Leadership: The Pakistan Paradox


April 9, 2007: Running Pakistan is a seemingly impossible task, and that's why Islamic terrorists have found a home there. Tribal, religious, political, ethnic and religious divisions are much more severe than in neighboring India and Afghanistan. While established as a democracy in 1947, when the British colonial administrators left, democracy never really caught on. The many divisions were compounded by pervasive corruption, as politicians felt compelled to take care of their own faction, at the expense of the countrys best interests. As a result, democratically elected governments were not very popular, or effective. This led to a pattern, where the military would take over from an inept elected government, run the government for a while, then return control to another elected, but ineffective, government.

Thus it came to pass that, in the late 1970s, when the government was being run by a military committee, the generals decided to try using Islamic law to curb the rampant corruption, both in, and outside of, government. This gave the Islamic conservatives a lot more power. Many military men were Islamic conservatives. Not Islamic radicals, simply disciplined men who were as strict in the practice of religion, as they were in the conduct of their personal and professional lives. All this happened at a most inopportune time. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union invaded neighboring Afghanistan. This created, at least in the Moslem world, a "holy war" between Islam and Godless communism. With substantial aid from the oil rich Gulf states, the Afghans fought the Russians to a bloody draw. The Afghan fighters operated from bases in Pakistan, protected from the Russians by the threat of American nuclear retaliation. When the Russians left Afghanistan in the late 1980s, the Pakistani Islamic conservatives declared themselves national heroes for taking the lead in supporting the Afghan jihad. The Islamic conservatives then turned their jihad activities to Kashmir, a largely Moslem province that was controlled by India (as part of the 1947 partition.) Pakistan disputed Indias possession, and Pakistani Islamic conservatives forced the government to support an unofficial terrorism campaign in Kashmir. This was very popular in Pakistan, which had been defeated in three wars with India. For the same reason, the idea of giving Kashmir to Pakistan was unacceptable to most Indians. Thus the war in Kashmir was hopeless, and mainly poisoned relations with India.

When September 11, 2001 came along, Pakistan was again run by the generals, who now realized that they had a tiger-by-the-tail with their Islamic conservatives. They needed the Islamic conservatives, because many officers and troops belonged to this faction, and Islamic conservatives, in general, supported the military. Most Pakistanis did not want to have the country run by Islamic conservatives, nor did most Pakistanis support Islamic terrorism. At the same time, there was no widespread support for going after the Islamic conservatives, especially their network of thousands of religious schools, or madrasses, where the young were indoctrinated to become Islamic conservatives. The madrasses were a prime source of recruits for Islamic radical organizations.

So there's the Pakistani problem with Islamic terrorists. The Islamic conservatives, who tend to be pro, or at least neutral, towards Islamic terrorists, are needed to keep the generals in power (and safe from prosecution during those years when elected officials are allowed to run, and plunder, the country). But the madrasses continue to turn out new Islamic terrorists, who want to turn the country into a religious dictatorship. Until this contradiction is cleared up, Pakistan will remain unstable, and a haven for Islamic terrorists.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close