Accueil arrow Tribunes libres arrow Roots of radical islamist ideologies in south asia (part 3)


Dr Farhan Zahid (Pakistan), PhD

The British partitioned India and granted independence to India and Pakistan in August 1947. With its coming into being, the Islamist forces once opposing the creation of Pakistan had changed stances and started taking roots with the newly established state. The object of their affection had now suddenly become Pakistan, a state founded on religious grounds. The overnight shift amazed everyone. Surprisingly the Jamaat-e-Islami's founder Abul Ala Maududi migrated to Pakistan, the state he opposed throughout his life and settled in Lahore. It is somewhat important to note that the post-independence problems were many and hard to handle by a nascent state. There were issues like:

  • Over ten million people migrated from India to Pakistan; their settlement in the new state was a Himalayan task.
  • The Boundary Commission (Radcliff Commission, a committee formed by British government to distribute the assets and finances between the two states) failed to settle a number of disputes related to boundary, resulting in territorial disputes between India and Pakistan
  • Assets were not distributed proportionally and thus created even a bigger problem for the state of Pakistan that had no financial means to survive.
  • The state of Kashmir which was one of the 545 princely states[1] under the British Raj, with a Hindu ruler and Muslim majority population, eventually becoming the bone of contention between India and Pakistan and a war started in September 1948.
  • Hyderabad, Junagrh, and Manawadar were princely states with Muslim rulers and Hindu majority population, were forcibly annexed by bigger and militarily stronger India.

Therefore in lieu of above mentioned situation coupled with financial difficulties faced by the state, the Islamist parties had gained a firm foothold to establish in Pakistani society. In the light of policy statements given by Mohammad Ali Jinnah (father of the nation), Pakistan was supposed to have a secular-liberal constitution based on western traditions.

"You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed - that has nothing to do with the business of the State... We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State... I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in due course Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State."[2]

Unfortunately Jinnah did not live long enough to draft the constitution[3] and right after his death the Islamist parties under the leadership of Maududi broke their silence and launched a propaganda campaign for an Islamic constitution[4]. Maududi was successful in analyzing the situation after the death of Jinnah and convinced some of the Islamist minded legislators to voice his agendas in the Constituent Assembly[5].

Liaquat Ali Khan the Prime Minister of Pakistan was the first to succumb to the wishes of Islamist and their proponents in the constituent assembly of Pakistan. Because of the pressure from the Islamist parties he tabled the "Objective Resolution"[6] in the constituent assembly which was readily passed by the assembly. The said resolution declared that the future course of legislation in Pakistan would be based upon the Islamic ideology and thus the Islamist forces claimed their first victory which was completely avoidable considering the presence of overwhelming number of secular parliamentarians in the assembly.

The attempt was to appease the Islamist leaders but it only increased their list of demands.

Majlis-e-Ahrar al Islam and the Punjab Riots 

Four years later, in 1953, after passing of desired resolution Maududi came and like-minded Abdul Sattar Khan Niazi of Jamiat-e-Ulema Pakistan and Deobandi radical clerics such as Zafar Ali Khan, Mazhar Ali Khan, Syed Ataullah Shah Bokhari, Habin ur Rehman Ludhianivi and Choudhary Afzal Haq under the banner of Majlis-e-Ahrah al Islam, came up with another issue[7]. Majlis was a radical Deobandi Islamist party which sided with Indian National Congress during Independence Movement. The movement was active during Khalifat movement in India in early 1920s and later presented its demands for enforcement of Sharia laws in India after the withdrawal of British. The movement was disbanded for few years after the independence of Pakistan but later re-emerged during the Punjab riots of 1953[8].  This time they demanded that the minority Ahmadiyya community be declared non-Muslim. The riots were led by Jamaat-e-Islami and lasted for several months; eventually military was called in to disperse the rioters and restore law and order. Martial Law was declared for seventy days in the Punjab province's capital Lahore. The movement intended to emotionally charge the masses on the name of religion. Although the time Islamists did not get away with what they wanted but they had somehow proved their metal by disrupting the law and order for many days by showing off street power. The leadership remained determined not to succumb to their demands[9].

Jamaat-e-Islami's Role during Civil War of 1971

Though ignored by Pakistan's military dictator Ayub Khan during his 11-year rule (1958-1969), the JI bounced back during his successor General Yahya Khan's martial law regime. The growing tensions between eastern and western wings of the country (eastern: predominantly of Bengali ethnic origin and western: predominantly Punjabi) resulted in the Civil War in 1971. The western wing had more landmass but less population[10]. Two hundred and fifty thousand strong Pakistani military was overwhelmingly Punjabi or composed of west Pakistanis. The very first general elections were held in December 1970, and an eastern wing party Awami League secured a thumping victory with an absolute majority (160 seats out of 300 National Assembly seats)[11]. The western wing parties with military's tacit approval refused

to recognize Awami League (AL) as a federal party and therefore refused to accept the results. Both, eastern wing's AL and western wing's Pakistan People Party remained glued to their stances and the result was a civil war. The military operation against the AL was launched in March 1971.

In the eastern wing the main opponent of Awami League party was JI, but it could not manage to win a single seat from East Pakistan. JI took its revenge by colluding with the military during the Operation (Operation Search Light, began 25 March 1971). That was the very first occasion when Pakistan's military junta and JI worked together. A secular military trained on the lines of British army had nothing in common with Islamist JI but interests and same political enemies. The military junta planned to train and arm JI workers and student wings to fight against the AL that had also managed to raise a similar militia force with Indian help.

Three armed militias Al-Badar, Al-Shams and Razakars were raised during the operation consisted of JI workers and supporters. The militias were commanded by JI East Pakistan Amir (president) Moti ur Rehman Nizami. The militias played the role of irregulars during the brutal operation where thousands of Bengalis were slaughtered, women raped, workers of Awami League kidnapped and tortured, and many of them killed and buried in mass graves. Bengali militia reciprocated the same actions by killing thousands of west Pakistani settlers and military men. The militias were also used for spying against the AL-militiamen (Mukti Bahini), targeted assassinations of political opponents, and giving vital information about key geographic locations. Another Islamist group Shanti Committee (Peace Committee) was formed for preaching the soldiers and militiamen to convince them about Bengali Mukti Bahinis as infidels and heretics, and Indian agents. The members of Shanti Committee played the role army chapmen for morale boasting and propaganda purposes.

According to Hassan Abbas, in his book Pakistan's Drift into Extremism, "The religious parties were also on the outlook for a new opening to pursue their agenda of ‘Islamizing' the state. Maududi met Yahya early on and declared him a ‘champion of Islam', expecting that this would sufficiently work on Yahya and the new constitution that he would envisage would be Islamic."[12]

About the military operation and role of Islamist JI, he further said, "In this unholy drama, Jamaat-e-Islami formed an alliance with the army in East Pakistan and played an active part in the military action against what believed to be ‘enemies of Islam.' This party along with other right-wing parties had initially launched a propaganda campaign to convince Bengalis that their loyalties lay first with Islam and Pakistan and not with their ethnic roots, but to no avail."[13]

All of these militias were disbanded after the defeat and surrender of Pakistan Army before Indian Army and Mukti Bahini militia after the fall of Dhaka on December 16, 1971. This also dashed the hopes of Islamist parties and their newly-built nexus with Pakistani intelligence agencies came to a temporary end.

Beginning of appeasement policy and state patronage of non-state actors 

Appeasing pressure groups and making them Frankenstein-like monsters is not a new phenomenon. It was the appeasement of Adolph Hitler and his expansionist policies by the British Prime Minister Lord Chamberlain and French President Clemenceau that turned him into a mighty monstrous force and later events led the whole world to Second World War. It was the appeasement of Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist groups by Egyptian President Anwar Sadaat that eventually resulted in his own assassination by their hands. It was the appeasement of Hamas by the Israeli government back in 1980s that made this Muslim Brotherhood branch (Hamas) in Palestinian territories a formidable enemy of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and eventually the enemy of state of Israel, and finally it managed to take control of Palestine Authority in Gaza in 2006.

With the fall of East Pakistan and emergence of Bangladesh, the politics in Pakistan took a new turn. Pakistan also became aloof in the arena of world politics because of the human rights violations committed by Islamist militias backed by the then military junta. The Islamist parties and ideologues blamed Pakistani politicians and masses at large for the defeat; they capitalized on this opportunity and to shift blame and launched massive propaganda campaigns.

The new strategy was to blame Pakistani masses and military by relating their defeat because of absence of religiosity. Even the new Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (chairman of secular and socialist Peoples Party) had to cow down before the demands of Islamist parties now started to rally masses against his government. Amongst many of the demands were to include Islamic provisions in the new constitution of the country which was being drafted. Bhutto accepted most of the demands presented to him by JI leader Maududi and JUI leader Mufti Mahmood. The Islamic provisions he included in the newly made constitution to appease the Islamists were:

  • President and Prime Minister must be Muslims
  • All laws should be made in accordance of Quran and Sunnah (traditions and sayings of the Prophet PBUH)
  • Composition of Council of Islamic Ideology was created for overseeing the law making processes
  • The name of Pakistan was also changed to Islamic Republic of Pakistan from Republic of Pakistan.[14]

Appeasing the Islamist did not work.  These parties did not end their demands with it and a new campaign was launched with demands of implementation of Islamic laws in the country.

The steps of appeasing Islamist parties by Bhutto government indeed strengthened their power and sphere and influence and very soon these parties had aligned up against the Bhutto regime. The elections of 1977 were the litmus test in which the Islamists in alliance with right wingers suffered crushing defeat by the hands of left wing Peoples Party of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The Islamist parties refused to accept their defeat. They termed the results bogus and elections ‘engineered' and rigged by the Bhutto government. They came up with the demands of implementation of Islamic laws in the country and re-election. Another campaign was launched by the Islamist parties under the alliance of Pakistan National Alliance (PNA). The campaign gradually lost its momentum because it failed to gather mass support. But in another move the Islamist parties (JI, JUI and JUP) colluded with Army Chief General Zia ul Haq who in a coup de etat on July 5, 1977 ousted the Bhutto government. Bhutto was later charged for abetting a murder of one of his own party leader and convicted. He was sentenced to death and executed in 1978. Bhutto's execution heralded a new epoch for Islamist parties and Zia military regime had given them free hand to operate.

Bhutto's domestic policy failures also led to his downfall. He was apparently liberal and secular in approach but conservative by actions. Before the elections he appointed General Zia ul Haq (junior amongst all other three star generals) as Chief of Army Staff, without knowing his Islamist/Deobandi credentials. General Zia, in power was a dream-come-true situation for Islamist parties especially for the JI. Although it's chief Maududi recently died in the US[15] but the new Amir (party head) Mian Tufail had joined hands with Zia's martial law regime.

Another blunder committed by Bhutto was his decision of grouping together Islamist dissidents groups of Afghanistan. These Islamist groups (mostly radical Islamist students from Kabul University) had started activities against the Afghan pro-Soviet government of President Daud Khan who came into power in 1973 after deposing his cousin King Zahir Shah. Daud Khan had raised the slogan of Pashtunistan long before he became president of Afghanistan (in 1962 when he was Prime Minister in Zahir Shah Regime but later sacked). After coming into power he repeated the same clichés that antagonized Bhutto. Daud also supported the pro-Pashtunistan groups in Pakistan's tribal areas and had sent them cache of arms. In response Bhutto provided safe havens to dissident Islamists and opposition groups of Afghanistan. On the advice of his Inspector General of Frontier Corps (paramilitary border security force) General Naseer Ullah Babar, Prime Minister Bhutto not only sheltered them but also provided them with arms and combat training. Most of the leaders of these dissident Islamist groups later became the leaders of their own separate parties during Zia regime's policy of ‘Afghan Jihad' in collusion with the American CIA and Saudi GID. These parties later became Peshawar Seven[16].

The martial law regime announced a care-taking set up and JI became part of the set up and took charge of some important federal ministries. Fresh elections were promised but never held until 1985, and conducted on non-party basis with massive allegations of rigging. From 1979 till 1985 the military junta ruled the country with an iron hand with the only exception of JI. Some of the policies adopted by the Zia government in collusion with JI transformed the whole society and upcoming generations of Pakistani youth. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan worked as a catalyst for the growth of Islamist radicalization and militancy. It took a fast course with multitude of youth was drawn from the JI student wing cadres, though the Afghan refugees were the primary choice at the camps.

Thus it could be easily gauged that the beginning of appeasement of Islamist began with Bhutto. The same policies were adopted by General Zia. The Bhutto regime's policy was tri-pronged:

  • Aiding Afghan Islamist groups in response of Afghan government's policy of supporting Pashtunistan issue
  • In the arena of international politics Prime Minister Bhutto also bolstered relationship with other Muslim countries notably with Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states
  • At domestic front Bhutto  appeased Islamist parties and pressure groups by bowing down to many of their demands


These polices miserably failed and eventually backfired.

  • Because of the boosting up of relations with Arab states the result was more funding and aid coming to Islamist groups of Pakistan (mostly Debandi and Wahabi groups such as JI and JUI), which were indeed playing against the Bhutto government and the real opposition to his regime. These parties had later joined hands with Bhutto's opponent: the military regime of General Zia ul Haq, came into power in a coup de etat.
  •  During Bhutto's reign the Islamist groups of Afghanistan were aided and supported as a policy measure by his government, but the groups failed to achieve any reasonable success in disturbing the interests of Afghan government of President Daud Khan, and all of these groups were beaten back and finally retreated back to Pakistan in mid-seventies. It was only after the fall of Bhutto that these groups were once again taken back into the fold and used as proxies against the Soviet forces (occupying Afghanistan from 1979-1989) by the military regime of General Zia.
  • As Bhutto tried to bribe the Islamist parties of Pakistan (despite the fact that these parties only had a fraction of seats in the parliament and insignificant popular vote) only to strengthen his own rule but even this did not work and these parties gained strength and later contributed to his fall


It is important to discuss the appeasement policies of Bhutto which led to many controversies even after his ouster:

  • Since 1950s the Islamist forces wanted the government to declare Ahmadiya community as non-Muslims. Bhutto took the matter to parliament and invited Ahmadiya community clerics and Muslim religious clerics to debate over the issue. It was during the debate that Ahmadiya community clerics cast themselves away with the points they raised and confessed before the Parliamentary Committee that only the adherents of Ahmadiya community were genuine Muslims and the rest were unbelievers or non-Muslims. The Parliament then declared the Ahmadiya community non-Muslims. Bhutto's perception was that that the long standing issue had now been resolved and he believed that that would somehow cut the size of religious politics in the country[17]. He was proved wrong when after few years the new demand of Islamists was to declare Shia Muslims as non-Muslims.
  • Another demand was to declare Friday instead of Sunday the weekly holiday, which Bhutto generously accepted. Friday then became the official holiday, although it made no sense.


  • Use of alcohol was prohibited through a presidential ordinance and other ordinances were issued such as banning gambling etc.


During Bhutto regime three leading Islamist parties acted as pressure groups, were somehow successful in having their demands met.

    • Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (party of Islam)
    • Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam (party of Muslim scholars)
    • Jamiat-Ulema-e-Pakistan (party of Muslim scholars Pakistan)

These three Islamist parties later became part of alliance against Bhutto and termed the 1977 elections rigged and engineered. JI was especially pivotal because of its comparatively better street power and membership. It would be sine-quo non to discuss the profile of these parties as in later years the first two would play key roles (JI in 1980s and JUI in 1990s).


  • JI's role was central in strengthening General Zia's military regime from the beginning. Bhutto had earlier confessed that it was his political miscalculation that he appointed an Islamist and pro-JI general as chief of army. After the Bhutto government's ouster the JI leadership joined the caretaker government established by General Zia during his Martial Law period. Some of the high ranking JI leaders joined federal cabinet under Zia and assumed charge of key portfolios like education, and industries. But most importantly the JI influenced the military regime of Zia to enforce the educational-religious reforms. School, college and university curricula were revised and jihadi doctrines inserted. Under the religious reforms package the Martial Law regime adopted some very controversial laws (hitherto matters of conflict amongst liberals and Islamists forces), such as Blasphemy laws, Adultery laws, and Prohibition laws (under an act called Hudood Ordinance). The promulgation of these controversial ordinances along with other measures such as Islamization of economy (interest free banking), land reforms and Qisas and Diyat Ordinance (in the field of criminal jurisprudence, and making murder compoundable offense) promulgated as part of the Zia-JI joint venture campaign called the Islamization Process[18]. The implementation of these laws brutally affected the then moderate Pakistani society. Under JI federal minister for education, the whole system of education was overhauled and syllabi were turned accordingly with the doctrines propounded by Maududi, in order to make students turned towards Islamism.

According to US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report, 2010:"Laws prohibiting blasphemy continued to be used against Christians, Ahmadis, and members of other religious groups including Muslims. Lower courts often did not require adequate evidence in blasphemy cases, which led to some accused and convicted persons spending years in jail before higher courts eventually overturned their convictions or ordered them freed.......The penal code incorporates a number of Islamic law (Sharia) provisions. The judicial system encompasses several different court systems with overlapping and sometimes competing jurisdictions that reflect differences in civil, criminal and Islamic jurisprudence.

Criminal law allowed offenders to offer monetary restitution to victims and allowed victims to carry out physical retribution rather than seeking punishment through the court system. The ‘Qisaas and Diyat' law calls for either providing retribution for murder and other violent crimes (qisaas) or compensation money to the victim of the crime (diyat)."[19]


  • With the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, JI took full advantage of the emerging situation and sided with the Zia regime's decision to launch covert operations against the Soviet troops inside Afghanistan with the collusion of American CIA. As a result around 3 million Afghan refugees were driven out of Afghanistan by the Soviet forces. The military regime and JI both capitalized on refugees. This huge refugee population, living in camps on Pakistani soil was of key importance for JI, whose cadres launched a campaign of recruiting the ‘holy warriors'[20] (Mujaheeden) to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Under the CIA led covert action plan called Operation Cyclone[21] thousands were recruited. CIA and Saudi intelligence agency General Intelligence Department (GID: aka Al-Mukhabrat) provided funds whereas Pakistanis took the job of training those ‘holy warriors'. The insurgents were led by the same Bhutto era's dissident Afghan Islamist leaders. During Bhutto period these leaders were grouped together but Zia regime divided them in seven different parties for the purpose of keeping them under control. These parties remained separate but in later years grouped together to form an alliance called Peshawar Seven or Islamic Unity of Afghanistan Mujahideen. The parties were:
    • Hizb-e-Islami (Hekmatyar Group)
    • Hizb-e-Islami (Younus Khalis Group)
    • Jamait-e-Islami (led by Burhan ud Din Rabbani)
    • Afghanistan National Liberation Front (led by Subghat ullah Mujaddedi)
    • National Islamic Front of Afghanistan (led by Pir Syed Ahmad Gillani)
    • Revolutionary Islamic Movement (led by Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi)
    • Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan (led by Abdul Rab Rasool Sayal)[22].

Hizb-e-Islami's both factions became the two most powerful amongst the seven and Hekmatyar became the favorite of both JI and military junta. Sayal was another key player but he was able to make a direct line of contact with Saudi intelligence agency GID and developed a strong bond with the Saudi donors (mostly because of his Wahabi/Salafi orientation). Except Rabbani's party the three other were smaller in number and influence therefore remained active only to some areas during the war. Strong and powerful in terms of tactics and aggressive war against the Soviets was Rabbani's Jamiat-e-Islami. The party although sounded similar to JI of Pakistan but had not much in common as the Rabbani's party was moderate and primarily based in northern Afghanistan. It was primarily an ethnic Tajik party where as except Mojededi (Afghani of Arab descent) and Gillani (also Arab by lineage but Pashtun speaking) the rest of the leaders were of ethnic Pashtun origins.


  • Another Islamist party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), a Deobandi sect party formed as successor to Jamiat-e-Ulema-e Hind (JUH) in Pakistan. Because of JI being the favorite of ISI and Saudi intelligence GID the JUI did not get its due share during the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan but after the withdrawal of Soviet forces and the failure of ISI-GID backed parties in clinching Kabul the JUI came into limelight[23]. One of the reasons was chain of Deobandi sect madressahs near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border run by the JUI. Thousands of madressahs students and sons of Afghan veteran ‘holy warriors' were recruited and a new militia came into being: the Taliban.


  • Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP) was a Barelvi sect Islamist party, considered to be tolerant of other sects. The party supported Pir Gillani and Mojeddedi to a minimal extent during the war but failed to come into the good books of Pakistani and Saudi intelligence agencies mainly because of its following of different sect of Islam other than the Wahabi or semi-Wahabi Deobandi sects of Islam.

Post-Afghan War Scenario

The withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan heralded a new phase of civil war and intriguing politics amongst Afghanistan's Mujahedin groups, Soviet (later Russian) backed government in Kabul and role of Islamist parties. The former mujahedeen groups failed to capture Kabul and factional fighting resulted in a civil war. The key loser was JI of Pakistan that from the beginning supported ideologically closer Hizb-e-Islami (party of Islam) of Hekmatyar. The HI (H) was the main contender for clinching power in Afghanistan. Hekmatyar disappointed his backers and failed to capture Kabul. Instead, Ahmad Shah Masoud, a military commander considered rogue by JI (because of his moderately Islamist views) had managed to oust Kabul's communist government (soon after Boris Yelstin abandoned it). His forces claimed Kabul before Hekmatyar even planned to enter the city. Hekmatyar, boosted by his mentors, tried time and again but failed in each and every effort[24].

With the defeat of Hekmatyar the role of JI was also over in the future politics and the international role it was once dreaming to play, in South Asian politics and in Central Asia at a later stage. The new comers were two factions of Pakistan's JUI. Maulana Sami ul Haq and Fazal ur Rehman, both largely ignored during the Afghan War by the backers of mujahedeen groups. It was only after the Hekmatyar's failure that the Pakistani intelligence agencies and Interior Minister of Pakistan Naseer ullah Babar (during Benazir Bhutto's government) had started to build ties with the newly emerged Taliban militia. The Taliban were Afghan students of Pakistani madressahs and second generation Afghan mujahedin (born in refugee camps in Pakistan and had seen their family members fighting against the Soviets). Both factions of JUI supported the Taliban militia with manpower and money. This support worked well and young and fresh fighting force defeated all the previous mujahedin groups and paved their way to Kabul.   

The Taliban victory also affected Pakistan. The support rendered to them by Pakistan's Islamist parties was phenomenal. It was because of their support that the state's writ became weaker than ever as these parties had started to collect donations for Taliban across Pakistan and in a later stage spread the same brand of Islam in rural and urban areas. The Taliban supporting groups remained untouchables in Pakistan as they had the tacit support of Pakistani government and intelligence agencies, and they had been given free hand. During the same period of time (1990s) many of the terrorist organizations (creating havoc today) were formed and styled themselves on the Taliban pattern. Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jesh-e-Mohammad (JM), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ), and others were formed in 1990s. All of these were later proscribed by the Pakistani government and declared terrorist after 9/11[25]. Sipah-e-Sahaba (Sunni extremist sectarian organization) which was formed in 1985, and had become a cause of hundreds of sectarian violent incidents, further grew and had to be banned in 2002[26].

It was during the 1990s that the first wave of terrorist attacks was launched by Islamist militants against the American, European and Pakistani interests using Pakistan and Afghanistan as their base of operations. The year 1993 marked the first terrorist attack on American soil. Ramzi Yousaf, the conspirator was a student of Afghan warlord Abu Sayaf and trained at mujahedin camp at Afghanistan.

Some of the groups started militant activities in Indian-held Kashmir region, a disputed territory between the two countries. Al-Qaida leadership was also given shelter in Afghanistan and later Taliban hosted Bin Laden.

The reliance on non-state actors saw the biggest surge during this period. Benazir Bhutto alike her father followed the same policy of supporting Afghan non-state actors; she pampered the newly emerged militia Taliban and considered it a key player for exerting influence in Afghanistan. At the same time Islamist Kashmiri groups such as Harkat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI), Hizb-ul Mujahedin (HUM), and Harkat-ul Mujahedin started activities in Indian Kashmir. Previously the Indian government had accused Pakistan of intruding in Indian-held Kashmir in 1960s by supporting Kashmiri nationalist groups like Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) but now the Indian government had alleged Pakistan for replacing those groups by the religious extremist. Pakistan also accused India of supporting separatist groups in its Sind and Baluchistan provinces.

The collusion amongst the Afghan, Kashmiri and sectarian Pakistani groups such as Hizb-e-Islami, Taliban, LET, JM, SSP and others had soon started to begin at the training camps in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. A spider web of these Islamist violent non-state actors had started to spread all over the state of Pakistan.  Pakistan's policy U-turn after the 9/11 attacks was nothing but Hobson's choice. The collusion of radical Islamist groups and their ideologues came to light after the state's decision to ally with the US and abiding by with the UN Security Council Resolutions. Since then more than 50,000[27] Pakistanis both military and civilians have lost their lives by the hands of Islamist terrorists allied to Al-Qaeda.

Analysis and Discussion

In the post-independence political scene, religious parties especially JI, then began with anew in Pakistan and had tried to capitalize on failures of Muslim League leadership. The hopes of JI leader Maududi were quashed first by civilian bureaucracy and later by military that came into power and ruled for a first two decades after independence. Firstly the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his inaugural address declared Pakistan a secular state and that rejected all of speculations about Pakistan becoming a religious theocracy or caliphate[28]. That was a severe blow to the wishes of Islamists especially the JI and its leadership. Unfortunately the founder died very soon (September 11, 1948, just after 13 months of the birth of republic). 

The only advantage the JI was able to get was with the support of some of Maududi sympathizers in the constituent assembly of Pakistan who somehow added some religious clauses in the early phases of the constitution in the making (Objective Resolution, 1949).

During the first 24 years of Pakistan the religious Islamist parties could not hold ground either before secular political parties which were enjoying massive support or civil and military bureaucracy, ruling time to time. It was only after the first general elections of 1970 that the struggle for power amongst political parties of East and West Pakistan heightened and military junta capitalizing the situation sought JI support.

JI's auxiliaries Al Shams and Al Badar worked as irregular forces and massacred thousands of Bengali civilians. The defeat of Pakistan army in 1971 War and emergence of Bangladesh temporarily ended the alliance between military and Islamist forces. The alliance once again revived with the appointment of General Zia ul Haq as Chief of Army Staff by Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1977. Zia, a long time JI sympathizers very soon sacked the government of Bhutto and proclaimed martial law. With Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the situation favored even further to the Islamist forces, now waging ‘jihad' against the Soviet Red Army troops in covert alliance with CIA, GID and ISI. 

In the first phase only Afghan refugees from camps based in Pakistan were recruited and trained. In the second stage many of the workers of JI and students of madressahs belonging to Deobandi sect were also taken into the fold and trained. It was after the arrival of Abduallah Azzam (political and religious mentor of Bin Laden) in Peshawar in early 1980s that Arab organizations like Muslim Brotherhood and others had sent their rank and file for ‘jihad' in Afghanistan. Saudi government seized this opportunity to dispose of its suspected radical youth (Grand Mosque Siege of 1979, where Wahabi radicals and former students of Saudi Grand Mufti Bin Baz took control and demanded Saudi monarch to abdicate).

Thus it was during this period that all the Islamist forces, mainly from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Jordan and many other countries took shelter in Pakistan. They took full advantage of the situation, received huge sums from Saudis and other like-minded Middle Eastern and Arab donors. That was besides the training many of the Islamists received at the camps being operated as part of Operation Cyclone.

Right after the end of Afghan War in 1989 a Civil War erupted in Afghanistan amongst all the Mujahedin factions. More people died in the civil war than ten years of warfare with the Russians. The Afghan Civil War did not last for long as a new Pakistan-backed militia took control of Kabul in 1996. The Taliban became the new masters of Afghanistan. Initially the Taliban agenda was more or less similar in nature as that of Saudi Arabia. But alike Saudis they imparted a highly radicalized and distorted version of Islam, unacceptable to everyone, even their backers: the Pakistanis and Saudis. Al-Qaeda's leader Bin Laden had landed in Afghanistan there even before the Taliban takeover of Kabul. The Taliban granted him official guest status as soon as they came into power and Bin Laden acknowledged Mullah Omar as supreme leader of Afghanistan and the Muslim world by oath of allegiance. He further influenced Taliban leadership and used Afghanistan as a base for its operations against the US forces and citizens.

The radical forces have always possessed the support of a tiny minority of Muslims in South Asian sub-continent. They have always had some level of presence in the society since the times of Akbar the Great but their support and influence remained restricted to a very narrow sphere. It was only with the American money and support that the jihadi spirit was reinvigorated against the Soviets. The Soviets were defeated, and withdrew from Afghanistan but drawbacks of spreading the militant ideology came into light years later. The Islamist militants felt their very first victory a gift of God or that they had been rewarded by participating in holy war. Moreover they considered it solely because of their own efforts and without any external help. Such illusionary feeling allowed them to turn against their own respective countries of origin sooner or later.

  • [1] There were 545 states in British India, governed by their own rulers, subservient to the British and semi-autonomous in governance matters. By the time of independence the British asked the rulers to either opt for India or Pakistan. The ruler's choice was considered supreme.
  • [2] Mohammad Ali Jinnah, first governor general and founder of the nation's first speech before the Constituent Assembly of new created state of Pakistan on August 11, 1947.
  • [3] Jinnah died on September 11, 1948, just 13 months after Pakistan came into being.
  • [4] Islamist forces wanted to have a constitution allowing Sharia laws as governing the state matter, virtually turning the state into a theocracy, while Jinnah had negated any of such ideas.
  • [5] Maududi's Jamaat-e-Islami had no member in the Constituent Assembly, even then he had some followers in Muslim League, whom he managed to influence.
  • [6] Text of Objective Resolution of 1949, later Article 2 A of the Constitution of Pakistan: "Whereas sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty alone and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan, through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust; This Constituent Assembly representing the people of Pakistan resolves to frame a Constitution for the sovereign independent State of Pakistan; Wherein the State shall exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people; Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed; Wherein the 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; Wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to [freely]  profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures; Wherein the territories now included in or in accession with Pakistan and such other territories as may hereafter be included in or accede to Pakistan shall form a Federation wherein the units will be autonomous with such boundaries and limitations on their powers and authority as may be prescribed; Wherein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality; Wherein adequate provisions shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities and backward and depressed classes; Wherein the independence of the Judiciary shall be fully secured; Wherein the integrity of the territories of the Federation, its independence and all its rights including its sovereign rights on land, sea and air shall be safeguarded; So that the people of Pakistan may prosper and attain their rightful and honored place amongst the nations of the World and make their full contribution towards international peace and progress and happiness of humanity."
  • [7] The precursor to their demands was anti-Ahmedya riots in Punjab province in 1953.
  • [8] For details about Majlis-e-Ahrar al Islam and its ideology see, Samina Awan, Political Islam in Colonial Punjab: Majlis-i-Ahrar (1929-1949), Oxford University Press, 2010, Karachi;.
  • [9] It was then after 20 years that the Pakistani parliament declared Ahmadiyya community non-Muslims only in response to the community's own claim of declaring all other sects of Islam as non-Muslims according to their belief in1974. The parliamentary proceedings were in-camera and details had not been made public.
  • [10] Population: 44 percent West Pakistan and 56 East Pakistan.
  • [11] Out of 300 general seats of National Assembly, the Awami League won 160, all from the eastern wing of the country (aka: East Pakistan). The distribution of National Assembly seats was on the basis of population i.e. 162 for eastern wing and 138 for western.
  • [12] Hassan Abbas, Pakistan's Drift into Extremism: Allah, the Army and America's War on Terror, Pentagon Press, 2005, page 57.
  • [13] Ibid page 63.
  • [14] Part IX, Articles 227-231, Constitution of Pakistan.
  • [15] Abul Ala Maududi's sons were naturalized US citizens and one of them was a medical practitioner who brought his ailing father in Pakistan for treatment to Albany, New York, where he died in 1978.
  • [16] Details about P-7 or Peshawar Seven on latter pages.
  • [17] For details see, Mahboob Hussain, Establishing Constitutional Status of Qadianies: A Study of Parliamentary Debates, 1974, Pakistan Vision, Vol 14, N° 2.
  • [18] Some other reforms introduced by the military regime of General Zia as part of the Islamization Process were establishment of Sharia benches, Federal Shariat Court, Hudood Ordinance, Zina Ordinance, Reverence of Fasting Ordinance, scheduling of prayer timings in accordance with work hours, Zakat and Usher Ordinance for the collection of charity and its disbursement, and Islamic Banking. 
  • [19] International Religious Freedom Report, 2010, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Department of State, November 17, 2010.
  • [20] Initially the Mujahedeen were called the Taliban or students, mainly because of the fact that they were from the madressahs or religious seminaries, being run at refugee camps on Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
  • [21] Operation Cyclone was the biggest ever CIA covert operation (1979-89) to train, arm and finance Afghan mujahedeen groups to fight against the Soviet forces.
  • [22] Mathieu Guidere, Historical Dictionary of Islamic Fundamentalism, Scarecrow Publications, United Kingdom, 2012, p. 272.
  • [23] After the withdrawal of Soviet forces in Afghanistan in February 1989, the mujahedeen groups, though not integrated, but even then tried hard to topple the Soviet-backed Afghan regime of President Najibulah. Their first coordinated ground offensive took place at Jalalabad in 1989. The combined mujahedeen forces were beaten back by the Afghan National Army in the Battle of Jalalabad. The defeat confirmed that the mujahedeen groups (trained in asymmetric warfare) are no match to a professional and conventional 1992 after the disintegration of Soviet Union, the new president of Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin refused to support the Afghan regime and stopped all supplies to the Afghan government which led to the collapse of the Afghan National Army and many of its units either defected to mujahedeen groups or disserted.
  • [24] In one peace accord for power sharing in Afghanistan the Peshawar Agreement was signed in 1992. The accord divided the post-Najibullah power structure among Mujahedeen leaders, Hekmatyar became the prime minister-designate, whereas Ahmed Shah Masoud was given defense ministry. The accord never worked and Hekmatyar's forces bombarded the Afghan capital Kabul turning it into rubble with thousands died as a result and hundreds of thousands took sheltered in refugee camps.
  • [25] Mainly because of General Pervez Musharraf's U-turn as a policy measure to ally Pakistan against the Taliban regime as a result of US and international pressure in 2001.
  • [26] "List of Banned Organizations in Pakistan", The Express Tribune, October 24, 2012, available at:
  • [27] Shaun Waternan, "Heavy Price: Pakistan says war on terror has cost nearly 50,000 lives there since 9/11", The Washington Post, March 27, 2013.
  • [28] Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and first Governor General said as a policy statement: "In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims-Hindus, Christians and Parsis -- but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan." Feb. 1948.

Centre Français de Recherche sur le Renseignement
21 boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris - France
Tél. : 33 1 53 43 92 44 | Fax : 33 1 53 43 92 92 | Contact