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2010/4 (No 139)

  • Pages : 208
  • ISBN : 9782707166579
  • DOI : 10.3917/her.139.0003
  • Publisher : La Découverte

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More populous than Russia or Japan, the second-largest Muslim state in the world by population after Indonesia, Pakistan—170 million inhabitants—is a living paradox: its genesis was full of promise, but since its creation the country has gone from crisis to crisis while pursuing dreams of power. It was founded upon decolonization of the British Indian Empire, based on an idea that was unclear at first but quickly took form: the Muslims of the subcontinent, in the minority in India as a whole, should have their own state in which their faith was in the majority, to enjoy independence and freedom in the territories left behind by the receding Empire. In its official narrative, Pakistan was wrested by force from the leadership of the Indian nationalist movement and viewed itself as a promised land, with those Indian Muslims born outside the newly established state who came to the country taking the significant name of Muhajir, from the Arabic muhâjirun, used to describe the early companions of the Prophet who migrated with him from Mecca to Medina.


Islam—a moderate Islam—was seen as the glue holding the nation together, and it seemed of little consequence that claiming the territories where Muslims were in the majority caused this single nation to form a state in two parts: West Pakistan centered around the Indus River, and East Pakistan located along a large portion of the Ganges and Brahmaputra delta, nearly 2,000 kilometers away. We know what followed: born of the partition of India, divided Pakistan was itself split by a second partition when East Pakistan seceded in 1971 to become Bangladesh, with the support of the Indian army.


Beyond this bloody secession—evidence of a structural crisis in the country’s political institutions and national ideology—the history of Pakistan has not lived up to its initial promise, and the dream for many turned sour, to echo a high-level government official who published an analysis of Pakistan’s first 50 years in the late 1990s (Khan 1997). Things have worsened since, and Pakistan in 2010 is contending with significant internal challenges: the rise of militant Islamism and terrorism, an economic and energy crisis, recurring natural disasters, a society boxed in by predatory elites, and fragile civilian governments. Its image deficit is even greater abroad. The international community created a consortium to provide aid to the country after the military government of General Musharraf was ousted, with the promising name of “Friends of Democratic Pakistan,” but the flip side of the coin is also largely in evidence. Both military and civilian commentators have weighed in, with books whose titles over the years have consistently touched on the notion of threat: Pakistan before the abyss (Ahmed et al. 2000; Baxter 2004), its drift towards extremism (Abbas 2005) and, in an expression coined by Barack Obama referring to the tribal areas, “the most dangerous place in the world” (Gul 2010). At the risk of caricature, all these aspects form a picture in which Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, nuclear weapons and collusion between mullahs and military (Haqqani 2005) are interwoven in a deadly game. The weakness of the initial response by international public opinion to calls for emergency aid following the disastrous floods of summer 2010 is significant in this regard.


Can we conclude that Pakistan is on its way to becoming a failed state? Nothing is less certain: not least among the country’s paradoxes is the coexistence of perpetual concern for the fragility of the nation and its political system —the term existential crisis is sometimes used—with a vigorously expressed nationalism. Can there truly be nationalism without a nation? The question (Jaffrelot 2002) can have but one answer, that given by a former French Ambassador to the country: “And yet, Pakistan exists” (Lafrance 1999, 117). In fact it is a false paradox, because it is the country’s recurring problems and fragility that feed its self-affirmation, which can be virulent and quick to condemn “the foreign hand” behind every issue. This propensity has only grown with the “war on terror” launched in neighboring Afghanistan by George W. Bush after 9/11, and the “AfPak”—Afghanistan-Pakistan continuum—policy approach introduced early in the Obama presidency (Racine 2009). At the heart of the recurring debate and difficult relationship between Washington and Islamabad is the notion that Pakistan is double-dealing, acting against Al-Qaeda elements but maintaining its influence with the Taliban that it helped to conquer Afghanistan in 1996. This double standard rationale is easy to understand, but holds grave risk for Pakistan itself. The instrumentalization of armed Islamism revealed its limits as early as 2003, when General Musharraf began to modify his Indian policy: assassination attempts against him revealed the first signs of division among the militias supported by the state, some of which ultimately turned against him.


Since then, insurrection has come to the tribal areas along the border and in the Swat Valley, while suicide attacks have increased in the large cities against diverse targets: the general public, political leaders, and military sites on the one hand, religious targets on the other. Organized from Pakistan, the deadly 2008 attack in Mumbai also caused the Indo-Pakistani talks begun in 2004 to founder. Even as Pakistan falls prey to severe domestic terrorism, the military continues to define India as a structural threat. The traditional strategic paradigm is therefore still the benchmark, even as the army carries out heavy operations against some radical Islamist groups.


We thus observe, within the overall paradigm, two interlocking approaches by the military and the intelligence services. The first involves relations with radical Pakistani and Afghan militias, where some are opposed, others supported, and some maintained despite the risks they pose for the country. The second approach, which could itself be seen as double-dealing, is geopolitical and mainly concerns the United States but also, more discreetly, China. This second approach is merely the contemporary form of the “Great Game” conducted at the end of the nineteenth century by the British and Russian Empires, and redefined by the Soviet and American empires in the 1980s: its core terrain is Afghanistan, but also, increasingly, the Afghan-Pakistan continuum, or AfPak. This interplay creates another paradox: supposedly on the front lines of the war against terror, Pakistan is also a central link in international terrorist circuits, as we saw for example in the trajectories of British citizen Richard Reid, the 2001 “shoe bomber,” and of two American citizens of Pakistani origin, David Headley, implicated in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, and Faisal Shahzad, author of the failed attack in Times Square in May 2010.

Map 1 - Regional Context of Pakistan

To try to gain a clearer understanding of the logic behind the gamble (or blindness) of maintaining the traditional Pakistani strategic paradigm, where the country remains concerned by its neighbors even as the house is burning, we can take several different approaches. The first requires that we come back to the founding moment, the partition of the Empire, and what followed. It is there, in the failure of bilateral Indo-Pakistani relations, that the core features of the strategic paradigm were born. It is where Pakistan is constantly on guard or taking action along two flanks: its Indian “enemy” on one side and its Afghan neighbor on the other. To better contain the former, the latter had to be secured, particularly as both of them threatened the territorial integrity of the ideal Pakistan: the “k” in Pakistan refers to “Kashmir,” and the “a,” while not referring to Afghanistan, does stand for “Afghania,” the Pashtun lands of Pakistan, which Kabul was loathe to recognize.


In this difficult relationship with Afghanistan, a second angle is apparent: the ethnic question, which also applies to Balochistan, the Sindh province, and the Northern Areas, recently renamed Gilgit-Baltistan. The question of Islam, meant to overcome all other divisions, is thus posed once again. But which Islam, and for which nation? (Racine 2001) A moderate, popular Islam, rooted in the history of Muslims in South Asia, integrating Sufi mysticism and worship of the saints? Or an intransigent Islam, arguing for a return to mythicized origins and condemning Sufism as a corruption of the tradition of the Prophet, altered by the influence of multicultural India under the hegemony of Hindu polytheism?


Lastly, we must look at the political weakness of the Pakistani democratic system, which has a real ideological and institutional foundation but is unable to withstand the supremacy of the military. A complex question that goes beyond a simplistic hypothetical opposition between military and civilian leaders, and has major implications, because the weakness of the political sphere and excessive weight of the elites contribute to a weakened social fabric in a very worrisome economic environment. The breeding ground for Islamism may thus be rendered more fertile, fostering a culture of violence that goes far beyond mere militant activism.


These parameters define the sociopolitical and ideological backdrop of a country that wished to be a model, and are also the fuel for the difficulties that have brought Pakistan to the state of crisis it is in today. The severity of this crisis is not, however, perceived by the military as requiring a change to the paradigm defined at the outset and further reinforced in the 1980s. Pakistan, despite its major difficulties, has certain assets in the international arena. It has been an openly declared nuclear power since 1998—which gives it greater leeway in its policy towards India, as well as in its complex relationship with the United States—and it has a sizable military, with some 650,000 active soldiers (of which 550,000 in the army), as well as some 300,000 paramilitary forces including the Frontier Corps troops based near the Afghan border.


The country’s strategic importance is a decisive factor even beyond its large military and nuclear weapons. It has twice found itself in the role of “frontline state” for the American strategy in Afghanistan: after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Pakistan is thus a power to be reckoned with, based on both its position in South Asia, where it is the only country ready to confront militarily India, against which it has conducted four open wars since 1947, and its location at the crossroads of the Middle East, Central Asia and the Gulf coast.


This Pakistani paradox, which makes the country simultaneously a part of the problem and a part of the solution, is awkward for Washington, which puts pressure on Islamabad but not to the point of losing its influence, at the risk of accommodating the ambiguities inherent in the dominant paradigm. What remains is the civil society, which shows resiliency through every trial. Accustomed to the repeated dramas that shake the nation, the people remain to a great extent immune to radical Islamist influence, despite its occasional appeal. They resist harmful ideologies in many different and courageous ways, demonstrating an unshakable belief in a better future.

The Legacy of 1947: from Partition to the Secession of Bangladesh


The initial dream promoted by the father of the nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, also known as the “Great Leader” (Quaid i Azam) was of a Muslim and democratic Pakistan—democratic because it aligned with the precepts of Islam, he said—a state that did not differentiate between the Muslim majority and religious minorities, and at peace with its neighbors. In his famous speech of August 11, 1947 to the Constituent Assembly, he declared: “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.” (Jinnah 1947a) Four days later, in his first speech to the independent Pakistan nation, he stated: “Our object should be peace within and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial and friendly relations with our immediate neighbors, and with the world at large.” (Jinnah, 1947b) He drove the point home in February 1948 in a radio broadcast for the United States: “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 Sikhs—but they are all Pakistani. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizen and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.” (Jinnah 1948)


However, when Jinnah died on September 11, 1948, Pakistan was already at war with India in Kashmir, and most of its remaining Hindus fled the country. His right-hand man, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated in 1951, and six prime ministers followed in quick succession from 1951 to 1958, the year of the first military coup that abolished the tardy Constitution of 1956, which had never truly been implemented. This Constitution was faithful to the Objectives Resolution adopted by the Constituent Assembly on March 12, 1949, whose principles are taken up in its preamble, and established the Islamic Republic of Pakistan defined as “a democratic state based on Islamic principles of social justice” involving “freedom, equality, tolerance.” It stipulates that “the Muslims of Pakistan should be enabled individually and collectively to order their lives, in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out by the Holy Quran and the Sunnah,” [2]  The Sunnah, a collection of statements attributed to...[2] while “adequate provision should be made for the minorities to freely profess and practice their religion, and develop their culture.”


The Constitution’s religious dimension in no way prevents it from also including democratic principles of constitutional law, such as an independent judiciary and guarantees of fundamental rights: “equality of status and opportunity, equality before the law, freedom of thought, expression, belief, religion, association; social, economic and political justice in compliance with the law and with public morality.” [3]  Preamble to the Constitution adopted on March 2, 1...[3] The 1962 Constitution enacted by the military regime defined Pakistan as a republic, no longer “Islamic,” and installed, in theory, a presidential system. The Constitution of 1973, which is still in effect today in much amended form, returned to the notion of an “Islamic Republic of Pakistan.” Islam is the state religion and Urdu the national language, despite being the mother tongue of less than 10% of the population even after the secession of Bengali-speaking Bangladesh.

The Partition Syndrome


In 1940 the Muslim League, a political movement founded in British India in 1906, adopted as its program a previously minority idea which had emerged in the 1930s: support for the creation of an independent country when India gained its freedom from the colonial yoke. A brilliant British-trained lawyer and former member of the Indian National Congress, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the uncontested leader of the League, officially set out the two-nation theory stating that the Hindu majority and Muslim minority which had coexisted for more than a thousand years on the Indian subcontinent could not live together in the same nation, because everything separated them:


Our Hindu friends fail to understand the real nature of Islam and Hinduism. They are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are, in fact, different and distinct social orders. The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, and literatures. Indeed they belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent, and ultimately the destruction of any state fabric that the government tries to build. Muslims are a nation according to any definition of a nation, and they must have their homelands, their territory, and their state. [4]  “Presidential address delivered by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad...[4]


Jinnah won out against the leaders of the Congress by taking advantage of the shock caused by the “direct action day” he organized in Calcutta on August 16, 1946. (Bengal at the time was led by a Muslim League government, and rioting between Hindus and Muslims, later known as “the great Calcutta killings,” resulted in thousands of deaths.) Uncertainty took hold. Attempts at a compromise between the League and the Congress did not result in a federal solution acceptable to both parties. Ever since and still today, each holds the other responsible for this failure. The leaders of the Congress, against Gandhi’s wishes, ultimately admitted that partition was inevitable. In this context, Clement Attlee’s Labor government in Great Britain decided to move the date of independence forward and leave India as quickly as possible. This task fell to Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, who oversaw the partition that gave birth to India and Pakistan in August 1947. Partition brought with it bloody massacres and set off one of the largest refugee movements in history, in particular in Punjab which was now cut in two. The term “ethnic cleansing” had not yet been coined, but the idea was there, only based on religious criteria. While some Indian Muslims opted to move to Pakistan by choice, many of their fellow Muslims fled there as tensions increased in the regions near the new border, while Hindus and Sikhs living in what had become Pakistan fled to India.


Among the new leaders of India, in the Congress Party government led by Nehru, many believed that Pakistani separatism would be short-lived. They all condemned the “two-nation theory” championed by Jinnah. India aimed to be multicultural and pluralist. It did not define itself as a Hindu republic, and in fact retained a large Muslim minority (around 150 million today compared with 165 million in Pakistan and 140 million in Bangladesh). [5]  India has 13.4% Muslims for a population estimated...[5] Another—minority—school of thought went further than mere skepticism towards the Pakistani approach and took a far more radical position: Hindu nationalists condemned the very idea of Pakistan, denouncing the vivisection of “Mother India” and campaigning for a return to the natural borders of “undivided India,” Akhand Bharat, extending from the foothills of the Hindu Kush separating Pakistan from Afghanistan all the way to the Indo-Burmese heights. These two positions, moderate and militant, but in any case denouncing the two-nation theory, gave root to the idea in Pakistan that India rejected the fait accompli. Debate around the equitable division of the public treasury inherited from the British, which began directly following independence, only caused things to deteriorate. However, it is the Kashmir question that fed the flames of Indo-Pakistani antagonism after 1947, and which today remains the primary (though not the sole) stumbling block to relations between the two neighbors.

The Kashmir Question


For a long time, Kashmir was presented in Pakistan as the illustration of an “incomplete” partition: the former kingdom of the Maharaja of Kashmir included Buddhist minorities in Ladakh and Hindu and Sikh minorities in Jammu, but Muslims held the overwhelming majority (99% on the Pakistani side and 67% on the Indian side—the historic heart of Kashmir, the Valley of Srinagar, on the Indian side, being 95% Muslim). However, the principles of partition, except for the lands controlled directly by the British, gave the princely states the right to choose to join India or Pakistan. In most cases, geography and the modest size of these states left their monarchs little choice. The case of Kashmir was different: one of the largest princely states, it was also in a peripheral location adjacent to both India and Pakistan. Its Hindu Maharaja, Hari Singh, tempted by independence, chose to temporize, but some of his Muslim subjects rebelled against him and quickly received the support of Pakistani irregulars. Hari Singh was forced to request assistance from India, which agreed to intervene only if he signed the agreement to accede to this country, which he then did. Indian troops blocked the irregulars (discreetly supported by Pakistani officers), but without driving them out of Kashmir: the conflict turned to open war between India and Pakistan in 1948, until the ceasefire of January 1, 1949 that divided Kashmir in two.


To the great disappointment of New Delhi, which had submitted the Kashmir question to the Security Council, the UN adopted a neutral position and recommended, in several resolutions in 1948 and 1949, that a referendum be held once Pakistani troops had withdrawn. These troops did not withdraw from the ceasefire line, and the north of Kashmir under Pakistani control was soon divided into a “free Kashmir” (Azad Kashmir), controlled in reality by Islamabad, and the Northern Areas bordering China. Pakistan never turned these regions under its control into one or more Pakistani provinces—a policy deliberately chosen to leave the Kashmir question open and continue to define the area as “contested territory.”


The Indian approach was very different. Demanding all of Kashmir within the boundaries of the former princely state, New Delhi made the part of Kashmir under its control one of the states of India, based on two arguments: one legal—the “act of accession” signed by the Maharaja and contested by Pakistan; the other ideological, demonstrating that a state with a Muslim majority can have its place in India, a political union not defined by religious criteria. Two different approaches were in play. The lack of referendum was justified by the fact that Pakistani troops had not withdrawn from Kashmir, but also by successive elections conducted in the area under Indian control, the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The State Assembly confirmed accession to India in 1957. It had also ratified restrictions to the region’s autonomy in 1954, already defined in the act of accession, with New Delhi accustomed to having a strong influence on the political life of the state (Racine 2002).


The wars of 1965 and 1971 did nothing to lessen the Kashmir problem, and the Simla Agreement signed in 1972 by Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, President of Pakistan, quickly led to controversy. Meant by India to confirm the status quo, it was interpreted differently by the Pakistanis, who continued to call for resolutions in support of a Kashmiri right to self-determination at the United Nations.

The Secession of Bangladesh


The secession of Bangladesh indicated the failure of the project of the nation in several ways. Twenty-three years after independence (by way of comparison, India held its first general elections in 1951, one year after its Constitution was enacted), Pakistan organized its first legislative elections, which revealed a structural divide. In East Pakistan (the most populous of the two halves of the country), the Awami League of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which demanded maximal autonomy, won 160 of the 162 contested seats. However, the League did not obtain even 1% of the vote in the provinces of West Pakistan, where Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party led with 88 of 144 seats—but did not present a single candidate in East Pakistan. The refusal by Bhutto and the western elites to see Rahman come to power led to insurgency in Bengal, violently repressed by the Pakistani military, before India intervened and took the capital city of Dhaka, where the Pakistani generals signed their surrender. One year later, East Pakistan became Bangladesh.


This tragedy caused tens of thousands of casualties and was a bitter three-fold defeat for Pakistan. It sealed the fate of the military regime, which had to cede power to Bhutto despite his large share of responsibility in the disaster. It brought an end to the divided Pakistan and raised the specter of other separatist movements. It rekindled the partition syndrome for the long term, in two ways: First, the Indian intervention is still viewed in Pakistan today as a desire for revenge by New Delhi against the 1947 partition. Second, debate around the two-nation theory was launched anew for a time. Indian observers saw in this armed secession proof of the failure of the two-nation theory, because the Muslims of East Pakistan were more attached to their Bengali identity than to the Pakistani nation. The dominant Pakistani view was completely different: it asserted that the theory remained valid, because the Muslims of Bengal had founded a new nation and not joined their Indian neighbor. Debate within the country focused on a different issue: what was responsible for this defeat, other than the Indian intervention? The violent repression of the insurgents, or the inability of the military and political authorities to manage Pakistan’s federal nature democratically?


Overall, the memory of the 1947 massacres, the repeated Indo-Pakistani wars, Indian military support for the creation of Bangladesh and the stalemate over the Kashmir question sustained over the decades what we might call the syndrome of partition: a sense of frustration shared by India and Pakistan, but for opposing reasons, with each party accusing the other in a climate of constant suspicion. However, this hostility towards India is only one aspect of the Pakistani paradigm. It is evidence only of one form of fragility, and sustains only one of the many perceived threats, used as a focal point to unite the nation. There are additional aspects to this fragility that bring into play ethnic issues and their role in the national question.

The National Question: Ethnicity and Regional Identities


Islam is the uniting factor for the nation, but has not erased the linguistic identities making up the Pakistani mosaic—and Islam is itself very diverse. While sectarian conflicts between the various forms of Islam have increased over time, issues of regional identities arose even before independence.

Ethnolinguistic Identities


The most pressing of these issues is the Pashtun question. The Pashtun people—also known as Pathans in Pakistan—number over forty million spread across dozens of tribes and hundreds of clans. They live in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan, their territory having been cut in two under British rule by the Durand Line established in 1893, when London abandoned the hope of conquering Afghanistan and signed an agreement with Afghan Amir Abdur Rahman Khan, an agreement that was reaffirmed after the third (and brief) Anglo-Afghan war of 1919. Shortly thereafter, there arose in the Empire’s Pashtun lands in the North-West Frontier Province east of the Durand Line a movement that was initially ideological, with the creation by Abdul Ghaffar Khan of a “Pashtun Reform Society” which evolved into a non-violent militant organization, the “Servants of God,” also known as the “Red Shirts.” Repressed by the British, the movement ultimately allied itself with the Indian National Congress, but then split. It governed the province following its electoral victory in 1946, but only for a short time. Declaring itself in favor of an independent Pashtunistan, Ghaffar Khan’s movement boycotted the referendum on the province’s integration with Pakistan, which then passed by a near-unanimous vote.


Ghaffar Khan was exiled to Afghanistan, and his son Wali Khan took a different approach, creating the Awami National Party in 1957 which participated in Pakistani political institutions but maintained a certain ambiguity, evoking “Pashtun nationalism” while defining itself as progressive and opposed to any discrimination based on religion. The ANP favored limited central power, pled for strong autonomy for the provinces, and still included the following in its 2004 electoral platform: “The federal units [i.e., the provinces] that wish to reorganize based on their cultural, linguistic and geographic similarities will be free to do so.” [6]  Party manifesto, section 2-1, August 2004; awamina...[6] This policy did not prevent the ANP from recognizing the borders of the neighboring province of Balochistan in 1969, although its northern districts are home to a Pashtun majority. It is not by chance that the old colonial name for the province, North-West Frontier Province, was only replaced in 2010 with a name like those of the other Pakistani provinces, reflecting the ethnicity of its majority population: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.


For decades, the federal state did not want to highlight an ethnic name that might have fuelled separatist demands or legitimized possible Afghan claims to even a slight degree. And yet, Pashtun irredentism is a tiny minority today. The Awami National Party, which governs the province of Khyber Pakhtunkwa and is a member of the ruling coalition in Islamabad is very weak and viewed as secularist. In the 2008 elections, victorious over the Islamist coalition of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, it nonetheless had accepted, “in order to re-establish peace,” the Swat Taliban demand that Sharia law be imposed, its leaders living under the threat of assassination. It remains to be seen whether (as some Pashtuns in exile believe denouncing both the Taliban and Islamabad policy) violent military operations in Swat and the tribal areas with a high numbers of civilian casualties (thousands) and displaced persons (hundreds of thousands since 2009), will not ultimately rekindle the flame of Pashtun nationalism, without knowing what political form that movement might take.

Map 2 - Linguistic Areas
Map 3 - Provinces of Pakistan
Linguistic Data 1998 Census

Saraiki is a Punjabi dialect, mostly spoken in southern Punjab.

NWFP: North-West Frontier Province, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas renamed Gilgit-Baltistan, under Pakistani control, are not included in this census as they are not recognized by Islamabad as full-fledged provinces of Pakistan

Source: Government of Pakistan, Population Census Organisation.

The ethnic question, which can be observed in many forms throughout the country, is particularly acute in Balochistan, the largest and least populated of the Pakistani provinces, which experiences recurring identity-based movements, at times openly secessionist that the Pakistani state succeeds in containing but never eradicating. While many Baloch movements demand a more equitable distribution of power and better compensation for the province’s energy and mineral resources tapped by the Punjab—Pakistan’s most populous and richest province—there are also separatist movements such as the Balochistan Liberation Army that challenge even the accession of Balochistan to Pakistan, recalling that the main princely state in the region, the Khanate of Kalat, had reaffirmed its independence in 1947 (before joining Pakistan a year later). [7]  The Balochistan Liberation Army website presents this...[7]


Similarly, we see today, with the help of the Internet, the proponents of an independent Gilgit Baltistan—the new name given to the Northern Areas in 2009—themselves, too, recalling their version of the history of the 1947 partition and defining Pakistan as an occupying power, a view expressed both by local organizations (the Balawaristan National Front and the Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement) and militant organizations of the diaspora such as the Gilgit Baltistan National Congress based in Washington.


Similar statements can be heard in Sindh or among the Sindhi diaspora led by the World Sindhi Congress from its British, Canadian, and American bases. [8]  See the World Sindhi Congress publication “Sindh’s...[8] The “Long live the Sindhi nation” movement, Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz, created in 1972 when Bangladesh was formed and supporting a similarly independent Sindhudesh, is today only a shadow of its former self, and many of the separatist movements that take advantage of easy Internet visibility are often just small dedicated groups. The militant rhetoric of these movements, their legal-historical arguments, and in some cases their small numbers do not necessarily give them any particular strength against the state, except by turning to armed insurgency and terror attacks against military and paramilitary forces, as is the case in Balochistan.

Federalism, Regionalism, Separatism


These movements, even those bereft of real political power, are not without significance, for three reasons. First, the recurrence of the regional question in Pakistan and the expression of socio-economic frustrations as identity issues, testify to the inadequacies of the Pakistani federal system, perceived by many provinces as biased in favor of Punjab, the most populous and richest of the provinces. Reports by various parliamentary committees created from time to time [9]  In particular in Balochistan. For example, the report...[9] to respond to these issues are of far less importance, due to lack of implementation, than the repeated violence, the execution of Punjabi travelers by the Balochistan Liberation Army in August 2010, being just one example. Reforms announced by the Gilani government in 2009 do not appear to have been enough, even though the National Finance Commission decided to redistribute the federation’s resources according to more-balanced criteria than those previously based solely on population, an approach that favored Punjab.


Second, these movements or small groups act against a background that, while not always separatist, is characterized by an ever stronger culture of violence. Karachi is symptomatic of this situation. It is true that the assassinations and terror attacks that plague the city are partly religious in nature, Sunnis against Shiites. But Karachi’s history for the past decades also involves ethnic conflict, sparked by competition for power, for territorial control and the related income: mafias and political strategies are inextricably linked. Founded in 1984, the party of the Muhajir that emigrated from India, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), is one of the most violent: it first turned against Pashtun immigrants in the city, then against the Sindhis (although Karachi is the capital of Sindh Province) and once again today against the Pashtuns, with more than 200 deaths in the first half of August 2010, and twice that number since the start of the year. This, even though the MQM and the Awami National Party, with their Pashtun electorate, are both members of the coalition governing the country under the leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party. [10]  Amir Zia, “Karachi Demands a Solution,” The News, August...[10] The large number of displaced persons resulting from the military operations in the North-West, and then following the massive summer flooding, only hardened the MQM’s anti-Pashtun rhetoric.


Third, the ethnic dimension of the identity question is embedded in the regional geopolitics and international vision of the Pakistani leadership, a field where the military is in charge. Every centrifugal movement is suspected, or accused, of being actively supported by foreign powers. India is thus accused by Pakistani authorities of supporting Baloch insurgents from its consulates in Afghanistan. Official accusations do not target the United States, but rumor, always very active in this country, does not exonerate Washington, which is suspected of helping the Baloch separatists destabilize Iran, where Jundullah insurgents have perpetrated terror attacks, and also of destabilizing Pakistan. [11]  The ultimate conspiracy theory (sometimes denouncing...[11] The issue is further complicated by another cross-border ambiguity: Afghanistan has never, even under the Taliban, formally recognized the Durand Line. In the national security approach that defines the Pakistani military position, the Pashtun question thus plays a dual role. First, and although Pashtuns are well represented in the military, Pashtun “nationalism” serves as a scarecrow. Second, the difficult relations between Kabul and Islamabad justify, in the eyes of strategists, the desire to extend Pakistani influence beyond the Durand Line to prevent collusion between Kabul and New Delhi, particularly as the current Afghan government is suspected of cultivating Indian sympathies, and India is expanding its presence in Afghanistan through a cooperation policy that facilitates, among other things, connections between the center of Afghanistan and the Iranian coast, by enlarging the road leading to Zaranj on the Iranian border. This road, completed in 2009, continues on to the Iranian port of Chah Bahar, which India is also helping to develop: a way to offer Afghanistan, in the future, a maritime outlet that is not through Pakistan.


Imprudent studies that only represent the irresponsible hypotheses of their authors also fuel the international conspiracy theory. The best example is the proposal by an American analyst, Ralph Peters, that Pakistan’s Middle-East borders be redrawn along ethnic lines, leaving Pakistan with only the Punjab and Sindh, while Afghanistan would gain the Pakistani Pashtun regions and Gilgit-Baltistan, and the Baloch of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran (like the Kurds) would be given their own state. [12]  Ralph Peters, “Blood Borders. How a better Middle East...[12]

The Instrumentalization of Armed Islamism


Two parameters have long governed Pakistan’s strategy seeking to strengthen the country’s regional influence. The first is reliance on irregular forces theoretically acting independently of the state. This tactic was implemented in 1947 when combatants from the North-West Frontier Province, in particular Afridi tribes, provided active support to insurgent Kashmir rebels against the Maharaja of Kashmir who called on India for assistance. Much later, a high-ranking Pakistani officer related how he had led the movement. [13]  Major General Akbar Khan. Raiders in Kashmir. Lahore:...[13] The second is the historic opportunity of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that began in December 1979. The tactics of the irregulars changed in both scale and nature. In the framework of the Cold War, support provided by Pakistan to the Afghan mujahideen was perfectly in tune with the American strategy of stopping Moscow on its push towards warmer waters, and to the Saudi strategy of strengthening Salafi Sunnis after the success of the Shiite revolution in Iran. General Zia-ul-Haq, leader of the 1977 military coup against Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was able to wipe clean his political slate. Washington, until the end of the war in Afghanistan, turned a blind eye to the dictatorship (Zia had Bhutto hanged after proclaiming martial law) and to Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear program, as the country had become for Washington a “frontline state” and decisive ally in its anti-Soviet strategy in Afghanistan. [14]  Salafists look to the ancestors (salaf in Arabic),...[14]

Zia-ul-Haq: Islamization and Mujahideen


This episode is crucial in every way. Zia, close to the Deobandi movement, [15]  The Deobandi ideology took shape in the nineteenth...[15] pushed the country towards greater Islamization, with military training also doing its share, contrary to the approach taken by the first military dictator, Ayub Khan. [16]  Thus, shortly before the Afghan insurgency, Zia-ul-Haq...[16] As for the long American-Pakistani-Saudi cooperation, it considerably strengthened the weight of the military in the country and that of the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) under its control. However, the same period witnessed the birth of a pernicious set of circumstances that planted the seeds for today’s paralyses. Zia and his successors essentially played the Pashtun mujahideen card, that of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e Islami, in a particularly complex Afghan theater of operations. Once the Red Army withdrew, anarchy reigned as the mujahideen fought among themselves for control of the country. India, which did not condemn the Soviet intervention, supported the Tajiks under the leadership of Commandant Massoud, while Iran maintained links to the Shiite Hazara. After Zia’s death in 1988 the parliamentary regime was theoretically restored, but civilian governments remained fragile. Benazir Bhutto of the Pakistan People’s Party and Nawaz Sharif of the Muslim League twice succeeded each other, unable to complete a single term of office. It was under Benazir Bhutto’s second government (1993–1996), and at the initiative, not of the ISI, but of her Home Minister Major-General Naseerullah Babar, that the idea was born of playing a new card, that of the Taliban, to regain the upper hand in Afghanistan. [17]  According to him, the idea was to obtain an agreement...[17] Young, Afghan students (hence their name) of the madrasas (schools for the study of the Koran) were recruited in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan, where more than two million Afghans had fled during these troubled years, many in the North-West Frontier Province. There, an Islamist party with Deobandi leanings opened many madrasas: the Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Islam led by Fazlur Rehman, today allied with the PPP, and by Sami-ul-Haq, controlling a first-rate seminary.

The 1990s: Taliban and Jihad


We know what followed: the victory of the Taliban, who entered Kabul in September 1996, led to the founding of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan recognized by only three states: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. “Commander of the faithful” Mullah Omar welcomed to Afghanistan a former anti-Soviet jihadist stripped of his Saudi citizenship and then compelled to leave Sudan. His name: Osama bin Laden, who in 1998 issued his fatwa calling all Muslims to join the jihad against the “alliance of Zionists and Crusaders” occupying the Al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem). And, since the First Gulf War, “the lands of Islam in the holiest of places: the Arabian Peninsula.”


The war in Afghanistan and its consequences thus enabled—in Pakistan, and particularly in the Pashtun regions—the conjunction of two radical Sunni schools of thought. The first, the Deobandi, of South Asian origin, and the second, the Wahhabi movement which, in Arabia, had rekindled during the seventeenth century an eleventh-century tradition calling on the faithful to return to pure Islamic roots.


This fertile ideological ground gave the Pakistani military (but not only them) the opportunity to instrumentalize a certain Islamic radicalism prepared to wage jihad il saif—the jihad of the sword—against its designated enemies. This instrumentalization corresponded more to a strategic analysis than to ideological conviction, even if certain commanding officers may have been tempted by Islamism seen more as a foundation for the national identity of a Pakistan called to future greatness, than as leading to the creation of a transnational caliphate. The primary rationale behind this instrumentalization of militant Islam defines the fundamental paradigm of Pakistan, as conceived by the military, and which no civilian government has been able to alter sustainably. On the one hand, to counter India on the eastern front by utilizing the Kashmir question and, after 1989, the rebellion against New Delhi; and on the other hand, to guarantee Pakistan the “strategic depth” to influence Afghanistan, or at least its Pashtun provinces, to counter any possibility of being caught between New Delhi and Kabul.


The turmoil in the Valley of Srinagar after 1989 was a wonderful surprise for Pakistani strategists: finally a rebel movement had taken shape in the heart of Indian Kashmir. However, the movement was complex, as alongside the Hizb-ul Mujahideen, an Islamist formation emanating from the Kashmiri Jamaat-e Islami, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front which was fighting for independence and not to join Pakistan, had to be taken into account. Training volunteers of every hue in camps established in Azad Kashmir, on the Pakistani side, Rawalpindi—the general headquarters of the Pakistani military—quickly favored the Hizb. And when, starting in 1993–1994, India began to gain ground against the Kashmiri insurgents, when some of them chose to work against New Delhi in the political arena, the Pakistani militias entered the scene. One of these attracted particular attention: the Laskhar-e Taïba, the “Army of the Pure,” the armed branch of a powerful proselytizing association based in Muridke in Punjab, the Maarkaz-ud-Dawa wal Irshad led by Hafiz Saeed, a former professor of Islamic studies at the Lahore University of Technology. Also important, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, which arose from the Harkat-ul-Ansar, who fought with the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets before turning towards Kashmir. From the many divisions of this organization would emerge Fazlur Rehman Falili, one of the signatories of Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa, and Masood Azhar, also a product of the bin Laden networks, liberated by the Indians following a hostage-taking on an Indian Airlines flight. Masoon Azhar also founded in 2000, the Jaish-e Mohammad, active in Kashmir but also, like the Lashkar-e Taïba, involved in terror attacks in large Indian cities, including the attack on the New Delhi Parliament in December 2001.


On the other front, before 9/11, support for the Afghan mujahideen and then for the Taliban, strengthened the ideological networks and interests amplifying the ancient tradition of straddling the Durand Line in the North-West Frontier Province which is a natural boundary, but not an effective barrier between the two parts of the Pashtun world. While two border posts stand out, along the strategic routes from Peshawar to Kabul through the Khyber Pass, for the Frontier Province, and running from Quetta to Kandahar via the Chaman border crossing for Balochistan, hundreds of routes have long existed and been used by smuggling networks that have always thrived between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The mujahideen rebellion and the rise of the Taliban thus strengthened the influence of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e Islam, the leading supporter of the Taliban. They encouraged the emergence of radical movements in the region, in particular, the Tehrik-e Nifaz-e Shariat-e Mohammadi (“Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law”), founded by a Jamaat-e-Islami dissident, Sufi Muhammad, in Malakand, northeast of Peshawar. The “Afghan-Pakistan connection” (Abou Zahab and Roy 2002), deliberately strengthened by the Pakistani authorities to advance their strategic goals, thus created fertile soil for two factors favoring future Talibanization: a certain radicalization of Pakistani Islamist movements, and material interests related to the circulation of people, money, arms, and drugs from the Afghan poppy fields. This dynamic played an even greater role in the regions largely outside the influence of the central administration, such as the tribal areas with specific status and without authorized political organizations (when parliamentary elections were introduced, the candidates, theoretically non-partisan, were most often under the sway of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam) or the Swat Valley in Malakand, which remained a princely state until 1969.

Sectarian Movements


There remains another key element which was less visible for a long time: radical movements in the heart of the country, from Punjab to Karachi, where the famous Binori mosque is one of the three poles of jihad radicalization along with the Jamia Ashrafia in Lahore, one of the leading Islamic learning institutions in Punjab, and the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak, east of Peshawar, center for Taliban training in Pakistan. Within this complex landscape of Pakistani Islam are interwoven ideologies, power politics and players using both for their own ends. In the networks sometimes known as neo-fundamentalist, Sunni radicals are represented first of all by the Sipah-e Sahaba Pakistan (SSP: Army of the Companions of the Prophet) founded in 1985, a political organization seeking to make the Deobandi ideology that of Pakistan. It later became a violent militant movement targeting mainly Shiites, who were considered traitors to Islam. Based in the south Punjab (Jhang, Multan, Bahawalpur), it is also active in Karachi. Jaish-e Mohammad is sometimes defined as its armed jihadist wing. Another formation, Lashkar-e Jhangvi (from the name of SSP founder Haq Nawaz Jhangvi) is sometimes presented as a branch of the SSP, sometimes as a faction that broke off in 1996. In both cases, the violence of these organizations (targeted assassinations, or terrorist attacks against Shiite gathering places) led to warnings by General Musharraf shortly after he came to power in 1999. In August 2001 he decided to ban both the Lashkar-e Jhangvi and the Sipah-e Mohammad (the Army of Mohammed), a Shiite organization, also terrorist, founded in 1993 to counter the activism of the SSP. But behind these bans, which would continue to multiply, remained a question: why have these organizations always survived under another name, with neither the military regime nor the Intelligence services trying to eliminate them? Clearly, the radical nexus with which militant Sunni organizations identify is too large for the groups operating in Kashmir or in support of the Taliban—that is, serving a state agenda—not to have long benefited from the impunity that also extended to sectarian groups in Pakistan itself, with a shared ideological basis.

The Nuclear Factor and the Theory of Limited War


On May 28 and 30, 1998, 15 days after the five nuclear tests carried out by India, Pakistan shrugged off its threshold status and became an avowed nuclear power. It thus made official what Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had wished for since the first Indian nuclear test in 1974: a nuclear deterrent capability against its neighbor. China played its part in this strategic advance, and the 1998 tests only showed openly what had been thought likely since 1987, when General Zia-ul-Haq had hinted that his country had access to nuclear weapons. Furthermore, as soon as the war in Afghanistan ended with the defeat of the Red Army, Washington imposed new sanctions against its ex-ally Pakistan for its clandestine nuclear program, fueling further suspicion of the United States. Logically, having a nuclear arsenal and the ability to control it (command and control structures, short- and medium-range missiles provided from China and North Korea) could lead one to think that this deterrent capability would eventually allow Islamabad to defuse Indo-Pakistani tensions—particularly as, in a headline policy statement, Pakistan made it known that it reserved the right to make a first nuclear strike against any enemy threatening its vital interests, even with conventional weapons. This proved untrue, as one year after the tests, while Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif were working to build better bilateral relations after their successful meeting in Lahore, India discovered Pakistani forces the previous winter had covertly crossed the Line of control dividing Kashmir to set up, on the Indian side, bases above Kargil, dominating the strategic route from Srinagar to Ladakh and to the Siachen glacier contested by the two countries. The “Kargil War” ensued, which India conducted cautiously given the nuclear threat. However, this threat worried the international community sufficiently for Beijing, visited by Musharraf and then by Nawaz Sharif, to not provide the expected diplomatic support, and for Washington to insist that Pakistan recall its forces who are supposed to be non-governmental guerrillas to boot.


In his memoirs, General Musharraf claims that Nawaz Sharif was fully informed of the operation, and downplays the extent of violation of the line, presenting it as merely an opportunity to draw attention to the importance of the Kashmir question (Musharraf 2006, 87–98). In contrast, India and many international experts saw the Kargil initiative as far more than an unwelcome, albeit measured, adventurism. Rather, it was viewed as an attempt to test the possibility of conducting a limited conventional war under a nuclear umbrella. Seen in this way, the result was mixed. India did respond with greater prudence—at other times, such as the 1965 and 1971 wars, it would have taken the fighting past the Line of control, or even along the international border outside Kashmir. But international condemnation was unequivocal. In 2000, during a brief visit to Islamabad after five days in India, President Clinton stated on Pakistani television essentially that the time was past “that borders can be redrawn in blood.” Indian strategists, along with a committee of inquiry, also drew lessons from Kargil and began to revise their doctrine for the use of conventional force. This revision led in 2004 to a new doctrine, baptized “cold start,” meant to allow forces to be immediately operational in case of unplanned necessity. In the meantime, September 11 began to have its effect on Pakistan, and another Indo-Pakistan war was narrowly averted after the attack by the Lashkar-e Taïba and the Jaish-e Mohammad against the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, three months after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Dilemma and Ambiguities: post-9/11


The deadly attacks of September 11 in the United States disrupted the implementation of the Pakistani strategic paradigm without, however, invalidating it. Shortly thereafter, and in the face of heavy insistence by the United States, General Musharraf, who had overthrown Nawaz Sharif in October 1999, after obtaining the approval of the majority of the Corps commanders in the armed forces, decided to change policy. They would no longer support the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Washington had drawn a clear line: “Those who aren’t with us are against us.”


This change was not unanimously accepted, and Musharraf had to reassign recalcitrant generals in the weeks that followed, or force them into retirement. The head of the ISI, in Washington on 9/11 and in favor of dialogue with the Taliban, was one of those. After October, the international intervention in Afghanistan, with American forces on the front line, shook up Pakistan. The Islamist parties called for solidarity with the Taliban, victims of a foreign invasion, and formed a “Pakistan-Afghanistan Defense Council.” Militia mobilized to go to their aid. Thousands of men led by Sufi Mohammad, leader of the Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic law, lost their lives. All for nothing: Kabul fell in mid-November, and Kandahar followed later that month. The Taliban regime crumbled, but neither Osama bin Laden nor his host Mullah Omar were caught in the nets of the American commandos. Thus began a new story for both Afghanistan and Pakistan.


Just as Pakistan’s “strategic depth” appeared shaken with the fall of the Taliban, the other front also demanded attention. On October 1, 2001, Jaish-e Mohammad commandos attacked the State Assembly Buildings of Jammu and Kashmir in Srinagar (causing 38 deaths, in addition to killing 3 of the assailants). On December 13 a commando force attacked the Indian Parliament which was then in session. The attack failed, but India demanded an accounting from Islamabad. The country began mobilizing troops and the international community became concerned about the possible consequences of these multiple terror attacks. From December 2001 to October 2002, war threatened between India and Pakistan, with a million troops on alert and ready for combat. Tensions eased once elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir, and in Pakistan.

The Limits of the Paradigm? A New Rhetoric


The Pakistani paradigm appeared to have reached its limits. On the Afghan side, support for the Taliban led to a disaster for Afghanistan, and indirectly allowed Al-Qaeda to carry the torch of transnational terrorism. On the Indian side, support for Kashmiri rebels opened the door to terrorist operations in Kashmir first, then in India itself, with the attack against the emblematic democratic institution—Parliament—carrying great symbolic weight. Under pressure from Washington, General Musharraf changed his line on Afghanistan and joined the “war on terror.” But how could he pursue a policy on India that relied on organizations which had shifted from jihad to terrorism? After condemning the Srinagar and New Delhi attacks as “terrorist,” General Musharraf set out his new line in a historic speech on January 12, 2002. Even as he reiterated Pakistan’s support for the Kashmiri cause and threatened to retaliate against India for any military attack, he declared: “No organization will be allowed to indulge in terrorism in the name of Kashmir.. .. Pakistan rejects and condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for any terrorist activity anywhere in the world.” He launched a general attack against the deadly extremism and sectarianism creating dissent within Islam, and pleaded for a “progressive Islamic state.” Recalling that he had banned the sectarian organizations Lashkar-e Jhangvi and Sipah-e Mohammad in August 2000, he banned two additional sectarian militias, the Sipah-e Sahaba and the Tehrik-e Jafriya, also adding to the list of banned organizations the Tehrik-e Nifaz-e Shariat Mohammadi operating in the Pashtun regions, and the leading jihadist groups Lashkar-e Taïba and Jaish-e Mohammad. For good measure, he announced more stringent enhanced controls of the madrasas and their foreign students.


India welcomed this speech with caution, waiting to see what it would actually lead to. The conclusion is ambiguous. There remained a disconnect between this speech calling for “enlightened moderation” moving forward, and actual implementation of an anti-extremist policy. Extremists who were imprisoned or put under house arrest, such as Hafiz Saeed, leader of the Lashkar-e Taïba, and Masood Azhar, head of the Jaish, were quickly released. The very detailed reports by the International Crisis Group are clear in this respect (ICG 2004). The Pakistani President was embattled on every front. Starting in 2002, to counter the parliamentary opposition led by exiled politicians Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf deployed a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand, he poached a fraction of the Muslim League to create a party favorable to himself, the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid) (PML-Q). On the other, the ISI entered the scene to foster the emergence of an Islamist coalition, the Muttahida Masjlis-e Amal (MMA: United Action Front) uniting the Jamaat-e Islami, the two factions of the Jamiat-e Ulema-e Islam, two other pro-Wahhabi and pro-Taliban organizations, a Shiite party, and a party of Barelvi allegiance. The strategy worked: the MMA won more than 11% of the vote, and 63 seats in Parliament, results never before achieved in the country’s electoral history. In the North-West Frontier Province, it took over the government. In Balochistan it joined a governing coalition with the PML-Q. Inevitably, the acronym MMA caused Pakistanis to smile: it evokes a classic aspect of national political life, the oft-analyzed “Mollah-Military Alliance” (ICG 2003; Haqqani 2005). The MMA quickly joined the opposition in denouncing Musharraf’s “pro-American” policy.. . but by then it had fulfilled its role.

Double Standards


As for the fight against extremism, it took two very different paths. Al-Qaeda was targeted, without its leadership ever being attacked. A few names stood out among the many arrests, starting with that of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the “brains” behind September 11, arrested in Rawalpindi (the city where the military high command is headquartered!) in 2003 and transferred to Guantanamo. Abu Faraj al-Libbi arrested in 2005 near Peshawar, thought to be the third-ranking Al-Qaeda leader. But otherwise, the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan were not bothered and repression of the jihadists remained minimal. The authorities limited infiltrations by Pakistani fighters into Kashmir (which India had long defined as “war by proxy” using “cross-border terrorism”), but did not dismantle the organizations. In Muzaffarabad, capital of Azad Kashmir, the United Jihad Council under the leadership of the Kashmiri militant Syed Salahudeen remained in place: it combined insurgent Kashmir and Pakistani jihadist groups. Islamabad rubber-stamped the fiction created by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, head of the Lashkar-e Taïba, after his movement was banned. The headquarters of the Lashkar was transferred to Muzaffarabad and its leadership shifted to Kashmiri hands. While Lashkar’s parent organization, Markaz-ud Dawa wal Irshad, on its campus in Punjab at Muridke, became the Jamaat-ud Dawa, supposedly restricted to preaching, teaching and social work, and remained under Saeed’s leadership. Similarly, all the extremist organizations banned by the government and often classified as terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department or the UN, changed their names and continued to operate. Thus, Jaish-e Mohammad, after being banned in 2002, became Khuddam-e Islam, still led by Masood Azhar, with the Jamaat-ul Furqan as a splinter group.


An assessment of the battle against extremism, set up by the International Crisis Group in 2004, was disappointing to say the least (ICG 2004). However, things began to change that year and the complicated policy line followed by Musharraf became an ever riskier balancing act. This dualist approach was reflected in studies of the country that saw it, repeatedly, as “on the brink” (Baxter 2004) or “respectable at last?” (Guillard 2005).

Indo-Pakistani Dialogue


Things began to change in 2003, when Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, in a speech in Srinagar in March 2003, reached out to Pakistan, conditionally and “for the last time, the hand of friendship.” Thus began a behind-the-scenes dialogue that produced results. In November 2003, Musharraf proposed a ceasefire along the Line of control, a demarcation that was accepted by India and even extended at its request to the Siachen glacier where the two countries’ armed forces had been facing-off since 1985. This unconditional ceasefire (i.e., without major prior withdrawal of Indian troops from Kashmir, unlike previous attempts) was implemented at the end of Ramadan on November 26, 2003. It has since been respected, apart from minor incidents. On December 18, Musharraf went even further. He suggested that the United Nations resolutions on Kashmir could be “set aside.” The idea was not new, as the four-point proposals presented by the Pakistani President at the Agra meeting in July 2001 included the rejection of any proposal viewed as unacceptable by either party. But such a clear proposal at the highest level officially broke a taboo.


The third stage was the decision to restart dialogue with India in February 2004, announced in a joint declaration by Musharraf and Vajpayee on January 6, 2004. This “composite dialogue,” [18]  Composite dialogue – its official name – because both...[18] with its highs and lows, continued until the terror attacks in Mumbai perpetrated by agents of Lashkar-e Taïba in November 2008. One of its areas of progress, limited but emblematic, was the (very controlled) opening in 2005, for the first time since 1947, of a bus line connecting Srinagar, capital of Indian Jammu and Kashmir, with the capital of Pakistani Azad Kashmir, Muzaffarabad. After 2004 Musharraf came up with more proposals, always knowing that some would be unacceptable to India, but the goal was also to show the international community (and the United States above all) that he was prepared to change. For example, in October 2005, the Pakistani President issued a plea to identify seven regions that could each choose to belong to India or Pakistan—a move in the hope to regain the heart of Kashmir, the Valley of Srinagar. This obviously failed. The UN’s Australian mediator, Owen Dixon, had already proposed this plan in 1950, without success.


The more flexible “four point formula” put forward by Musharraf in 2006 during an interview on Indian television was based on a staged withdrawal of Indian and Pakistani troops from Kashmir; respect for the Line of control (open however to flows of goods and people); increased autonomy for Kashmir authorities on both sides of the line; and a supervision process involving India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris. [19]  Interview with General Musharraf, NDTV, New Delhi,...[19] In 2010, Kurshid Kasuri, the Pakistani Foreign Affairs Minister under Musharraf, revealed that an agreement had been in view in 2007, based on the “four points,” for an interim period of 15 years. However, it would have required the Parliaments of both countries (and the Kashmiri organizations) to accept it. Once again, a possible agreement failed. General Musharraf then got involved in major political challenges that caused him first to declare a state of emergency, then led to his supporters’ defeat in the January 2008 elections, and finally to his resignation a few months later. [20]  On Kasuri’s revelations: http://www.paktribune.com...[20]

Islamist Rebellions, Increasing Terrorism, Talibanization


By then, it had been five years since the President of Pakistan had alienated a considerable portion of the extremist networks that had earlier been instrumentalized. Despite their half-hearted implementation, the decision to support Washington’s intervention in Afghanistan, the 2002 speech condemning jihad, and the ban on armed groups had turned the most radical elements against him. As early as December 2003, Musharraf narrowly escaped two deadly attacks. The relative flexibility he later showed on Kashmir, the arrest of Al-Qaeda leaders and the deterioration of the situation in tribal areas, considerably widened the disconnect between the government and its former clients, to the point of a full split for certain groups.


On this challenging regional chessboard, the tribal areas took on new weight. Despite the increasing strength of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (under NATO command as of 2003), security actually declined particularly in the Pashtun regions in the south starting in 2003–2004, just as the special forces of “Operation Enduring Freedom” allowed both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban leadership to escape. Mountainous, traditionally immune from military authority, bordering Afghanistan, the tribal areas offered perfect sanctuary for combatants fleeing Afghanistan, which had no shortage of partisans soon to be organized into radical militias. A social movement was in play: like many village mullahs, the tribal chiefs, the maliks, began losing ground to young local militants inspired by the Taliban. It quickly appeared to Washington that Islamabad’s cooperation was crucial for controlling the seven tribal agencies [21]  The seven tribal agencies cover 27,220 km2 and had...[21] and their neighboring areas. To bring added pressure to bear on Islamabad, the United States accorded Pakistan the status of “major non-NATO ally” in 2004 (there were only 15 in the world), along with substantial financial aid to relaunch the economy (Rashid 2008, 233). In addition to the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of Pashtuns, Islamabad began sending regular non-Pashtun troops into the tribal areas in significant numbers in February and March 2004. In June, the United States executed their first drone strike, in South Waziristan, which drew official protests from the Pakistani government and condemnation by the public for violation of national sovereignty. These two initiatives and the “collateral damage” to non-combatants by the drone strikes radicalized opposition to the Pakistani forces, producing multiple setbacks.


Then began the negotiations between the representatives of the Pakistani state and local insurgent groups. The first agreement, signed in April 2004, was meant to enable the expulsion of foreign combatants (including the Uzbeks from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan), with no real effect. A second agreement in November 2004, when the rebellion had already cost some 600 soldiers their lives, was also without effect. In 2006, a controversial agreement was signed with the insurgent commanders at the initiative of General Orakzai, a close adviser to Musharraf: the military committed to withdraw its troops if the insurgents ceased their attacks and stopped operating in Afghanistan. Orakzai, who had commanded the XI Corps of the Pakistani military based in Peshawar, was then governor of the North-West Frontier Province. For years he had been a strong supporter of a negotiated solution to prevent insurgency in the tribal areas. There was both negotiation and insurgency, with every agreement serving to reform the insurgent forces before being breached by one or the other party. With more than 80,000 soldiers operating in the tribal areas, Pakistan could demonstrate commitment to George W. Bush. These forces were far larger than the international forces in Afghanistan, but without clear results, particularly as the agreements were signed without consulting either the tribal chiefs or the “political agents” traditionally representing the federal state in the region. The strategy was a failure that helped the insurgents gain more power. In 2007, multiple groups joined together under the name Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan—the Pakistani Taliban Movement—under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud and based in South Waziristan.

Map 4 - Tribal Zones and Swat

Overall, from 2004 to 2007 the insurgency in Pakistan itself intensified, with certain elements traditionally operating in Kashmir pulling back to the tribal areas following restrictions to infiltration on the Indian side imposed by Musharraf starting in 2003. This radicalization accentuated the connections between the Afghan Taliban who had long been based in the tribal areas to operate in Afghanistan, such as the Haqqani network, the new Pakistani Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The “Al-Qaeda connection” (Gul 2008/2010) accentuated the “descent into chaos” (Rashid 2008), particularly with the turning point that occurred in 2007 with the Red Mosque. In the heart of Islamabad, the Red Mosque and its two seminaries (one for men and one for women) had grown based on a radical discourse that became more pronounced in 2007, when its brigades began to follow the Taliban mold and practice intimidation to “promote virtue and protect from vice.” The authorities turned a blind eye and allowed weapons to enter the mosque, until the abduction of Chinese citizens working in beauty salons suddenly created tensions with Beijing, a very important ally for Islamabad. Forceful action followed the wait-&-see phase, and the mosque was stormed by the military in July 2007 in an operation that caused dozens of casualties (or even more), including one of the two brothers who ran the mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi. [22]  The title Maulana designates in principle a scholar...[22]


The attack on the Red Mosque was a turning point that accelerated the pace of suicide attacks, which had begun in 2002, first against foreign targets (including the French technicians with the DCNS submarine company in Karachi). Rare at first, the number of terrorist attacks quickly took on dramatic proportions and a triple strategy took form: insurgency against the armed forces, elimination of representatives of the state and of various “traitors” to the cause in the tribal areas, and proliferation of terrorist attacks in the major Pakistani cities (Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar). The military itself, and even the ISI, were often targeted by these attacks, perpetrated in the Punjab by non-Taliban extremist networks arising from unsuccessfully banned former groups. Armed Islamism, once instrumentalized, had now partly distanced itself from its former sponsors, and observers began talking about the “Talibanization” of Pakistan.


Outside the tribal areas, strictly speaking, but still within Pashtun territory, the Swat Valley provided a second breeding ground for insurgency. Successor to Sufi Mohammad, who had launched his movement to introduce Sharia law here but was imprisoned following his Afghan misadventure, was his son-in-law Maulana Qazi Fazlullah, who imposed his authority (and his rhetoric on FM radio) in the valley. The military intervened with little success, and a first agreement signed in May 2008 did not restore order. Sufi Mohammad, liberated in 2008, was invited to serve as mediator. He obtained from the government of the North-West Frontier Province, although it was led by the Awami National Party that severely defeated the Islamists in the 2008 elections, a compromise that was ratified by the government and even by the National Assembly. Under pretext of bringing peace to the region, the state in fact capitulated by accepting the imposition of Sharia in Swat in February 2009 and then, in principle, throughout the Malakand region. The military had to retreat, and the Taliban cooperated with the civilian administration. After this initial success, the Swat neo-Taliban committed two errors: first, they advanced into the neighboring district of Buner towards the Indus River valley and, after that, Islamabad. The second error occurred when Sufi Mohammad declared again that no compromise was possible between the Pakistani Constitution and a true Islamic order, democracy being considered “non-Islamic.” The military thus decided to take things back in hand, and launched an extensive combat operation (including air power) that led to the exodus of thousands of civilians. In June 2009, the capital town of Swat, Mingora, was retaken, along with most of the valley. Fazlullah evaded capture.


A few months later, the military launched operations in the tribal areas as well: in South Waziristan, bastion of the TTP whose leader Baitullah Mehsud had been killed by an American drone in August 2009. Troops have also been engaged since 2008 in the Bajaur agency (where hundreds of thousands of refugees took to the roads) and in the Khyber agency. The military is present in the Orakzai agency, where it declared victory, like in Bajaur, in 2010. As for the agency of Kurram, it is home to unique conditions of intertribal conflict between the Turi, who are Shiites, and the Bangash, who are Sunnis, with the Shiites naturally opposing the radical Sunni ideology of the Taliban.

The Paradigm in the Era of the American “AfPak” Policy


How can we attempt to understand these events, which cause thousands of deaths every year in Pakistan, from daily fighting or from indiscrimate terrorist attacks? And above all, do they make sense in terms of the strategic paradigm long defined by the Pakistani military? To answer these questions, we need to examine how American policy has developed towards Afghanistan, and more broadly towards the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India continuum.

The Indo-American rapprochement under George W. Bush


From Islamabad’s perspective, Indo-American relations since the 1998 nuclear tests had been worrisome. While India and Pakistan were both subject to sanctions after the tests, Washington’s policy quickly began to favor New Delhi. Indian non-alignment, still the officially stated policy, no longer had the same connotations as it had during the Cold War which had now ended. President Clinton’s successful visit to India in March 2000 opened up a new era aimed at finally normalizing relations between “the oldest and the largest democracies in the world.” India’s economic awakening, which began in the 1990s, was also a factor, and for years American analysts had been recommending redefining American policy towards New Delhi and ultimately implementing “dehyphenation” by disconnecting this policy from that applied to Islamabad, refusing to participate in a zero-sum game where any progress achieved with one of the two neighbors was perceived as being detrimental to the other. Under the Bush administration this reconciliation with India became more pronounced, not only for economic reasons (India’s economy in the mid-2000s growing by 9% a year), but also for important geopolitical reasons. Without buying into the illusion of the possibility of a real alliance with India, the US could at least encourage it “to find its place in the world,” or in Realpolitik terms, to make the rise of a democratic India a potential counterbalance to China’s even stronger rise. The U.S. administration’s wish to modify the international principles for access to civilian nuclear technology (very restrictive for a country that was not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty) achieved success in 2008, after three years of tough bilateral and international bargaining. This caused concern in Pakistan, particularly as there was talk for a time of possible cooperation on the missile defense shield.


While helping India to progress, Washington continued to publicly support a policy of cooperation with Pakistan, often described as a leading partner in the “war on terror.” The policy of aid to Pakistan, in the name of this war and given its new status as major non-NATO ally, sought to ensure the support of a country that was crucial to the Afghanistan conflict in every way. However, behind the rhetoric, the Pakistani ambiguity was a source of concern. Not so much in Kashmir, except for the risk of war with India as on the Afghan front. Even so, Bush’s vacillation towards Afghanistan accorded Pakistan a certain leeway.


Proof of it all was the on-off pursuit of Al-Qaeda. The Al-Qaeda issue, after 9/11, launched all kinds of theories, or smokescreens, after its leadership escaped pursuit by international forces and anti-Taliban Afghan militias in December 2001, moving into the mountains of Tora Bora near the Pakistan border and the agency of Kurram. It was speculated at various times that Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan, or in the Pakistani tribal areas, or in the district of Chitral neighboring Afghanistan, or even in Pakistani Kashmir.. . He was said to be laid low by kidney disease, or even dead, before he reappeared in videos broadcast by Al Jazeera. General Musharraf claimed ignorance in the affair, or let it be known in January 2002 that the Saudi fugitive was “probably dead” or else “somewhere in Afghanistan.” [23]  Interview with General Musharraf on CNN, January 18,...[23] In fact, for years, American tracking converged on the Pakistani tribal areas, where Al-Qaeda, the headquarters, was now thought to be based. While it is difficult to understand how the many intelligence services were unable to track bin Laden as efficiently as they had Saddam Hussein a few months after his fall, we can mention a few factors. The obvious differences is in terrain; but also the very special sociology of the tribal areas that the Pakistani military had previously never entered; and the traditional Pashtun code of honor. One aspect of the pashtunwali culture that defined social relations, which, in addition to courage, honor and protection of guests, includes the principle of collective responsibility for crime (a principle included in the Frontier Crime Regulations created by the British in 1901 and maintained by independent Pakistan in tribal areas). Family, clan, and tribe are thus responsible for the acts of every one of their members, and any traitor would bring punishment on his entire group. However, beyond these anthropological factors, we must also consider the strategies of the institutional players on the one hand, and their hesitations on the other. A report published by the New York Times in June 2008 was enlightening in this respect, stating that the goal of attacking Al-Qaeda in Pakistan had suffered from the White House shifting its priorities to Iraq in 2002. In addition, from the uncertainties and diverging opinions of the intelligence agencies and even the CIA itself regarding the validity of intelligence on the whereabouts of Al-Qaeda leaders. In particular of its number-two Ayman al-Zahawari; and, on the other, from the position of the Pakistani authorities, always suspected of double-dealing, but also legitimately fearing the consequences of concerted military action in the tribal areas and, even more, the consequences of a ground operation by American commandos. The risks inherent in such a tactic, repeatedly envisioned by American strategists and implemented only to a very limited extent (two minor operations at the end of the Bush presidency), held back the Pentagon, which was very conscious of the possible negative effects. Memories remained powerful, for example, the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, or the brutal failure of operations against the Viet Minh in Cambodia. Instead, the use of drones, expanded starting in 2006 and 2007, was seen as a relatively effective way to eliminate insurgent leaders with targeted attacks, benefiting of course, no matter what the Pakistani military might claim, from intelligence gathered in Pakistan.

Barack Obama and AfPak


Barack Obama’s presidency altered this delicate balance between the United States and Pakistan. Declaring Iraq to be a false target, Obama refocused American strategy not only on Afghanistan, but on the Afghanistan-Pakistan continuum, christened AfPak. Formulated by the President on March 29, 2009, the new strategy was based on a clear assessment that is worth quoting:


Al-Qaeda and its allies—the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks—are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many intelligence advisories have warned that Al-Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the United States homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan. And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban—or allows Al-Qaeda to go unchallenged—that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.

The future of Afghanistan is inextricably linked to the future of its neighbor, Pakistan. In the nearly eight years since 9/11, Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies have moved across the border to the remote areas of the Pakistani frontier. This almost certainly includes Al-Qaeda’s leadership: Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. They have used this mountainous terrain as a safe haven to hide, to train terrorists, to communicate with followers, to plot attacks, and to send fighters to support the insurgency in Afghanistan. For the American people, this border region has become the most dangerous place in the world. [24]  The White House. Remarks by the President on a New...[24]


Specifying that Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies in Pakistan are not only enemies of America, but also represent for this country “a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within,” and recalling the price paid by Pakistan in terms of terrorist attacks, Obama nonetheless also delivered a firm message to the Pakistani authorities. It is not easy to fight in tribal areas, and Washington wanted to give Pakistani forces more help for antiterrorist actions. But in return they expected a clear commitment:


After years of mixed results, we will not, and cannot, provide a blank check. Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out Al-Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders. And we will insist that action be taken—one way or another—when we receive intelligence about high-level terrorist targets. [25]  A year after Wikileaks published leaks on the conduct...[25]


At the same time, Obama introduced an aid package worth $7.5 billion over five years, defined in the bipartisan bill sponsored by Democratic Representative John Kerry, and Republican Senator Richard Lugar, “to promote an advanced strategic partnership with Pakistan and its people.” The Kerry-Lugar Act, finally adopted in September 2009 (US Congress 2009) stunned the Pakistani military—among others!—with its conditionalities requiring respect for democracy, and setting out curricula for the madrasas seminaries.


In his policy speech on the new AfPak strategy, President Obama also announced the appointment of a special emissary, the seasoned diplomat Richard Holbrooke, to be in charge of the policy (a possible extension of his role into Kashmir and India was abandoned in the face of New Delhi’s immediate rejection). Since his appointment, Richard Holbrooke has visited Pakistan many times, like all the major players: top military leaders, Defense Secretary, Secretary of State.


In theory, the Obama policy greatly increased pressure on Islamabad, not happy at being tarred with the same brush as Afghanistan. The pressure was even greater after Lashkar-e Taïba commandos attacked several important targets in Mumbai in November 2008, causing 160 deaths in the Indian city, including foreign victims. While the Indian government rejected a military response, it cut off the composite dialogue with Islamabad and demanded that Pakistan surrender the perpetrators. After an initial phase of denial, Pakistani authorities arrested and imprisoned some Lashkar military commanders, but refused to take on the leader. Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, was freed by the courts “due to lack of evidence.” Terrorism in India, terrorism in Afghanistan (twice against the Indian Embassy in Kabul, seen as far too active by Pakistani authorities), many acts of terrorism in Pakistan itself, [26]  According to an Indian source, terrorist (or insurrectional)...[26] and American pressure: the Pakistani paradigm appeared, for a time, to have run out. Among the victims of the terror attacks was a coveted target, Benazir Bhutto. She was killed in December 2007 during the electoral campaign that she could have won. The leader of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud claimed responsibility. However, the attack was the subject of much speculation, above all the suspicious laziness of the security services, as highlighted in a report by a UN commission of inquiry. [27]  “Report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry...[27]

Map 5 - “AfPak”

Paradigm Holds Strong: the Kayani Doctrine


Nonetheless, the paradigm still holds sway, for two reasons. The first, circumstantial, relates to the personality of the Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who took command in 2007 when General Musharraf had to shed his uniform to remain (for a brief time) President. Kayani, who had been Military Secretary under Benazir Bhutto and ran the ISI at the time of his promotion, enjoyed the trust (at least relative trust) of the U.S. for having remained neutral during the February 2008 elections and for having resolutely committed his troops in Swat and the tribal areas. In July 2010, a few months short of retirement, his term was extended for three years by Prime Minister Gilani, with the consent of President Zardari, little appreciated by the military. From this point forward, the term of office for the head of the military matches the term of office for civilian rulers—assuming that the latter complete their terms of office. Stability should, therefore, prevail.


The second reason relates to the evolution of the war in Afghanistan, and its current state of impasse, despite the surge President Obama tried to achieve by sending 30,000 additional US troops into the country. On January 28, 2010, at the London conference on Afghanistan, the international community declared, for the first time, its support for President Karzai’s hoped-for “national reconciliation” policy that would require a portion of the Taliban to support the country’s constitution (a fairly improbable gamble). Six months later, at the Kabul conference, the objective was confirmed, with a new timeline whereby most of the international forces (including 100,000 American soldiers) would leave the country around 2014, following a transfer of responsibility to the Afghan military and police, which had already begun. The new head of the international forces in Afghanistan, General Petraeus, confirmed that the 2011 date hastily announced in December 2009 by President Obama for the start of withdrawal of US troops was not binding..


Whether 2011 or 2014, Pakistan could begin preparing for the future and did so with, naturally, the military in control. With its strong links to the Afghan Taliban, Islamabad was already seen as a preferred partner (along with Saudi Arabia) and a necessary mediator. The Pakistani authorities are taking advantage of their role to push for India’s exclusion from negotiations on the future of Afghanistan. And the ISI, of course, is also on the scene. Less than 15 days after the London conference and in Karachi, it miraculously arrested the presumed No.2 of the Quetta Shura, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, considered the tactical leader of the Taliban rebellion in Afghanistan. But Baradar is also presented as one of the possible partners in discussion with President Karzai, both are members of the same tribe, the Popalzai. Thus, two hypotheses are in play, and both could be valid. On the one hand, Baradar’s arrest sends a message to the Quetta Shura to prepare for one possible avenue of negotiation which would be to cut all ties with Al-Qaeda (which Mullah Omar had refused to do in 2001). [28]  A recent study (Sternesen 2010) highlights the divisions...[28] On the other hand, it enables Pakistan to bypass any direct negotiation between Afghans by holding what may be a trump card.


All this takes place against the background of a selective strategy against the insurgent forces in tribal areas. The Pakistani military has intervened in several agencies, but not in North Waziristan, claiming a lack of resources. That is precisely the location of two organizations that serve the Pakistani strategy. First, the local Taliban under Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who did not follow the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan in its insurrection against the Pakistani state. And the second, the Haqqani network, the father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, was one of the Afghan mujahideen leaders in the anti-Soviet jihad, and became a government minister under the Taliban. Today he is seconded by his son, Sirajjudin. This network is targeted by American drones because it is one of the most effective groups countering the international forces in Afghanistan, but it is still seen as an asset to Pakistan’s strategy. So is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Hizb-e Islami who was briefly Afghan Prime Minister, as well as one of the most active dividers in the mujahideen movement. Hekmatyar, suspected in turn of being in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, is known for his longstanding connections to the ISI. A legal branch of the Hezb-e Islami won 19 seats in the latest Afghan Parliament, including a government minister, while declaring that it had no more links to Hekmatyar, who could nonetheless become an asset for Islamabad in a post-American Afghanistan.


This Pakistani strategy is also, of course, the fruit of the “Kayani doctrine.” One of his rare (and long) meetings with the press, in February 2010, serves to show how the doctrine of Pakistan’s current strong man remains true to traditional patterns. A seasoned Pakistani journalist described its tone in her own words:


“Pakistan won’t countenance a significant role for India in Afghanistan,” a warning against the idea of India contributing to training of Afghan troops, not to speak of its civilian presence.

“New Delhi’s recent military pronouncements worry Islamabad immensely” Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army, General Kapoor, had evoked the possibility behind closed doors of carrying out a war on two fronts, Pakistani and Chinese, and confirmed the “cold start” doctrine.

“The gains from backchannel diplomacy, launched during Pervez Musharrf’s rule, need not necessarily be the starting point for Islamabad now.” This is a way of burying the declarations of Khurshid Kasuri on the likelihood of a bilateral agreement in 2007.

“Kashmir remains Pakistan’s principal focus” [29]  Mariana Baabar, “Gen. Kayani on India’s ‘Cold Start’...[29]


Another press account lays out in these terms, Kayani’s “Afghanistan doctrine” presented a month earlier by the Chief of Army Staff in his presentation to NATO command in Belgium: “In that strategic paradigm, India remains a natural, long-term threat, and Afghanistan is part of Pakistan’s sphere of influence –the latter being not different from America’s Monroe Doctrine”. The report mentions that Kayani “also added that Pakistan does not seek a Talibanized Afghanistan and offered National Army and the Afghan National Police to train the Afghan military and police.” [30]  “The Kayani Doctrine,” http://pakistanpolicy.com/2...[30]

Conclusion: The Other Facet of the Paradigm


We might have asked in 2003–2006, given General Musharraf’s shifting rhetoric on Kashmir, whether a new paradigm might emerge. We might have then thought that this old paradigm, obsessed with India, could become obsolete in the face of internal challenges subjecting the country to insurgency and terrorism, just as the arrival of Barack Obama increased pressure to obtain the results expected of the new AfPak approach. It is clear today that the old paradigm continues to hold sway. The backers of the Mumbai terror attacks won their gamble: bilateral dialogue is frozen, and India did not go to war. Furthermore, beginning in June 2010, a sort of intifada once again shook Kashmir, inflamed week after week by incompetent Indian forces shooting young stone-throwers with real bullets. Thereby stimulating a movement whose nature is uncertain: undoubtedly spontaneous, but possibly also manipulated surreptitiously by radicalizing Kashmiri Islamists. Lastly, the rapid revision of AfPak policy, which now seeks to create the starting conditions for withdrawal of most foreign troops and for dialogue with the Taliban, once again places Islamabad at the center of the chessboard.


Why then change the paradigm? We could offer a number of arguments: the dramatic rise in suicide-motivated terrorism and of wide-ranging violence. The limited success of counter-insurgency strategies by forces traditionally trained to contain an enemy of a different kind (Jones and Fair 2010). The expansion of Talibanization, which is starting to emerge in Punjab, the heart of the country, in fertile ground prepared by the extremists of the Sipah-e Sahaba and their successors. Sectarian conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites, or even between Deobandi and Barelvi Sunnis. A recent Indian study of Pakistan—by an institute with ties to the Ministry of Defense—examined the potential, following the shift from Islamization to Talibanization, of a possible slide into “Lebanization” (IDSA 2010, chap. 4). The persistence of regional frustrations from Balochistan to Gilgit-Baltistan also raise disturbing hypotheses about the “state of the union,” threatened by centrifugal forces (Harrison 2009). The effects of the economic crisis, further accentuated in the medium term by the results of the disastrous flooding of 2010. The increasing gap with India, whose GNP is seven times higher than Pakistan’s today, but was only three times higher in 2001.


All to no avail, however, and while General Kayani declares his goal to be “peaceful coexistence with India,” he still views this country as more dangerous than internal threats, no matter how grave. Is Delhi more dangerous than Islamist insurgencies? To hear him talk, the answer is yes: “Yes, we are India-centric. Help us resolve these issues so that we can shift our attention from the eastern borders to the west.” [31]  Quoted by Mariana Babaar, op. cit.[31]


This persistent devotion to the standard line by a military chief who is not known for his adventurism does not result merely from a strategic reading of the regional environment. The other facet of the Pakistani paradigm, more sociopolitical than strategic, also plays a role. Born from the torment of partition, unable to form a stable political regime after its creation, Pakistan quickly fell victim to repeated military coups. Trained in multiple wars against India, convinced of its role as the rampart and elite of the nation, the military has become a state within the state. It has taken on a central role, positioning itself as the savior of the national interest in the face of dangerous compromise by corrupt and ineffectual politicians. After every coup, the general taking power has consistently depicted the country as pushed to the edge of the abyss by irresponsible civilian governments. It is a useful excuse, often ratified by the Pakistani Supreme Court in the name of the “principle of necessity.”


It is true that Pakistan’s democratic experiences have been disappointing. This was the case in the 1990s. It is still the case today, with a discredited President, and a Prime Minister condemned to reversing himself each time he tries to take control of the ISI, by willing to attach it to the Home Ministry or to send its Director General to New Delhi after the Mumbai terror attacks. Always, for all things concerning defense and security policy and relations with India and Afghanistan, it is the military that decides, with a refusal. A military driven by a powerful “security complex” (Nawaz 2009). A military that is also, beyond its actual function, the leading economic power in Pakistan through the foundations it has created, the companies it controls, the privileges it offers its officers.


The military is also “milbus,” military business (Siddiqa 2007). From this perspective, normalizing relations with India would deprive the military of a portion of its prestige, budget, and privileges. Against this central, overriding power, the nation’s other elites have little room for maneuver. Landholders, often, nearly feudal in nature (no land reform in Pakistan) and high-level bureaucrats, might share common interests with the political class and ranking officers, which are in part class interests. The business elite is part of the same set (the family of Nawaz Sharif for example), although the chambers of commerce in Karachi and Lahore may sometimes dream of expanded trade relations with an Indian locomotive which, after the crisis, returned to growth rates of 8 to 9%.. . In this context, the sections of the intelligentsia that want normalization, despite maintaining no illusion about India and its disastrous policy in Kashmir, are often swimming against the tide in a country where construction of a national identity compensates for the inadequacy of the religious bond: in the school textbooks, the idea of a proud Pakistan is of standing up to the chicanery of neighboring Hindustan. Emblematic in this area is the initiative by two major press groups, Jang in Pakistan and Times of India in India, fostering continuous dialogue, meetings and forums under the promising title of Aman ki Asha: “hope for peace.” [32]  See the website http://www.amankiasha.com[32]


In a recent report on the probable future of AfPak, Bruce Riedel, who had headed the strategic review that led President Obama to adopt this concept, recognized the difficulty of the task, and the modest hopes that should be entertained vis-à-vis Afghanistan. He was more optimistic regarding Al-Qaeda, which “appeals to a very small minority of Muslims” support, and which is “not Nazi Germany under Hitler or Communist Russia under Stalin.” As for Pakistan, he sees a spark of hope after the recent adoption of the 18th amendment to the Constitution reducing the presidential powers that had been expanded under Musharraf, in favor of a parliamentary regime: “In April 2010 Pakistan passed a critical constitutional amendment in April 2010 which changes, fundamentally, the power system in that country. It is one of the most important political developments in the country’s history” (Riedel 2010, 8–9). Really? I think, rather, that the power center is not defined solely by constitutional rules in Pakistan, no matter how significant, because the military continues to play a role beyond that assigned in the texts.


Must we then expect the worst? It was nearly 20 years ago, and 20 years after the secession of Bangladesh when Tariq Ali, a major figure of the Pakistani Left, based in London, asked the ritual question: “Can Pakistan survive?” (Ali 1991). In 2008, Ahmed Rashid, Pakistani author of reference on the Taliban, described a “descent into chaos” and announced the possible victory of Islamism (Rashid 2008). The next year he offered readers of the New York Review of Books, in a lengthy article, a tour of the Pakistan of Asif Ali Zardari, under the harsh title: “On the brink” (Rashid 2009). Perhaps he is right, because the crisis today is, without a doubt, one of the worst since 1970–1971. And yet, maybe not; the country’s civilian and military leaders have often exaggerated the (real) risks to gain better access to foreign aid, albeit simultaneously exhibiting a prickly nationalism. The real question may be this: is the strategic paradigm, apparently immutable despite the dangers it poses for the country, merely a medium-term gamble that will imprison Pakistan over the long-term in a geopolitical mold made obsolete by the new global economy, the new configurations taking shape with the emergence of Asia? The longstanding paradigm would then be a mere paradox, perpetuating a difficult past under the pretext of ensuring the future.


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  • US Congress. 2009. Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act 2009 (S-1707). Washington D.C. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c111:3:./temp/~c111NhJQ3O
  • Waldman, Matt. 2010. The Sun in the Sky: the Relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan Insurgents. Crisis States Research Centre, discussion paper 18. London: Development Studies Institute, London School of Economics.
  • Zetterlund, Kristina, ed. 2009. Pakistan. Consequences of Deteriorating Security in Afghanistan. Report FOI-R-2683-SE, January. Stockholm: FOI, Swedish Defense Research Agency.


[1] Senior CNRS Research Fellow, EHESS Center for South Asian Studies. Director, Science Policy of the Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme, Paris.

[2] The Sunnah, a collection of statements attributed to the Prophet – the hadith – is the authorized source that, together with the Koran, defines the codes of conduct for good Muslims.

[3] Preamble to the Constitution adopted on March 2, 1956.

[4] “Presidential address delivered by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah at the twenty-seventh session of All India Muslim League held at Lahore, March 22-24, 1940.” In the appendix to The Ideology of Pakistan by Saeedud Din Ahmad Dar (Islamabad: National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research, 1998), 85-106 (excerpts cited: 102-104).

[5] India has 13.4% Muslims for a population estimated at 1.15 billion in 2010; 95% of Pakistan’s population of 174 million is Muslim, and Bangladesh totals 90% Muslims for its population of 156 million people.

[6] Party manifesto, section 2-1, August 2004; awaminationalparty.org

[7] The Balochistan Liberation Army website presents this argument: http://www.balochvoice.com/bvoice/modules/articles/article.php?id=62.

[8] See the World Sindhi Congress publication “Sindh’s Right to Self-Determination,” 2003, 32p. www.worldsindhicongress.net

[9] In particular in Balochistan. For example, the report by the Pakistani Senate, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Balochistan,” November 2005.

[10] Amir Zia, “Karachi Demands a Solution,” The News, August 5, 2010, and Cyril Almeida, “Coming Full Circle: the Violence in Karachi,” Dawn, August 25, 2010.

[11] The ultimate conspiracy theory (sometimes denouncing a Jewish-Hindu-Christian plot) would see the United States, Israel and India as seeking to take control of Pakistan’s nuclear capability – a nationalist expression of Al-Qaeda’s condemnation of the same tripartite conspiracy against Islam.

[12] Ralph Peters, “Blood Borders. How a better Middle East will look,” Armed Forces Journal, June 2006. Despite its title, this periodical belongs to a private publisher specialized in the defense field, and is not controlled by the US military.

[13] Major General Akbar Khan. Raiders in Kashmir. Lahore: Jang Publishers, 1992.

[14] Salafists look to the ancestors (salaf in Arabic), that is to the Prophet and his immediate successors as sole guides. Generically the term is commonly used to designate fundamentalist Sunnis.

[15] The Deobandi ideology took shape in the nineteenth century in a seminary founded in 1866 in Deoband, a city located some 150 kilometers north of Delhi. The doctrine calls for a return to austere, in some ways fundamentalist devotion to Islam’s roots, in opposition to the popular Muslim traditions of the subcontinent. The Barelvi, unlike the Deobandi, support a popular Islam that venerates the saints and their shrines and is characterized by Sufi fervor.

[16] Thus, shortly before the Afghan insurgency, Zia-ul-Haq wrote a lengthy preface to the work of a military officer on war according to the Koran: Brigadier S.K. Malik, The Quranic Concept of War (Lahore: Wajidalis, 1979). Still today, the motto of the Pakistani army has strong religious overtones: “Iman, taqwa, jihad fi sabilillah: faith, piety, struggle in the way of God,” compared with the motto of the Pakistani state: “Iman, ittehad, nazm: faith, unity, discipline.”

[17] According to him, the idea was to obtain an agreement between the different Afghan factions to pacify the situation, with the Taliban radicalizing later. Benazir Bhutto also sought to secure access routes to Central Asia and its energy resources. Interview with General Babar, Peshawar, December 18, 2003. Babar had every reason to be sensitive to the issues in Afghanistan: as a Pashtun educated in Peshawar, he had been inspector general of the Frontier Corps, then governor of the North-West Frontier Province.

[18] Composite dialogue – its official name – because both parties committed to discussing their disputes together, under eight categories: peace, security and measures for trust; Jammu and Kashmir; the Siachen glacier; Sir Creek (a contested maritime border); Wullar Dam/Tulbul navigation project (on the Jhelum, a tributary to the Indus in Kashmir); terrorism and drug trafficking; economic and trade cooperation; amicable exchanges of delegations from civil society. Several cycles of negotiations took place at various levels, without decisive progress.

[19] Interview with General Musharraf, NDTV, New Delhi, December 5, 2006.

[20] On Kasuri’s revelations: http://www.paktribune.com/news/print.php?id=226938.

[21] The seven tribal agencies cover 27,220 km2 and had a population of more than three million during the last census in 1998.

[22] The title Maulana designates in principle a scholar educated in Koranic schools. It is a higher title than Mullah, which is in more common use.

[23] Interview with General Musharraf on CNN, January 18, 2002. http://edition.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/south/01/18/gen.musharraf.binlad

[24] The White House. Remarks by the President on a New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, March 27, 2009.

[25] A year after Wikileaks published leaks on the conduct of the war in Afghanistan, in July 2010, a British study revealed continued links between the ISI and the Taliban, Afghan or Pakistani, operating in Afghanistan (Waldman 2010).

[26] According to an Indian source, terrorist (or insurrectional) acts caused the deaths of 7,600 civilians (and 2,800 security forces) in Pakistan from 2003 to 2009, with a significant rise in occurrences starting in 2007. “Pakistan Assessment 2010,” South Asia Terrorism Portal, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi. http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/pakistan/

[27] “Report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry into the facts and circumstances of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto,” April 15, 2010. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=34384&Cr=bhutto&Cr1

[28] A recent study (Sternesen 2010) highlights the divisions between the Quetta Shura, centered in Afghanistan, and Al-Qaeda, which supports the Pakistani Taliban in their battle against the state. Since 2001 the Quetta Shura is thought to unite the exiled command of the Afghan Taliban around Mullah Omar near the capital of Balochistan.

[29] Mariana Baabar, “Gen. Kayani on India’s ‘Cold Start’ Attack Doctrine.” siyasipakistan.wordpress.com, February 21, 2010.

[30] “The Kayani Doctrine,” http://pakistanpolicy.com/2010/02/03/the-kayani-doctrine/

[31] Quoted by Mariana Babaar, op. cit.

[32] See the website http://www.amankiasha.com



The Partition syndrome and the four wars fought against India since 1947 are still defining Pakistan’s strategic paradigm, strengthened by the support provided to the Afghan mujahideen in the 80s and by the Kashmir insurgency in the 1990s. However, the instrumentalization of Islamist radical militias has a cost. After 9/11, General Musharraf redefined the official line regarding Afghan Taliban as well as jihadists operating in Kashmir. Despite the ambiguities of his policies, the shift was not acceptable for a section of the radicals, who have turned against the State, which must face insurgencies in Pashtun areas, urban terrorism, sectarian conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites, ethnic tensions, and economic slowdown. However, the all-powerful Army, a State within the State, is sticking to the paradigm: India is depicted as a greater threat than Pakistani Taliban and Punjabi extremists. A position strengthened by the limitations of the US AfPak policy, which ultimately offers new perspectives to Pakistan in Afghanistan.


  1. The Legacy of 1947: from Partition to the Secession of Bangladesh
    1. The Partition Syndrome
    2. The Kashmir Question
    3. The Secession of Bangladesh
  2. The National Question: Ethnicity and Regional Identities
    1. Ethnolinguistic Identities
    2. Federalism, Regionalism, Separatism
  3. The Instrumentalization of Armed Islamism
    1. Zia-ul-Haq: Islamization and Mujahideen
    2. The 1990s: Taliban and Jihad
    3. Sectarian Movements
  4. The Nuclear Factor and the Theory of Limited War
  5. Dilemma and Ambiguities: post-9/11
    1. The Limits of the Paradigm? A New Rhetoric
    2. Double Standards
    3. Indo-Pakistani Dialogue
    4. Islamist Rebellions, Increasing Terrorism, Talibanization
  6. The Paradigm in the Era of the American “AfPak” Policy
    1. The Indo-American rapprochement under George W. Bush
    2. Barack Obama and AfPak
    3. Paradigm Holds Strong: the Kayani Doctrine
  7. Conclusion: The Other Facet of the Paradigm

Translated from the French by JPD Systems

To cite this article

Jean-Luc Racine, “ Le paradigme pakistanais ”, Hérodote 4/2010 (n° 139) , p. 3-50
URL : www.cairn.info/revue-herodote-2010-4-page-3.htm.
DOI : 10.3917/her.139.0003.

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