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Can Pakistan Be Saved?

Author: Mahnaz Ispahani, Former Senior Fellow for South and West Asia
June 16, 2003
The New Republic


Pakistan: The Eye of the Storm
By Owen Bennett Jones
(Yale University Press, 352 pp., $29.95)

Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan
By Mary Anne Weaver
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 304 pp., $24)


The daily manifestations of Pakistan's many crises, of identity, poverty, religious radicalism, and regional provocations, can be easily tracked in the pages of the morning papers, but not so the dire question of where Pakistan is headed. After September 11, 2001, a proper understanding of the Pakistani puzzle became essential to global security, but one finds few probing or knowledgeable notions about the shifting nature of this experiment in Muslim nationhood, and even fewer good ideas about how to halt its seemingly unstoppable decline. The most interesting American and European discussions of Pakistan are often the work of journalists, such as Owen Bennett Jones and Mary Anne Weaver. Both their books suggest that without some resolution of Pakistan's ills, the consequences for the country, the region, and the world will be severe. And neither writer is sanguine that such a resolution will come.

Weaver tacks anecdotes from her travels to Pakistan together with her post-September 11 reflections on Osama bin Laden, his crowd, and American policy, so as to lightly sketch a country overshadowed by "jihad and Afghanistan." Her book asks the big questions, but it does not really try to address them; instead it contains stories based on her dispatches for The New Yorker of "irascible chiefs" and Arab falconry, old news of Benazir Bhutto, and much conversation with retired generals and "top" advisers. She is astute about the old Pakistan, but the many modernities of Pakistan remain mostly hidden in her book, from the Web-based Islamist intelligentsia to the fights for human rights to that most modern of all Pakistani predicaments— being caught between Muslimness and Islamism.

Bennett Jones, by contrast, sees some of the complexities of Pakistan's politics, the co-existence of old and new powers from the powerful and sophisticated army to the middle-class Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a once-inspiring secular political grouping of muhajirs, or immigrants from India in 1947, which increasingly turned fascistic, violent, and splintered. (Its leader Altaf Husain lives in exile, like Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.) Drawing on existing scholarship and on his own original reporting on the rise of Pervez Musharraf, he provides a sharp and probing analysis of Pakistan's trajectory since its inception in 1947. And yet his book, too, finally fails to address adequately the life-and-death issues facing Pakistan: the country's severe economic crises; the contest between opposing claims to the country's leadership by religious elites, soldiers, and the secular forces; and the primary arenas of confrontation, that is, the cultural battles about education and the status of women. Both Bennett Jones and Weaver add little to the conventional wisdom that the army is the "final arbiter" in Pakistan. Their books are all politics and very little culture.

Bennett Jones says that "Pakistan matters." Well, yes. But before September 11, while these writers were at work, it was almost a forgotten country. On September 10, 2001, Pakistan was a pariah state, heavily sanctioned by the United States, isolated internationally, and falling further into an economic abyss. As the war on terror began, Pakistan was once again recognized for its strategic significance. A new relationship with the United States was swiftly struck, and General (and then President) Pervez Musharraf was lauded as a hero.

By the criteria of George W. Bush's "axis of evil," however, Pakistan might rank near the top of the list of the world's most dangerous countries. (Bernard-Henri Levy, who has just published a huge and melodramatic book called Qui a tue Daniel Pearl?, or Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, certainly thinks so. He calls Pakistan "the most delinquent of delinquent nations.") With a population of around 145 million expected to grow to 250 million in less than twenty years, Pakistan is a deeply combustible place, a thriving haven of terror, a nuclear power (with the ability to manufacture an estimated thirty to fifty nuclear weapons), and a country where power is newly and uneasily shared between soldiers and mullahs. Criminal terror gangs work the cities of Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta, and of course the porous border territories between Pakistan and Afghanistan. For every Al Qaeda terrorist caught by American and Pakistani intelligence agencies— and so far around five hundred of them have been apprehended— another two, three, or more turn up shortly thereafter. Following fast on the heels of these Arab jihadis are the so-called local militants— those who are the adepts of the holy war for Kashmir and mix it up with sectarian, Christian, and American victims inside Pakistan. After a brief period of dormancy under a Musharraf-led crackdown after September 11, these extremist groups are reviving. Some have simply changed their names. Many are actively using the Web to preach and to recruit. Newsletters, pamphlets, and manuals demanding the deaths of Hindus and Jews are easily available at newsstands.

Pakistan's domestic ills are daunting; the country is nearly ungovernable. The judiciary and the police are viewed as corrupt and partial. Fewer and fewer people vote in each successive election. Law and order is most notable for its absence. Karachi, the foremost industrial center and the largest city, has long been an incendiary mix of warring parties, ethnic, sectarian, and now terrorist, whose casualties include its own citizens, its visitors, and more generally the country's attractiveness to investment, both domestic and foreign. While there are rich soldiers, politicians, landowners, and businessmen, few taxpayers or investors are to be found. Pakistan follows only India and Egypt on the list of the world's largest recipients of official development assistance— $58 billion between 1960 and 1998— but its economy remains in shambles. Its poor are growing poorer. After decades of declining rates of poverty, the ranks of the poor swelled by twelve million people between 1993 and 1999 alone.

In Pakistan, moreover, the war on terror intersects perilously with the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Tests conducted in 1998 brought the news of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. It is perfectly correct to question the security of these weapons in such an unstable place, where the disgruntled are many and include nuclear scientists and military officers unhappy with Musharraf's American connection. It is also correct to worry that the jihadis who fight in Kashmir, or their patrons, might target nuclear sites or obtain nuclear material. And Pakistani authorities themselves may be no strangers to the clandestine trade in nuclear technologies. In April, the United States formally imposed a toothless sanction on a Pakistani company (as opposed to the government itself) amid charges of trading nuclear know-how with North Korea. Even as Musharraf announced a complete reversal in Pakistan's policy toward Afghanistan under American pressure in September 2001, he told his country that he did so to preserve the two other pillars of his national security policy: Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and Pakistan's cause in Kashmir.

Bill Clinton was right to call South Asia "the most dangerous place in the world." The increasing asymmetry between Pakistan's and India's conventional forces threatens an escalation to nuclear confrontation, provoked perhaps by the intractable struggle over Kashmir. Last year the world watched tensely as India and Pakistan escalated first their hostile rhetoric and then their troop levels, until one million armed men faced off on the borders. (A few weeks ago a welcome if uncertain thaw occurred in the relationship.) Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons can strike sites within each country in three to five minutes, and American defense agencies estimate that twelve million people will die in any exchange, depending on the winds. All this in a region where the ignorance about the effects of nuclear weapons is pervasive— most people see them merely as bigger bombs— and governments discourage sane public discussion. (In both Pakistan and India, frenzied madrassa-boy or saffronized Hindu public adulation of the bomb is of course permitted.)

Yet perhaps the greatest danger comes from Pakistan's own tendency toward self-destruction— not from technology or the conflict with India, but rather from the domestic identity wars that are reaching a boiling point. The muddle in Pakistan has always been about its identity as a nation-state. Created by coalitions of Muslim politicians, feudals, industrialists, and Westerneducated civil servants who foresaw the likelihood of their community's decline in an undivided post-British India, this Muslim country has survived few of the tests of nationhood unscathed. In 1971, when the Muslims of East Pakistan won their bloody liberation from the Muslims of West Pakistan, Pakistan became a rump state, and the idea of a Muslim homeland in the subcontinent should have been wrecked on the shoals of linguistic, ethnic, and geographic differences. But thirty-two years later, with more mullahs in government than ever before vociferously demanding that Pakistan be true to its Islamic statehood, Pakistanis are arguing once more about just how Islamic the Pakistani republic should be and who will control its fate. Was the slippery slope toward an uncompromising Islamism inevitable in a country created by Muslim liberals out of an argument that Indian Muslims constituted much more, culturally and politically, than a minority? Can the global Islamists today take advantage of the contradictions of Pakistan's birth to haunt the state— or have Pakistanis built up enough history to claim a non-Islamist future for their country?

Only two years after the secession of East Pakistan, Pakistan's Constitution of 1973 reiterated its Islamic direction. It stated that sovereignty belongs to Allah alone and that "all existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the holy Quran and Sunnah." It was not until the 1980s, however, that constitutional text became political fact. Global circumstances facilitated the process of Islamization, just as they are doing again today. The Iranian revolution created a new and religiose atmosphere. And owing to the need for Pakistan to help fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and then after the war was won and over in the 1990s, the United States left domestic developments in Pakistan unattended: a momentous mistake best not repeated.

It was not the mullahs, though, who successfully Islamized the country, and re-shaped the idea of Pakistan, in the 1980s. That accomplishment was the work of Zia ul Haq, a harsh general who ruled the country from 1977 to 1988. The United States abetted Zia's domestic transformation, including the implementation of Islamic laws particularly painful for women, by financing him generously. The meager opposition that Zia faced at home came largely from groups that are not of much interest to Bennett Jones and Weaver, who generally neglect the battles over ideas and cultures. It is especially egregious that they ignore Pakistan's women's movement, which has been widely emulated for its principles and its strategies. These remarkable women were among the first to challenge Zia's dictatorial and Islamization policies, and to question openly the right of the mullahs to interpret Islam exclusively or to claim sole possession of the definition of Muslim identity. While the politicians largely sat silent on the sidelines, the women took to the streets to call for greater democracy in Pakistan. It is these women who, at a high cost to themselves, have been most articulate about the rights of minorities, the protection of women, the education of the illiterate in their rights under Islam, and more.

Zia's civilian successors did little to reverse his policies. The general opened up a political space for the mullahs that seems nearly impossible to close today. And in turn the mullahs today are opening up a political space for the militants. The Pakistan of Mohammed Ali Jinnah— Muslim but secular, and democratic, and a Muslim country practicing freedom of religion— has mostly been jettisoned. The great constitutional strategist for Muslim rights and citizenship now represents an antiquated secularism. In fact, "secularism" is a tarnished, even incendiary word in Pakistan, denoting ladiniyat or "irreligiosity." And, depending on the political tenor of the moment, Jinnah is alternatively reviled by the Islamists as a false Muslim or claimed as the truest believer in an Islamic state. To call Jinnah secular today is, as one leading Islamist intellectual puts it, to follow "the American vision."

By the 1990s, Pakistan was slipping silently into a declining statehood and a plenitude of violence. These were crucial but wasted years, in which the destructive rivalry of civilian politicians Bhutto and Sharif preoccupied Pakistan. Their winner-take-all governments succeeded at little— not even at insuring their own survival. Three civilian governments were dismissed on charges of corruption. The army never surrendered its commanding interest in politics. For this reason, no elected government in Pakistan has ever completed its term in office.

In this Pakistan, Bennett Jones argues, "democracy has few supporters." He is right. Weaver concurs, vividly reporting on nostalgic feudals (2 percent of whom control around 44 percent of the country's farmland). Both books make it hard to imagine that democracy in feudal Pakistan stands any chance at all. To be sure, the rhetoric of democracy is ubiquitous. Even the religious parties speak it. But nobody is practicing what they preach. The existing political parties have no accountability, either internally or to their constituents; their leaders lead for life.

Ask about democracy in Pakistan and the politicians are the first to tell you that only after the nation's poor are educated can they become democratic. Whether the landed politicians have done anything to further democracy through education is another matter. Nearly two-thirds of the adult population cannot read or write, and only 60 percent of children eligible for primary school actually attend one. According to Oxfam International, in a couple of years Pakistan will account for 40 percent of all South Asian children out of school, compared with 27 percent in 1995. The trend is ominous. Even when school facilities exist, the textbooks are so filled with hatred that one has to ask whether educating Pakistanis (or Indians, for that matter, whose own textbooks are being rewritten by Hindu chauvinists) will only worsen the violence in the region. Racist references to Hindus abound, and, as a leading scholar says, the accepted social studies curriculum suggests that if children follow their texts they will be able by the age of nine to "acknowledge and identify forces that may be working against Pakistan."

The question of education is not prominent in either Weaver's or Bennett Jones's book, but it is a critical battlefield between the Islamists, the state authorities, and other claimants to Pakistan. This is not surprising, since the most urgent questions in Pakistan now are whose country it is, to whose vision it should conform, and who is a Muslim. For American and European aid donors, education is a strategic priority. They emphasize the reforming or the closing down of the radical madrassas, and also the educating of the outrageously deprived Muslim girls, who, the theory goes, will grow up to topple the Islamists and fulfill the foreign policy goals of the United States. The weakest sector of Pakistani society will lead the American revolution. For local Muslim professionals, education reform is central to redirecting Pakistan's downward economic spiral and eliminating a brutal and inequitable gender gap that reifies the unjust subjugation of women and the poverty of poor households. And for the Islamists, the control of education and the control of women are the sine qua non of the Islamization of Pakistan.


No group understands the political and ideological centrality of the question of education, and of the question of the segregation of women from men, as clearly as the religious parties, of which the most ideologically coherent and influential is the Jamaat-e-Islami. In the elections of October 2002, the Jamaat enjoyed success as part of an alliance of religious parties, the Muttahida Majlis e Amal or United Action Front (MMA), made up of distinct, often quarreling Sunni and Shia parties. The MMA commands 20 percent of the seats in parliament, forms the government in the North West Frontier Province, and shares power in Baluchistan. Other MMA parties include the Jamaat e Ulema e Islam (JUI) and the Jamaat e Ulema e Pakistan (JUP). Small, frisky parties with ties to militant groups, the former follows the puritanical Deobandi school of Islam, while the latter is Barelvi, more accommodating to the traditional saints.

But the Jamaat is Maududist, and therefore of enormous interest to anybody concerned with Islam and global politics. It was founded in 1941 by Maulana Abu'l Ala Maududi, who was arguably the most influential radical Islamist thinker of the twentieth century. Maududi's thought and the Jamaat's practice should place Pakistan at the intellectual epicenter of the wave of Islamist radicalism sweeping through the world today, and not, as is often thought, as a secondary staging ground for Arab terror activities. It was Maududi's work, circulated in Egypt in 1951, that helped radicalize the now world-famous Sayyid Qutb, the pre-eminent intellectual patron of Arab jihadis. And it was from Maududi and Qutb that Ayatollah Khomeini drew some of his historical thinking and rhetorical force. The writings of Maududi, Qutb, and Hassan Al Banna of the Muslim Brotherhood inspired the Arab mujahideen in the Afghan wars of the 1980s. Reading Qutb can feel a lot like re-reading Maududi, particularly in his assault on Westernized (that is to say, false) Muslims.

Maududi was born in Aurangabad, in present-day India, in 1903. An autodidact and a sometime journalist, he wrote well over one hundred books and lectured around the world before his death in Buffalo in 1979. Given his start in religious teaching and theological study by the powerful modernist Muslim thinker Muhammad Iqbal, who argued that each generation, "guided but unhampered by the work of its predecessors, should be permitted to solve its own problems," Maududi arose to preach the restoration of an Islamic state modeled on the one that existed during the life of the prophet Muhammad and the early Caliphate. Islam, for Maududi, permitted no distinction between the worldly life and the spiritual life— what is God's is God's and what is Caesar's is God's. Muslims could not be half-Muslims. Maududi staunchly insisted upon the sole sovereignty of God on earth, and he taught that man is not free to decide his affairs. On these premises he built the mutually reinforcing edifice of true Muslimness and an Islamic state, unmodified by the intellectual and political complexities of more than fourteen hundred years of Muslim histories.

For an Islamic revolution, said Maududi, "the mind of man should first be disabused of the idea of independence and mankind should realize that the universe in which we live is ... governed by an All Powerful Sovereign... It behooves us to deny obedience to all authority which does not itself owe allegiance to Him and to refuse to serve any person or group of persons who act independently of the Will and Purpose of the Creator. This is the bedrock basis of all reformation." If democracy means human sovereignty or man-made laws, then Maududi had no use for it, and nor (despite their use of political partyhood and electoral campaigns) can his party, the Jamaat.

Maududi first opposed the creation of Pakistan, decrying the un-Muslimness of the pro-partition leadership, leaders whose minds were enslaved by Western education. He also denounced secular nationalism, which he called the "curse of the nation-state." The "distinguishing mark of an Islamic state," he said, "is its complete freedom from all traces of nationalism." In the new Pakistan, Maududi instructed his party's exclusive membership— a highly organized vanguard of moral men (and, later, moral women)--to toil relentlessly for the creation of an Islamic state. The Jamaat transitioned easily from anti-Hinduism to nationalistic anti-Indianism.

Often jailed in Pakistan, Maududi had an uncomplicated, uncompromising, and exclusionary vision, a radical summons to the spiritual renovation of Muslims led astray by Western thought that falsely separated personal religion from political religion. Maududi's polemic was as internal to Islam as Qutb's. His book Purdah and the Status of Women in Islam, which appeared in 1939, has become a central Islamist text, endlessly reprinted and translated. It argues for sexual segregation as a fundamental requirement for ordering men's desire, and for limiting moral depravity, nudism, licentiousness, and all such Western diseases. Foreign cultures were the most pernicious threat to Muslim societies, and so Maududi demanded a re-orientation of education policy that would give rise to a differently educated Muslim leadership. He discarded the narrow madrassa mentality of Islamist traditionalists, which eschewed sciences and technologies that might be gleaned from abroad, and also what he saw as the Westernized social sciences and the absence of religious studies in the curriculum of the modernists: "One of these fails to prepare people to shoulder the practical responsibilities of worldly life, while the other fails to provide any religious guidance or moral orientation. These conflicting systems of education have produced people with fundamentally different outlooks which has resulted in a dangerous internal conflict in Muslim society." In one sense, Maududi was right: Pakistan's current catacomb of educational systems— in English and in Urdu, in madrassas, in public schools, and in private schools— is producing a highly compartmentalized citizenry with few shared values or skills.

It is this openness to the sciences that gives the Jamaat its air of greater reason. Working with Pakistani realities, the Jamaat has long had a policy of advocating strategic participation in, and the reform of, mainstream education. Unlike the JUI and the JUP, the Jamaat, whose members are broadly educated and often professionals, is not madrassa-based. For the Jamaat, the decline of Pakistan's educational system presents a "security risk to the existence of Pakistan." In 1997 the Jamaat demanded the creation of a uniform syllabus to spread Islamic ideology, and the elimination of English as the medium of instruction, and restrictions on foreign aid to education, and the rooting out "of the secular thinking based on the segregation of the state from religion"; and, always, segregated education. Despite having a Women's Wing, and now a daughter of the Jamaat's leader Qazi Husain Ahmad in parliament, gender segregation, purdah or veiling, and Islamic laws governing women and family life remain central tenets of Maududism. And thanks to Zia and the reluctance of his successors to challenge Maududism, the most misogynistic and discriminatory Islamic laws remain on the books in Pakistan.

As Pakistanis wrestle with their political future nearly twenty-five years after Maududi's death, Maududism is growing prominent in the corridors of power. This new prominence, when joined with the street power of its violent student factions, makes the Jamaat a force to be reckoned with. (These days its boys are busy tearing down "obscene" billboards and pushing for a Ministry of Vice and Virtue in MMA-controlled provinces.) Owing to the particular circumstances of Pakistan's birth and subsequent constitution, Islamist discourse can more easily gain authority wherever it is permitted or encouraged by the state. And it has. Neither civilian politicians nor ruling soldiers have been able to reverse Islamic laws once they have been adopted. Islamic slogans are always above criticism. The high expectations that Benazir Bhutto, the female leader of the largest and most secular party in the 1990s, would rid Pakistan of some of the most discriminatory Islamic legislation and bar customary violence against women were quickly crushed. Musharraf, too, promised and then failed to amend the much-used Islamic law against blasphemy, which demands the death penalty.

There is a reason that Islam's laws sometimes seem more equitable to Pakistan's poor men. When fairly interpreted, they are an improvement on the retrograde laws of tribe and landlord in Pakistan. Customary practices such as honor killings and other murders of women are popular among the tribes and the rural elite; they are free to exercise their cruel whims. Such crimes and abuses increase the appeal of Islam's social promise to the poor. To stop the spread of Maududism and its relatives in Pakistan, therefore, the stranglehold of these elites must also be broken. But the political ground in Pakistan has already shifted to such an extent that even if the ostensibly secular parties of Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif were to return to power, they would likely, as in the past, remain feudal and seek persistently to reinforce their Islamic credentials. By the end of the 1990s, in fact, Sharif's rightist party had sought so assiduously to co-opt Islamism and the Islamist vote through its policies that the Islamists' goals in government were well in sight. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) partnered as needed with the Shia parties and the JUI. And the tendency to capitulate grows: in July 2002, Musharraf found himself reassuring the mullahs that "there is no move toward secularism. Pakistan was born an Islamic state and nobody has the authority to change its Islamic character."

In the current circumstances, the notion of a meaningful moral or political separation between the increasingly influential religious groups in government and the militant religious groups in society is becoming harder to maintain. Reports of the pragmatism of the MMA's policies in the provincial governments need to be taken with a grain of salt. To discount the force of the Jamaat's purist Islamist convictions is to discount Maududism on its home turf. Qutb's global following and Khomeini's successful revolution should remind us of the enduring strength of Maududi's message. To scant the social agenda of the religious parties is to misread their strategic agenda. There should not be any question about the Jamaat's aims or those of its partners. Whenever their men have entered parliament, they have agitated for the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law. And it is the full imposition and control of sharia by a religious state, rather than fringe victories by the more militant JUI and JUP affiliates, that can seal the ideological orientation and the political fate of Pakistan.

There is an argument making the rounds that there is no point now in casting one's lot with Muslim secularists, as they no longer speak for most Pakistanis. But this bleak view of things gives up the fight too soon. There are many liberal Muslims and many Muslim liberals in Pakistan, many devout and many devoutly modern. The struggle for Pakistan is not over. If the state is strong, customary laws can be changed, because they cannot claim divinity. It is worth remembering, too, that Pakistani voters never voted the Jamaat or the other MMA members into parliament in anything but tiny numbers until October 2002— that is, in the wake of the American war in Afghanistan and a spike in anti-Americanism. It is also worth remembering that even as the religious parties agitate against the unconstitutionality of Musharraf's political and electoral reforms of 2002, they are not behaving as constitutional democrats in the provinces that they control. And every day new ground is being lost: as Musharraf struggles to hold on to his two hats— he is president and chief of army staff— he may find himself buying off the religious opposition (some of them are for sale) at a very high price: by giving them more places of power in the center.

There are still many millions of secularists in Pakistan: in the 2002 elections; after all, Bhutto's PPP won the largest share of the popular vote. And Pakistan's cultural roots are older than its religious roots: the cultures of Sind, Baluchistan, Punjab, and the Frontier claim a broad diversity of religious practice, including the worship of saints in the rural areas. In addition, changing urban relations among men and women are shaped more by the new economic circumstances of work and travel than by religion.

Militant Islamists wield the most guns and exercise the most street power, but it is wrong to buy their argument that they have a superior claim to speak for Pakistanis because the country was constituted as a Muslim nation and is constitutionally an Islamic republic. Jinnah may not have won the Muslim entity he bargained for, but the critical fact is that there has always been a healthy— indeed, a precious— absence of agreement on what constitutes an Islamic state in Pakistan among jurists, theologians, and political leaders. (Even the MMA parties today disagree bitterly on theological principles and political goals.) The majority of Pakistanis do not seem to want the mullahs to define their politics. These encouraging realities are precisely what has protected the Pakistani state from dissolving in a bloody war.


Bennett Jones proposes, and many in the United States concur, that the Pakistani army under Musharraf is the best of a bad lot, the only force that can avert disaster in Pakistan. Musharraf's own survival is generally thought to be Pakistan's and America's last hope against the extremists. And Musharraf has spoken of making bold changes in Pakistan's trajectory, often speaking in front of a portrait of Jinnah. In an extraordinarily powerful speech in January 2002, he called for ridding Pakistan of extremisms; and challenged those who questioned the Muslimness of others; and suggested that Pakistan should aspire to be a "progressive and dynamic Islamic welfare state" of the sort that Jinnah and Iqbal would have supported, rather than a theocracy; and announced the reform of the madrassas that preached violence and produced semi-literate religious scholars; and promised to act against any Pakistan-based group supporting terrorism inside or outside Pakistan. But owing to lack of desire or to force of circumstance, these powerful words have not yet been accompanied by powerful deeds.

As Bennett Jones recognizes, however, while it promotes itself as the solution to Pakistan's woes, the army is also part of the problem. It is his predecessors' legacy in creating Pakistan's predicament that has made it so difficult for Musharraf to reverse course. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Pakistani army pursued policies towards India (supporting jihadis to stoke the indigenous insurrection in Kashmir, and nurturing the Taliban in Afghanistan) that brought extremism homeward, and incurred defense costs that made moot any government attempt to strengthen the social sector in Pakistan. It has made use of the religious parties and Islamist militants to accomplish its goals.

The decisive event for the army vis-avis India came earlier, in 1971, when the genocidal civil war that left up to three million dead resulted in the creation of Bangladesh, and in India's intervention in that war, and in the subsequent humiliating surrender of ninety thousand prisoners of war. The army has never forgotten. The destruction of Pakistan in 1971 should have also put paid to the notion that the army was the savior of the nation. Instead, less than a decade later, Zia's dictatorship sought salvation for Pakistan in an Islamized army. He promoted the deliberate Islamization of the middle and lower ranks of the army (many members of which are now higher-ups) and the gradual militarization of the madrassas. In the decade that followed, as Pakistan was cut off economically and militarily from interactions with America in particular, the introversion and the anti-Americanism of the junior officers increased. As Weaver reports, Musharraf has remarked to General Anthony Zinni that his biggest problem arises from the fact that "seventy-five percent of my officers have never been out of Pakistan."

Zia's legacy contrasts sharply with the social liberalism of one of his predecessors, General Ayub Khan, which was embodied in the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance of 1962, the most liberal body of family law known to Pakistan. And Zia's Islamization programs may have rendered both Ayub's socially liberal achievements in family law and Musharraf's present ambitions besides the point. Whether or not Musharraf truly wants to fashion "a modernist, liberal" Pakistan, as Bennett Jones believes, there is very little scope for him now to win the ideological war for Pakistan, at least incrementally. Fighting Zia's legacy would require taking a page from Zia's book— using the full force of his vision to shape a new beginning.

Students of Pakistan are frequently frustrated in the search for what Bennett Jones calls "an effective national cement," the ideological intangible that could pull Pakistan away from its fissiparousness. (He has a good chapter on the various sub-nationalisms.) And yet there is most certainly a Pakistani identity, shaped by the common experiences of the last fifty years, by perceptions of the other (that is, of India), and by an imagined future that was once Pakistan's past: I mean the dream of a prosperous democracy. The problem is that the "cement" in Pakistan now is often provided not by democratic and equitable political arrangements that might salve wounds in the weaker provinces, ethnicities, and linguistic groups, but by reactions to external phenomena: the rise of Hindu chauvinism in India, the Kashmir quarrel, and American policies in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.

The rise of Hindu chauvinism, of an anti-secular and anti-democratic vision of a Hindu India in which 140 million Muslims will find themselves in jeopardy, brings Pakistanis together. Although the religious parties and others in Pakistan have shown little interest in the trajectory of India's Muslims in the past, Hindutva's spread in the last decade has provoked their shared fears. The terrible retributive Gujarat massacres last year— in which as many as 2,000 Muslims were killed, and some 150,000 Muslims became refugees, and at least 250 girls were viciously gang-raped and burned alive— received scandalously little condemnation by world leaders. In the Pakistani consciousness, however, it reinforced the sense of threat from an India in which a politicized Hindu extremism, lubricated by diaspora dollars, has become insurgent.

The Kashmir conflict has been promoted by successive Pakistani leaders, civilian and military, to reinforce Pakistani nationalism whenever it has been politically expedient. The Pakistani argument for Kashmir has merit; but whatever the historical rights and wrongs of the issue, continuing the wars in Kashmir in order to "bleed India," where an estimated thirty to sixty thousand people have died, has given Pakistan's leaders not a progressive nationalism, but a way to gain populist support, an expensive hostility, and a militarized society. The Pakistan of the army, followed closely by the Pakistan of the civilian politicians, has long put the freedom of Kashmiris from Indian rule ahead of the freedom of Pakistanis from illiteracy, inequality, and poverty.

And there is also the "cement" of anti-Americanism, which is growing among Pakistanis. The religious parties raise a daily cacophony of threats to America— that infiltrator of secularism and "the colors of Western thought and civilization," says a Jamaat leader. Islamist terrorists kill Americans in Pakistan. Millions of other Pakistanis feel trapped between these Islamists and what they view as a dominant and un-self-questioning America. Its use of force in Iraq, its perceived preferences— for India over Pakistan, for Musharraf over all others— cause frustration and even fear, as do the post-September 11 policies of registration, immigration, and detention affecting Muslim and Pakistani men in America. Many liberal Pakistanis see hard times ahead as they struggle to find a definition of Pakistan's national identity. They ask whether an America that sees the world in "with us or against us" terms can truly help them negotiate the complexities of their riven state, or merely suffocate them in an American embrace. Weaver's question about the diverging U.S.-Pakistan relationship is apt: "How long will it last?"

Pakistan is drastically in need of radical social reforms, but Musharraf has not delivered on his early promises. If Musharraf's sincerity as reformer is to be believed, then we might grimly conclude from his repeated frustrations and failures that it is already too late to arrest Pakistan's decline into theocratic radicalism and economic decrepitude. But I do not believe that it is too late. There are Pakistani social reformers working across the country. If the ideas of these groups, of the individuals and the organizations that keep plying for pluralism and the alleviation of poverty through education, health, micro-enterprise, philanthropy (Pakistanis are among the most charitable people on earth), and human rights— if these ideas are to have a last chance at survival, then they, I mean the good guys, must find a way to operate in the dangerous interstices between the Islamism that would eliminate them and the Americanism that will let them live only at the price of being disdained by their compatriots as America's proxies. They are trapped today between the religious fanatics and the loyalty demands of the American superpower.

The dangers posed by Pakistan's internal contestations should be clear; and so the loose talk about punishing Pakistan— launching preemptive strikes or threatening the country's nuclear capacities— should remain just that. Pakistan is a gargantuan challenge compared with Afghanistan and Iraq. It is Pakistanis themselves who must fight to roll back violence and Islamism if they are to secure an economic turnaround and their political freedoms. The United States and others must consider large-scale economic reconstruction assistance for Pakistan before the grand wars erupt, rather than after. And Musharraf must be held to his inspiring speech of January 2002. No one said the task of fixing Pakistan would be easy, but this is the task, and the power, that he has chosen for, and arrogated to, himself.

Mahnaz Ispahani is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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