TWQ: The Role of Islam in Pakistan's Future - Winter 2005
January 1, 2005
Although listed among the U.S. allies in the war on terrorism, Pakistan cannot easily be characterized as either friend or foe. Indeed, Pakistan has become a major center of radical Islamist ideas and groups, largely because of its past policies toward India and Afghanistan. Pakistan supported Islamist militants fighting Indian rule in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir and backed the Taliban in its pursuit of a client regime in Afghanistan. Since the September 11 attacks, however, the selective cooperation of Pakistan’s president and military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, in sharing intelligence with the United States and apprehending Al Qaeda members has led to the assumption that Pakistan might be ready to give up its long-standing ties with radical Islam.
Nevertheless, Pakistan’s status as an Islamic ideological state is rooted deeply in history and is linked closely both with the praetorian ambitions of the Pakistani military and the Pakistani elite’s worldview. For the foreseeable future, Islam will remain a significant factor in Pakistan’s politics. Musharraf and his likely successors from the ranks of the military will continue to seek U.S. economic and military assistance with promises of reform, but the power of such promises is tempered by the strong links between Pakistan’s military-intelligence apparatus and extremist Islamists.