The article below provides a good overview of the gradual onset of Islamization in Pakistan. It explains how: (a) the country’s origins lie in creation of a separate homeland for Indian Muslims, but not an Islamic state; (b) religion remained largely a matter of personal faith and the country was mostly secular till 1970; (c) the loss of East Pakistan in 1971 sharpened the need for a national ideology to prevent another breakup; (d) calls for Islamization began to increase with Islamists’ success in getting Ahmadis declared as non-Muslims; (e) Bhutto’s election rigging and modern lifestyle created the excuse for an Islamic-oriented opposition movement; and (f) General Zia with his coup formally embraced and implemented Islamization as a state policy.
Of course, as per the author: “This gradual Islamisation succeeded in creating an aura of religiosity in everyday life. In reality, there was no necessary improvement in justice, equality and morality. Indeed, the government’s edicts split society between a public life of Islamic pieties and a private life characterised by personal gain.” Moreover, Islamization never had a chance as a national unifying force due to the fact that “unity in such a country [as Pakistan] has to come from a democratic recognition of its diversity, and not through the engineering of a single, wholesome notion of faith and nation.”
[Pious follies; DAWN; Nadeem F. Paracha; Sep 3rd, 2009; Excerpts; Copy and Paste]
Islam is believed to be the basis of nationalism on which the Pakistani state was constituted, even though this notion continues to be hotly contested. Liberals hold the view that Pakistan was created for the Muslim community of India, which Muhammad Ali Jinnah treated as a separate ethnic and cultural community, rather than a strictly religious group demanding an Islamic theocracy. Either way Islam is accepted as the core social and political institution in Pakistan, giving it a special role in Pakistani society.
However, this was not always the case – especially between 1947 and 1970 – when the principal tenor of the state and society was largely secular and Islam largely remained a matter of personal faith. But the roots of what came to be known as “Islamisation” of society stretch back to the 1950s.
Islamisation as an official socio-political ideology was first introduced in public life in shape of the symbols of the state. For example, Quranic verses emblazoned on state buildings and constitutional debates about Islamic law started to emerge sometime after 1956. During that period, the leadership of the Muslim League was overwhelmingly secular and steeped in English Common Law. The party leaned towards the creation of a liberal modern society that embraced Islam’s universal principals.
On the other end of the debate, Islamic parties such as the Jamaat Islami (JI), and the now defunct Nizam-e-Islam party, argued for a state where shariah would rule. The Islamic State vs. Moderate Muslim Republic discourse hung quietly in the background throughout the 1960s. It was brought forth by the politico-religious parties during the 1970 elections. But their argument and political instruments were soundly defeated at the polls.
Things started to change after the 1971 debacle in East Pakistan. Interestingly, this was also when the force of Islam was for the first time used by the Pakistan Army when it started to patronise combative Islamist youth groups, Al-Badar and Al-Shams, mainly consisting of young JI activists and members of its student wing, the Islami Jamiat Taleba (IJT). These groups assisted the West Pakistan Army in attacking Bengali nationalists. One can also describe the two groups as the earliest manifestations of militant Islam in Pakistan. Notably, this was the first systematic collaboration between the army and lslamists.
The burning debate that erupted after the East Pakistan catastrophe squarely revolved around the question: what would keep that which remained of Pakistan together? Z A. Bhutto suggested populist democracy and “Islamic socialism.” His offer was of an egalitarian and modern version of Islam that he paraded as the new model for the struggling, post-’71 Muslim nation. The second ideological response to the question came from the Islamists (JI, JUP, JUI, etc.). Blaming the failures of the republic on the “flouting of Islamic principals” – both by the rulers and their subjects – they insisted that only “shariah” would keep Pakistan together. The two models went to war in the politics of labour unions, student unions and lawyers associations.
Though the Islamists were successfully kept in check by the stronger progressive labour unions, things were tighter in student politics where Bhutto’s model was defended on campuses by organisations such as National Students Federation (NSF) and Peoples Students Federation (PSF), whereas the Islamist model was propagated by the IJT, Anjuman Taliba Islam (ATI), and Muslim Students Federation (MSF).
Then in 1973, when the second major Ahmadia riots erupted, the Islamists tasted their first major victory in the country as the Bhutto regime agreed to declare the Ahmadi community non-Muslims. Their second victory arrived in 1976-77 when – with the help of industrialists, bankers, bazaar merchants, and small-town entrepreneurs Islamic parties formed the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), and successfully agitated against Bhutto’s “un-Islamic regime,” consequently paving the way for the Ziaul Haq coup.
With the arrival of Zia, the Islamists thought they had finally found state power. Their drive for Islamic order also meant changing culture and reorganising society. For this, Zia adopted the JI’s agenda: prohibitions on drinking, betting and dancing, and encouraging the usage of public flogging. Furthermore, Zia’s aids helped him exhibit “pious” examples. Offices, schools, and factories were required to offer praying space; textbooks were revised; mosques and madrassahs multiplied; and conservative scholars became fixtures on television. These cultural shifts were all enforced through government edicts.
The worst aspect in this context was the demagogic reengineering of the country’s education curriculum. After the 1971 break-up of Pakistan and the war with India, educational discourse on nation-building in Pakistan became much more introverted. A violent, militaristic and negative nationalism, which saw enemies on every border, was reconstituted. And during General Zia’s dictatorship, religion as an instrument of homogenisation and control took centre-stage in educational policies.
This gradual Islamisation succeeded in creating an aura of religiosity in everyday life. In reality, there was no necessary improvement in justice, equality and morality. Indeed, the government’s edicts split society between a public life of Islamic pieties and a private life characterised by personal gain. This dichotomy between public and private has become Zia’s legacy.
Since 1971, the state, military and the politico-religious parties have insisted on enforcing a convoluted, myopic and singular ideological mindset – “Islamic state” – in an otherwise multi-sectarian, multi-religious and multi-ethnic society. This insistence created, on the one hand, various sectarian and ethnic fissures, and, on the other, a psyche that is extremely vulnerable to paranoia along with an almost schizophrenic patriotism.
Unity in such a country has to come from a democratic recognition of its diversity, and not through the engineering of a single, wholesome notion of faith and nation.
The full article is available at: http://blog.dawn.com/2009/09/03/pious-follies/