan and the United States

Musharraf‟s decision to support the global “war on terror” led Pakistan to play an active role in assisting the United States to defeat al-Qa‟ida and the Taliban. In other words, not only is Pakistan helping to destroy the monster that it assisted in creating, but it is supporting non-Muslims. Internally, this has placed Musharraf in a difficult position, as the United States is rarely loved or appreciated in the Muslim world, including in Pakistan. There is a growing sense that America under President Bush is engaged in a “crusade” against the Muslim world. Musharraf, because of his close association with Bush and the United States, has faced accusations of being America's lackey and of supporting the killing of true Muslims. Thus, following the storming of the Red Mosque in Islamabad by Pakistani troops, Liaquat Baluch, the leader of Muttehida Majlis Amal stated: “Musharraf has launched the operation to please America.... He [Musharraf] is now become [sic] a threat to national security and has to be removed.”[47] Soon after the end of the Red Mosque saga, Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Ladin‟s second in command, declared in a video recording produced by al-Qa‟ida‟s al-Sahan media unit: This crime can only be washed by repentance or blood.... If you do not retaliate... Musharraf will not spare any of you…. Your salvation is only through jihad. You must now back the mujahideen in Afghanistan.[48]

Washington has expressed some unhappiness with the current state of affairs in Pakistan. It feels let down, as despite giving billions of dollars in aid and support to Pakistan, the situation with the Taliban and the al-Qa‟ida problem along the Afghan-Pakistan border has remained the same.[49] A five-page report by U.S. counterterrorism analysts entitled “Al-Qa‟ida Better Positioned to Strike the West” states that al-Qa‟ida has used the Afghan-Pakistan border to restore its capabilities to a level unseen since the months before September 11. A counterterrorism expert involved in the report said that al-Qa‟ida is able to plan attacks in Europe and the United States because there is no effective opposition to its operations along the Afghan-Pakistan border. John Kringen, the head of the CIA's analysis directorate, supports this claim, saying: “They [al-Qa‟ida] seem to be fairly well settled into the safe haven and the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan…. We see more training. We see more money. We see more communications. We see that activity rising.”[50] Such comments clearly affect Pakistan‟s and Musharraf‟s standing in Washington and may explain Musharraf‟s outburst on U.S. television in April 2007, in which he claimed, in response to a question on the security issue, that “Pakistan is being maligned by the West... unfairly.”[51] The willingness by American policymakers to criticize Pakistan and Musharraf has led to a reevaluation of Pakistan and Musharraf‟s position in South Asia, especially with the improvement in U.S.-Indian relations. This development, coupled with India‟s growing economy and burgeoning military capability,[52] plays into the hands of the Pakistani military,which regards itself as the guardian of the Pakistani state.[53] In other words, losing U.S. support may push the military to adopt a stronger Islamic stance, which is traditionally what the military had done when it has felt that its position within Pakistan was being undermined. This is because the military knows that Islamists will always support a strong stance against India and the West.

Pakistan and Afghanistan

The second foreign policy threat arises from the poor relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and is linked to the poor relations between President Hamid Karzai and President Musharraf. Karzai, following an increase in suicide terrorism in Afghanistan, claimed that Pakistani security services were not doing enough to stem the flow of suicide terrorists from Pakistan to Afghanistan. In an interview, Karzai stated: “We [Afghanistan] have almost daily reports of suicide bombers coming from there [Pakistan]…. If we have better co-operation from Pakistan, a great many of these cross-border crossings would stop.” More worrying is his accusation that Pakistani security forces are sheltering Mullah Omar in Quetta, Balochistan.[54] This claim emphasizes the poor relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which only strengthens al-Qa‟ida and the Taliban.[55] Significantly, as the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan remains porous, the Taliban and Islamists are able to continue their policy of intimidation and terror.


The situation in Pakistan is becoming increasingly dire, as tensions within the country rise while the government appears helpless to control events. In many ways, the government is playing catch-up as it tries to put out fires (often started by the government). This seriously undermines the viability of the Pakistani state. The government‟s decision to sign a peace agreement with the Waziri tribes has brought a mixed result: It has placed law and order in the hands of tribal leaders who seem to have the potential to engage the rising influence of the Taliban in their regions. However, the agreement emphasized that the Pakistani government does not control the tribal regions, even with substantial troop deployment. Ultimately, the peace agreement allowed al-Qa‟ida to rebuild its capabilities,[56] while real power in these areas remains with the tribal council, which weakens the state and thus does not enhance security and stability either internally or externally. On a more positive note, Musharraf has brought about economic growth in the country, a remarkable achievement. The growth stems from the introduction of much needed structural reforms which reduced the size of the civil service and led to a decline in subsidies on energy prices and a clean-up of the balance sheets of nationalized banks. The government has raised tax revenues and accelerated a privatization process.[57] Moreover, there has also been substantial improvement in the realm of exports, with the value rising from $5.5 billion in 2002 to $14.5 billion by 2006, with non-textile exports registering a growth of 37.5 percent, compared to textile export growth which only increased by 6.6 percent for the same period.[58] However, despite all the changes, poverty has remained a major issue in Pakistan and the country still relies on food aid, which emphasizes that there is still tremendous work to be done.
There is little doubt that as the U.S. presidential race heats up, presidential candidates will focus more on Pakistan, as it is a key ally in the “war on terror.” This means that Pakistan will be called upon to embrace many reforms, with political reforms being at the top of the list (such as allowing the return of Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif as a sign of democratic progress).[59] This could cause a backlash that would shore up the Islamists and others (such as high-ranking military officials), who would use such calls to claim American arrogance and interference, as seen in the reaction to U.S. Senator Barack Obama's suggestion that the United States may attack terrorist targets within Pakistan without acquiring Pakistan's permission. It is noteworthy that there is a tradition of anti-Americanism in Pakistan, as seen in the 2002 elections, when Islamists in NWFP built on anti-American sentiments to gather support. Thus, one must issue two notes of caution in relation to the growing demands for democratization in Pakistan. First, there is a danger in pushing Musharraf too far, as it may compel him to continue the military‟s traditional relationship with Islamist parties, ensuring his survivability in Pakistani politics.[60] Second, it is clear that Musharraf is desperate to remain in power, which may explain why Benazir Bhutto, the leader of Pakistan‟s most popular political party (Pakistan‟s People‟s Party), allegedly held secret negotiations with Musharraf‟s allies.[61] However, pinning hopes on Bhutto and Sharif negates their tainted pasts (both have been accused of corruption) and their own failures when they were office. One must also question their ability of reigning in the ever-powerful military.

The hope for a stable Pakistan still rests with Musharraf, so long as he replaces his uniform with a suit and tie. This means negotiating some sort of a deal with Pakistan's civil politicians and agreeing to end many of the excesses of the Pakistani security services, such as arbitrary arrests, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. Ultimately, Musharraf must use his influence over the military to encourage it, as well as the other security forces, to remain outside the political world. The military must realize that in the twenty-first century, it can no longer continue to dominate the Pakistani political system. The benefit of this would be that Pakistani politicians would be able to govern without worrying about military intervention, and the power of the Islamists who clearly rely on the military for support would thus be reduced. Thus, what is abundantly clear when looking at Pakistan and its history is that the country is dangerously weak because it has to contend with tremendous poverty as well as with religious, ethnic, cultural, and generational tensions. This means that the challenge faced by Musharraf, or anyone that succeeds him is to bridge all these gaps and issues. The best way to achieve this is through the enhancement of democracy and economic growth in Pakistan and ending the paranoia of an Indian takeover. Musharraf, as someone who grew up in Turkey, should model himself after Kemal Ataturk, a stronger leader who embraced secularism in a Muslim country while promoting economic and social development. By following the Ataturk model, Musharraf could save Pakistan and help the world deal with the Islamist scourge.


[1]Aziz Malik, “Pakistan Fighting Terrorism in its Own Interest, Says Musharraf,” Pakistan Times, April 17, 2007,
[2] The former director of the National Intelligence and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte declared in January 2007, “Pakistan is a frontline partner in the war on terror. Nevertheless, it remains a major source of Islamic extremism and the home for some top terrorist leaders.” John D. Negroponte, “Annual Threat Assessment of the Director of National Intelligence,” Unclassified Statement for the Record Annual Threat Assessment Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte, January 11, 2007,
[3] On the inherent tensions and problems of Pakistan, see Stephen P. Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2004) and Stephen P. Cohen, “The Nation and the State of Pakistan,” The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Summer 2002), pp. 109-22.
[4] At the beginning of 2007, the Bangladeshi military declared a state of emergency and installed a caretaker government. The military also suspended elections on the grounds of rising corruption. Since then, there have been mass arrests, demonstrations, and a natural disaster.
[5] In 2006, Nepal's Maoist guerrillas agreed to join an interim government after ten years of fighting the political establishment. The Maoists, under the leadership of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, are seeking to bring about change in Nepal through the ballot box.
[6] Jonathan Watts, “Asian Arms Race Fear as Beijing Raises Spending,” The Guardian, March 5, 2007,,,2026729,00.html.
[7] Jo Johnson, “India Lifts Freeze on Enterprise Zones,” Financial Times, April 6, 2007,
[8] Pakistan is scheduled to host parliamentary elections in 2007, followed by presidential elections in 2008. Under the Pakistani Constitution, the provincial and federal parliaments elect the President. Bhutto and Sharif were prevented from campaigning in the 2002 elections.
[9] It is noteworthy that the Taliban and Islamism grew under Bhutto and Sharif. Therefore, putting them in charge does not automatically mean an end to Islamic militancy. Moreover, Bhutto and Sharif quickly realized that their power was limited; for example, they were prevented from having a serious voice on military and security matters.
[10] To justify the 1999 coup, Musharraf claimed that he and the army removed Sharif because the civilian authority was not fulfilling its role in protecting Pakistan. Pervez Musharraf, In the Line of Fire: A Memoir (London: Simon & Schuster, 2006).
[11] For a greater discussion of the characteristics of a “failed state,” see Robert I. Rotberg (ed.), When States Fail: Causes and Consequences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).
[12] This notion arises from John Lock‟s Two Treatises of Government in which he argues for the existence of a contract between the monarch and the subjects. According to the contact theory, people grant the monarch the right to rule and the monarch agrees to do so, honestly and justly. John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). On the triumph on liberal democracy, see Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” The National Interest (Summer 1989) and Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: The Free Press, 1992).
[13] Between January 2007 and September 2007, 536 civilians, 241 security forces personnel, and 687 insurgents/terrorists died (total 1,464). In 2006, 608 civilians, 325 military personnel, and 538 terrorists died (total 1,471). In 2005, the fatality list was 430 civilians, 81 securitypersonnel, and 137 terrorists (total 648). “Casualties of Terrorist Violence in Pakistan,” South Asia Terrorism Portal, (accessed June 27, 2007).
[14] P.W. Singer, “Pakistan‟s Madrassahs: Ensuring a System of Education not Jihad,” Brookings Institute Analysis Paper No. 14 (November 2001),
[15] It is weakest in the places where the government has little control, which significantly are areas where the Islamists are strongest.
[16] Singer, “Pakistan‟s Madrassahs.”
[17] "Intelligence Agencies Oppose Lal Masjid Crackdown," Daily Times (Pakistan), April 11, 2007,
[18] “The State of Sectarianism in Pakistan,” Asia Report No. 95 (Islamabad/Brussels: April 18, 2005), International Crisis Group, p. 14.
[19] Riaz Basra, Akram Lahori, and Malik Ishaque set up LeJ, possibly because they became disillusioned with the SSP following the assassination of Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the SSP founder. An alternative explanation for the formation of the LeJ was a desire to protect the political leadership of the SSP from Shi‟a attacks that claimed SSP leaders such as Israr al-Haq Qasmi and Zia al-Rahman Farooqi. Initially, LeJ focused on the Shi‟a in Pakistan and Iran, but with the fall of the Taliban—an ally of LeJ—the organization shifted its attention to Western and American targets. LeJ has forged ties with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. According to Pakistani security forces, LeJ operates through small cells of a maximum of seven people. Animesh Roul, “Lashkar-e-Jhangvi: Sectarian Violence in Pakistan and Ties to International Terrorism,” Terrorism Monitor, Vol. 3, No. 11 (June 2, 2005), pp. 6-8.
[20] “The State of Sectarianism in Pakistan,” pp. 3-4 and throughout.
[21] Amir Rana, "Vengeance, Frictions Reviving LJ and Sipah-e-Muhammad," Daily Times (Pakistan), April 7, 2007,; “The State of Sectarianism in Pakistan;” Roul, “Sipah-Sahaba;” and “Pakistan's Militant Islamic Groups,” BBC News On-Line, October 7, 2003,
[22] The founder of JI, Abul A'ala Maududi, not only backed General Zia when he overthrew Bhutto in the 1970s but later also supported the jihad in Afghanistan. “Authoritarianism and Political Party Reform in Pakistan,” Asia Report No. 102 (Islamabad/Brussels: September 28, 2005), International Crisis Group, p. 13. The figures are taken from Hassan Abbas, "Pakistan Through the Lens of the „Triple A‟ Theory," The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Winter 2006), p. 185. He uses figures provided by Amir Rana, a Pakistani journalist.
[23] “The State of Sectarianism in Pakistan” and Veena Kurkreja, Contemporary Pakistan: Political Process, Conflicts and Crises (London: New Sage Publications, 2003).
[24] According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, in January-February 2007, Pakistan experienced three known sectarian incidents that left five people dead and 21 people injured. In 2006, there were 38 incidents, in which 201 people died and 349 people were injured. “Sectarian Violence in Pakistan: 2007,” South Asia Terrorism Portal,, accessed on April 5, 2007.
[25] “Discord in Pakistan‟s Northern Areas,” Asia Report No. 131 (Islamabad/Brussels: April 2, 2007), International Crisis Group, p. 1 and “Pakistan: Karachi‟s Madrasas and Violent Extremism,” Asia Report No. 130 (Islamabad/Brussels: March 27, 2007), International Crisis Group.
[26] Musharraf has declared: “It was in our national interest because I knew what would happen now in Afghanistan…Our diplomatic association with the Taliban was going to become meaningless, as obviously they were going to be sorted out." Quotation taken from Peter Taylor, “The Crucible,” The Guardian, August 8, 2005,,,1544709,00.html.
[27] Jeremy Page, “Sharia Gangs Roam Streets of Capital City to Enforce their Law with Threats,” The Times, April 6, 2007,
[28] “Madrassa Pupils Abduct „Brothel Owner,‟ Cops,” Gulf Times (Qatar), March 29, 2007,
[29] Jannat Jalil, "Pakistan's Islamic Girl Schools," BBC News On-Line, September 19, 2005,
[30] Akhtar Amin, "Rs 5,000 Fine for „Un-Islamic‟ Activities," Daily Times (Pakistan), April 5, 2007, and Ali Waqar, "Islamists Enforce Prayer Breaks at PU Hostel Shops," Daily Times (Pakistan), April 5, 2007,
[31] See for example, “Border Town Under Curfew After Clashes with Taliban,” Gulf Times (Qatar), March 29, 2007,
[32] “Tribal Offensive Could Curb Rebel Attacks: Officials,” Gulf Times (Qatar), April 1, 2007,
[33] “Uzbeks Outstay Pashtun Welcome,”, March 28, 2007,
[34] Declan Walsh, "Toll Hits 250 as Pakistani Tribesmen Fight to Expel Foreign Militants," The Guardian, April 5, 2007,,,2050223,00.html.
[35] “Tribesmen Attack Qaeda Bunkers,” Daily Times (Pakistan), April 1, 2007,
[36] Jeremy Page, "Army Breathes a Sigh of Relief as Militant Groups Turn on Each Other in Spring Thaw," The Times, April 11, 2007,
[37] M. Ilyas Khan, “Fractious Militants United by One Thing,” BBC News On-Line, March 7, 2007,
[38] Tarique Niazi, “The Geostrategic Implications of the Baloch Insurgency,” Terrorism Monitor, Vol. 4, No. 22 (November 16, 2006), pp. 8-11.
[39] Zaffar Abbas, “Pakistan's Battle over Balochistan,” BBC News On-Line, August 26, 2006,
[40] Figures taken from “The State of Sectarianism in Pakistan,” p. 20.
[41] In March 2007, Pakistani security forces arrested a senior militant commander of the banned Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). “Rebels Bomb Power Pylon in Baluchistan,” Gulf Times (Qatar), March 29, 2007,
[42] “Pakistan Judge Protests Escalates,” BBC News On-Line, April 13, 2007,
[43] Imran Khan, “The Rules Change When Dictators Serve US Interests,” The Guardian, July 11, 2007,,,2123283,00.html.
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[44] M. Ilyas Khan, “Judge Row Prompts Pakistan Democracy Questions,” BBC News On-Line, March 12, 2007, and “Sacked Judge Insists Judiciary Must Be Free,” Gulf Times (Qatar), March 29, 2007,
[45] Declan Walsh, “Anti-Musharraf Protesters Rally Outside Court to Defend Judge,” The Guardian, April 4, 2007,,,2049414,00.html.
[46] Masud Alam, “Blood and Batons Spur Pakistan Row,” BBC News On-Line, March 17, 2007,
[47] Quotation taken from Zahid Hussain, “Crossfire Kills Mosque Leader Who Wanted Martyrdom and Revolution,” The Times, July 11, 2007,
[48] Cited in Declan Walsh, “73 Bodies Recovered at End of Mosque Siege,” The Guardian, July 12, 2007,,,2124222,00.html.
[49] Craig Cohen and Derek Chollet, "When $10 Billon is not Enough: Rethinking U.S. Strategy towards Pakistan." The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Spring 2007), pp. 7-19.
[50] Matthew Lee and Katherine Shrader, “Al-Qaeda Has Rebuilt, U.S. Intel Warns,” Associated Press, July 12, 2007,
[51] “Musharraf „Very Angry‟ with Karzai over Security,” Gulf Times (Qatar), April 15, 2007,
[52] Rajat Pandit, “China Hikes Arms Budget to $44 Billion,” The Times of India (India), March 5, 2007,
[53] Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan, p. 93 and throughout. Frederic Grare has gone so far as to state: “The Pakistani military is the main source of insecurity on the subcontinent….” Frederic Grare, “Pakistan: The Myth of an Islamist Peril,” Policy Brief No. 45 (February 2006), Carnegie Endowment for Peace, p. 2.
[54] “Pakistan 'Harbouring Mullah Omar,'” The Australian, April 2, 2007,,23599,21488277-38197,00.html.
[55] Lee and Shrader, “Al-Qaeda Has Rebuilt.”
[56] Ibid.
[57] The Economist, March 20, 2003. For a more up-to-date report on the Pakistani economy, see “Pakistan: Selected Issues and Statistical Appendix,” IMF Country Report No. 05/408 (International Monetary Fund: November 2005),
[58] John Wall, country director at the World Bank, has claimed that if Pakistan could maintain its current growth for the next 10 to15 years “…it would become another Asian tiger.” “Pakistan 2006: A Resilient Economy,” Global Agenda (London: World Link Publication Ltd., 2006), pp. 6, 8,'pakistan%27s%20economy'.
[59] U.S. Senator Joseph Biden, the chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a presidential candidate, has written to Musharraf to encourage him to allow the return of Bhutto and Sharif to emphasize the democratic development in Pakistan. Somini Sengupta with Carlotta Gall, “As Musharraf‟s Woes Grow, Enter an Old Rival, Again.” New York Times, April 6, 2007,
[60] In 2002 Musharraf sought and won support from the Muttehida Majlis Amal (an Islamic political movement), thus helping him remain in office.
[61] Reportedly, Lieutenant General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani, the head of the ISI, and Lieutenant General Hamid Javaid, Musharraf's chief of staff, held talks with Sharif in London. Zahid Hussain, “Bhutto Free to Return After Graft Charges Are Dropped,” The Times, April 6, 2007, and Salman Masood, "Close Aides to Musharraf Meet with His Opposition," New York Times, August 27, 2007.