Pakistan: On or Off? Examining the Future of U.S. – Pakistan Relations In the War on Terror and Beyond

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Farhana Ali[1]


(Pakistan’s alliance with the United States was cemented six years ago to fight the global war on terrorism. The fatal attacks in Washington in September 2001 forced Islamabad to yield to U.S. demands to sever its historic ties with the Taliban, root out indigenous religious extremists, and choke al-Qaeda’s lifeline in the region. Determining Islamabad’s success in mitigating the terror threat necessitates a deeper look at the tools Pakistan uses to measure its credibility as a reliable and trustworthy ally on the war on terror. To this end, this paper examines the current challenges and obstacles to sustaining a U.S.-Pakistan strategic relationship for years to come. While a strong ally today, the future of Pakistan is less predictable and precarious. Therefore, keeping the alliance firm will depend on several key factors, including Pakistan’s domestic stability, and Washington’s ability to move beyond the war on terror to strengthen its ties with a frontline ally.- Author)


Over the past two years, the rate of suicide bombings in Pakistan has increased. From January to March 2007, sixty-seven percent of civilians have died in suicide bombings compared to forty-one percent of civilian casualties in 2006, and more than a dozen Pakistani security forces have died.[1] The number of injured persons is much higher, though an unintended consequence. In neighboring Afghanistan, the death toll is much higher. In 2006, alone, “suicide attacks [had] quintupled.” Killing more than 200 Afghan civilians, 115 attacks occurred that year and more civilian deaths in 2007 is likely to fuel greater resentment of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. That resentment also is felt in Pakistan, where author’s interviews in 2005, 2006, and 2007 reveal a growing disenchantment with U.S. foreign policies in the Muslim world, including the war in Afghanistan of which Pakistan likely contributes to and is greatly impacted.

Islamabad’s “trust deficit” with Washington exists for several reasons, one of which is attributed to the two countries’ historical on and off relationship. One reason for the lack of trust is a “knowledge deficit,” according to one Pakistani Senator, which has over time weakened America’s political position in South Asia.[2] To put it bluntly, the U.S. and Pakistan strategic partnership is a client-patron relationship that has been convenient, expedient, and focused on a single issue: the global war on terrorism.  A senior Pakistani official indicates that Pakistan is concerned that U.S. engagement is a “one time contract” rather than a long-term commitment.

Mounting international pressure on Pakistan to eliminate the presence of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and local jihadi groups in the country that threaten American and Pakistani interests continue to exacerbate tensions between the two allies. The existence of indigenous religious extremists and an al-Qaeda presence—arguably stronger than before—raises additional concerns of Pakistan’s ability to curtail terrorism. The combined threat to Pakistan by al-Qaeda remnants, sectarian groups, and religious extremists pose significant challenges and risks. The publication of a myriad of violent jihadi and right-wing news and magazines and their circulation to hundreds, if not thousands, of supporters and sympathizers in the northern areas and urban centers such as Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad confirm the importance of extremists’ rhetoric, allure, and ongoing activism.[3] The strength of the militants lies in their ability to propagate their message, maintain a steady level of recruitment, and position themselves as anti-state so long as Pakistan is perceived as backing the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

Ironically, Pakistan’s alliance with the U.S. during the Afghan jihad and shortly after 9/11 has been forged in reaction to a larger terrorist/violent threat. To counter terrorism and sectarianism inside Pakistan, the military junta has taken significant steps to stem the tide of terror by launching a country-wide crackdown against some religious extremists and their networks—an effort that has won favor with the U.S. The author’s interviews of numerous Pakistani officials agree that Islamabad has made great strides—read “sacrifice”—to prove to U.S. policymakers that Pakistan is a committed partner. An inescapable conclusion told to the author from Americans and Pakistanis is that no other country has provided more intelligence support, committed more troops, and captured more al-Qaeda operatives than Pakistan.[4] Even Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is quick to remind his country and the international community “we [Pakistan] have broken the back of al-Qaeda in Pakistan.”[5] Islamabad is also proud of its 80,000 troops deployed to the tribal belt, another sign that Pakistan is taking seriously the terror threat.

Apart from its positive and important contributions to the war on terrorism, Pakistan faces many setbacks and enduring obstacles. The spread of insurgency, widespread lawlessness in its frontier province, a low level intelligence proxy war with India, and the potential growth of al-Qaeda supporters in the urban and rural centers of the country represent major threats to Pakistan’s security. According to the Pakistani leader, the problem and solution to al-Qaeda and the Taliban lies with Kabul.[6] He noted, “The war has to be won on the Afghan side.”[7]

Other factors such as India’s meddling in Kabul’s affairs, Iranian support to Baluchi insurgents, and the Kashmir conundrum deepen Islamabad’s apprehensions about how best to secure peace with neighboring states, who  have in part contributed to Pakistan’s growing terrorist and sectarian threat. That external actors have played a role in strengthening Pakistan’s Islamist radicals complicates Islamabad’s efforts to improve bilateral cooperation with its neighbors.

This paper will examine Pakistan’s perceptions of U.S. intentions in the region and the dangers ahead for Pakistan as it continues to mitigate both internal and external threats. To help counter these threats, this study concludes with policy recommendations to improve misguided perceptions and help the two countries move beyond the war on terrorism to sustain a long-term partnership.

Perceptions Matter

In Pakistan, and across the Muslim world, the war on terrorism invokes suspicion, contradiction, and controversy. The lack of U.S. policy direction in Iraq has further exacerbated the perception, rightly or wrongly, that the war on terror serves American interests first.  High-ranking Pakistani officials indicate that the U.S. approach to terrorism is counter-productive. One politician suggested that the U.S. “talk to its enemies,” a strategy that would counter America’s “no negotiation” with terrorists.

Secondly, recent visits to Pakistan by U.S. officials carry the message of “do more,” a phrase Pakistani officials, including a senior diplomat, say are unbalanced. In a discussion with the author, the official asked, “what is the limit? What more does the United States expect of Pakistan?”[8] To reverse the question, another politician asks, “what can Pakistan expect of the United States?” With no easy answers, these questions direct blame on either side for failing to understand the historical legacy of engagement and “U.S. flirtation with Pakistan to achieve the best results.”[9] How much more Pakistan can do given its internal security threats from “extremism, obscurantism, and religious bigotry” and external challenges from neighboring countries will depend on the government’s standards and policies in the region.[10] One former Pakistani Ambassador and retired General agree that “instability is the core problem in Pakistan. The country needs a secure internal environment”[11] or Pakistan risks diminishing returns in its development projects and social sector reforms.

Third, the author’s interviews of numerous Pakistanis during several visits to the country in 2007 indicate a widening rift in the attitudes held towards Americans. The perception that U.S. expectations of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism cooperation are unrealistic is based on America’s failure to understand the pyramid of jihadi groups. A high-ranking Pakistani official, who is now nearing retirement, told the author that the United States needs to “delink the threat of al-Qaeda from the Taliban. The two are not always related.” That the threats Pakistan faces are multiple and complex means that Islamabad ought to consider “multiple policies against violence.”[12] But the policies the country will select leaves many questions unanswered. For example, how long will Pakistan remain cut off from the Taliban? Without the Taliban, can Pakistan stabilize Afghanistan? For the U.S., the enduring question is what role will Pakistan play in the war on terrorism, with or without Musharraf?

Furthermore, an equally powerful perception by many Pakistanis is that the military’s alliance with the United States is terrorism-centric. A former Pakistan Ambassador to Afghanistan indicated in his book on Afghanistan that a “Bin-Laden-specific policy” risked putting a dent in the U.S.-Pakistan partnership. In several meetings with Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, the Pakistani official observed:

Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network thus

became the one point agenda in Washington’s Afghanistan

policy. The erroneous perception in the U.S. was that Pakistan

wielded considerable influence on the Taliban and enormous

pressure was exerted on Islamabad to convince the authorities

in Kandahar to hand Bin Laden over to the Americans.[13]

The term “terrorism” and the enemies of terrorism continue to be the center of debate in the U.S. and Pakistan. Many Pakistanis disagree with the United States “war on terrorism,” a three letter word they say has nurtured a culture of suspicion of U.S. intentions and fostered the growth of anti-Americanism across the Muslim world against U.S. foreign policies in Pakistan and elsewhere.[14] As one former Pakistani official noted, “the war on terror is not our war.” Others shared the view that “U.S. policies feed anti-Americanism” and unresolved conflicts in the Islamic world further the perception that the “U.S. is following a destructive-track policy.”[15]

That no one definition for terrorism accepted by the different United States’ government agencies or among U.S.-based academics has stirred an open-ended debate over what constitutes terrorism and what tools, methods, and strategies are appropriate to counter the threat. Varied interpretations further complicate efforts of law enforcement, police and intelligence agencies to combat ‘terror.’ This term is particularly controversial in the Muslim world, many of whom hold different criteria for “terrorists.” Thus, the age-old maxim, ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,’ continues to resonate with Muslim populations. Thus, the catch all-term, ‘terrorism’, has increasingly become meaningless to Muslim publics who have associate with it all “evil doers.”[16]

Therefore, waging a war on terrorism is controversial in Pakistan. According to the Chairman of a Karachi-based think tank, “you can not wage a war on terrorism; such a war will have a limited application.” Part of the problem is that terrorism as a concept and term is not universally accepted. Thus, the age old maxim of “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” resonates in Pakistan, where there is a distinction between good versus bad jihadi, or as Pakistani authorities now prefer to call the latter “disgruntled jihadi element” (dje). This includes al-Qaeda operatives and religious extremists who have attacked the Pakistani elite with violence and threats.

Many of these extremist groups might be considered privileged Islamists because they are able to sustain their movements within a legitimate political space permitted by the current regime. While several militant groups have been declared illegal—and are on the US Government’s list of terrorist groups—some organizations are able, even encouraged, to campaign for political office, gain access to the media, and enjoy the government’s hands-off policy. So long as militant groups do not strike at Pakistani or Western interests, they continue to thrive. Jama’at ud-Da’wa,[17] formerly the banned Lashkar e-Taiba, is a case in point. This and other group’s extensive social services project, from housing to education, enable them to win the support of a largely illiterate society and disallow the government from taking punitive measures against them.[18]

That the Pakistani Government is unaware or unable to shut down the groups that enjoy privileged access to the print media is an unanswered question. It remains unclear if, and the extent to which, an alliance between some of these groups and the Pakistani military exists. Of the groups the government is pitted against, it would be a tall order to expect that Islamabad could eradicate all sectarian and militant groups without assistance from regional allies and outside support. Thus, mounting domestic pressure by political Islamists, including the neo-conservative oppositionists, could impede Pakistan from strengthening its ties to the United States. Afghan scholars Barnett Rubin and Abubakar Siddque maintain that Pakistan’s arrest of al-Qaeda leaders and a crackdown on the Taliban and local militants “has led to tensions with the Islamist-military alliance.”[19]

Tensions between the religious class and the military elite have many questioning whether Pakistan will embrace democracy. Senior Pakistani officials perceive their country to be on the democratic track; as one individual noted, “Pakistan is the freest Muslim democracy” in the world today, in part because of its free press (i.e., with over forty private television stations); an independent press able to criticize the government without fear of arrest; and political and public space afforded to diverse religious groups and sects. “Remember, Pakistan is not Algeria,” he noted, referring to the Algerian government’s harsh crackdown on Islamists in the early 1990s to silence opposition and preclude the rise of an Islamic-style government, thereby weakening the military’s largess.

Finally, mullahs or religious leaders of mosques interviewed across the country, from Karachi to Quetta, echo an outlandish perception that the world’s high-profile and most dangerous terrorist leader, Usama bin Laden, is “hiding in the White House.” Putting conspiracy theories aside, this view reflects the growing perception that, according to one imam in Karachi, “the West is not serious about catching Usama.”[20]

Several Americans question Pakistan’s denial that Usama is not in the country. An intelligence officer, who wished to be unnamed for security reasons, indicated that “some in Pakistan knew of his whereabouts.” Whether Islamabad can capture America’s most wanted fugitive may be a non-issue, particularly since securing stability and peace in Afghanistan and Iraq are the U.S. military’s top priorities.

Correcting these radical and often shaky perceptions requires a concerted effort to reeducate, reengage, and redefine the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Failing to do so has dire consequences. One, the militant Islamist surge that has upset the country’s freedom of thought, by controlling certain mediums of behavior—such as banning the Ajoka Theater’s satire, “Burqa-vaganza”[21]—could also undermine a government keen on courting its Western and regional allies to achieve global recognition as an emerging power in South Asia. Secondly, misperceptions sustained by negative imagery, press reporting, and attitudes towards the West will affect Islamabad’s willingness or capability to advance political reform and resolve outstanding conflicts in the region, including Kashmir and stability along the porous Afghan-Pakistan border. Third, the legacy of historical betrayal and anti-Americanism can only multiply in the absence of a strategic dialogue and exchanges between U.S. and Pakistan publics.

The Dangers Ahead

In February 2007, Musharraf openly declared that terrorism and sectarianism stymie development in the country. Over time, since at least the Afghan jihad, the deeply entrenched militant network has spawned the development of multiple enemies of the West. Several challenges to Pakistan’s internal and external security will force Islamabad to continually rethink its policies and posture in the region. With new and old threats able to undermine the government, Pakistan will need to consider alternative reforms to curtail the danger of empowering militant Islamists and their supporters from exerting their influence in the country.

Internal Threats

Identifying the myriad of threats inside Pakistan has never been simple, especially with the rise of new jihadi groups who are as determined and motivated to fight its perceived enemies as were the former mujahideen. Since the end of the Afghan jihad, the greatest challenge to Pakistan is arguably the rise of militant Islam, both as an ideology and political force. The exact number of organized and ad hoc groups in Pakistan that fall under the umbrella of radical “political Islam” is unknown. Among its supporters are ultra-conservative and separately, militant women. They are represented by right-wing women’s groups, either as members of extremist organizations[22] or leaders of a new educational class that has emerged in the last five years. This could include the Al-Huda Organization, a conservative Islamic educational institute for girls, with establishments in Karachi, Islamabad, and some rural areas. While not supporters of terrorism, neo-conservative, right wing women’s groups arguably are more susceptible to extremist ideology than liberal, secular organizations. Different radical Islamists also hold a wide range of religious ideas that appear to contradict one another and highlight the sources of friction among them.[23] For example, the Barelvi’s respect for a spiritual guide, or pir, is rejected by the Deobandi tradition of subscribing to only the Qur’an and the Prophet’s traditions, or hadith.[24]

The combined threat to Pakistan by al-Qaeda remnants, sectarian groups, and religious extremists pose significant challenges and risks. The publication of a myriad of violent jihadi and right-wing news and magazines and their circulation to hundreds, if not thousands, of supporters and sympathizers in the northern areas and urban centers such as Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad confirm the importance of extremists’ rhetoric, allure, and ongoing activism.[25] That the Pakistani Government is unaware or unable to shut down the groups that enjoy privileged access to the print media is an unanswered question. It remains unclear if, and the extent to which, an alliance between some of these groups and the Pakistani military exists. Of the groups the government is pitted against, it would be a tall order to expect that Islamabad could eradicate all sectarian and militant groups without assistance from regional allies and outside support. Thus, mounting domestic pressure by political Islamists, including the neo-conservative oppositionists, could impede Pakistan from strengthening its ties to the U.S.[26] The strength of the militants lies in their ability to propagate their message, maintain a steady level of recruitment, and position themselves as anti-state so long as Pakistan is perceived as backing the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

Placing the varied groups into various categories with labels does little to help understand the linkages between them, and their shared goals. However, a broad classification can be used to understand the aims of the various groups by placing them into five broad networks. Based on publicly available literature and author’s field work since 2005, five broad groupings emerge:

  • Groups divided along sectarian lines. Many of these groups are influenced and organized by religious affiliation, to include the anti-Shia, Sipah e-Sahaba, and its Shia equivalent, Tehreek-e-Jaferia Pakistan—both operate openly despite a brief period of hibernation.[27] Other groups have an ethno-nationalist orientation, such as the insurgency in Baluchistan, supported by Iran and with active support from Pashto-based tribes. While sectarian affiliation plays a major role, some groups share an ethnic bond. For example, The Muhajir Quami Movement (MQM), founded by its leader Altaf Hussain represents the muhajir (or migranst from India to Pakistan) and is based in Karachi. Hussain, an icon of the movement, represents the city’s “martyrs and prisoners” and is today a viable opposition party.[28] Many sectarian groups are often supported by external actors, such as neighboring countries in South Asia, and Arab states, thereby enabling them to influence these groups with their Wahhabi and Deobandi traditions.[29]
  • Groups supporting the Kashmiri jihad. Under this umbrella are a wide range of extremists, such as the Jaish-e-Muhammad, Harakat-ul-Ansar, Harakat ul-Mujahideen, Hizbul Mujahideen, and other Deobandi organizations. Though the primary goal is to liberate Kashmir from Indian control, some of these groups share a sectarian affiliation with other groups. Having fought the Soviet Union during the Afghan jihad, these groups are well-equipped, well-trained, and resource rich, relying on support from Pakistan’s intelligence agencies to wage a war of attrition against the Indian army.[30]
  • The Taliban and its affiliates. Members of these groups are Pashtun nationalists and operate in the open frontier province of Pakistan such as the FATA and NWFP, along the Afghan-Pakistan border, and inside Afghanistan. Their aim is to overthrow the ruling elites of Kabul for an Islamic-style government that would be led by the Taliban. Influenced by “Paktunwali,” the traditional Pushtun code of honor, and a “village Islam,”[31] the Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Omar would likely resume power. Groups based in Peshawar, Pakistan include a mix of conservative and moderate groups: Jamiat-e-Islami, Hizb-e-Islami (Hikmatyar Group), Hizb-e-Islami (Khalis Group), Itehad-e-Islami, Harakat-e-Inqilab-e-Islami, Mahaz-e-Milli, and Jubba-e-Milli.[32]
  • Religious political parties with a hard-line and ultra-conservative posture. Of particular importance is the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of six fundamentalist parties led by Qazi Hussein’s Jamiat Islami[33] and Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islami. The party is anti-Musharraf, rejects secularism, and strongly advocates an Islamic government as defined by the party’s leadership. While advocating change by using the political process, they have and are sometimes linked with jihadi / extremist groups. Their narrow, literalist view of Islam could silence the voice of secularists and liberal Islamists.
  • New jihadi groups. Over the last six years, the crackdown on sectarian groups and well-known jihadi groups involved in terrorist activities has likely forced the creation of a new generation of jihadis with a virulent anti-Western outlook. A researcher in Karachi told the author that the young male students, who may be affiliated with the Jamiat ud-Dawa, are ready to kill the U.S. President. So strong is their hatred that these men are ready to wage jihad, he indicated.[34] An updated book by Indian scholar Amir Rana also highlights the emergence of new groups, such as the Lashkar-e-Umar, who view the overthrow of Musharraf “a religious duty.”[35] Other groups include Al-Mansuria and al-Intiqam. Of growing concern are the exploitation of radical women, as is evident in this year’s recent Jamia Hafsa case—where women of the seminary were used by the maulvis to protect their interests and threaten the government of suicide attacks.[36]

Evidence of the various groups’ overlapping membership, shared goals, and close affiliation with the Taliban and al-Qaeda is an open secret, dating back to the Afghan jihad—a period when Pakistan’s active support of the mujahidin contributed to the “jihadi culture” that exists today. For decades, the Pakistani government courted and managed Islamist groups to advance its political and foreign policy goals. The United States also courted the jihadis for their national security interests; both Pakistan (under the Zia ul-Haq legacy) and the U.S. exploited the mujahideen during the Cold War era without much consideration to the impact of the Afghan jihad on either country. Today, the Afghan jihad continues to define the starting point from which Pakistanis view the fall-out of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and the “legacy of bitterness” that has followed.[37]

Therefore, the legacy left by Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq[38] during the late 1970s and through the early 1990s further solidified the government’s ties to extremist groups. A senior Pakistani editor defines the 1980s as a period when Pakistan’s intelligentsia “exploited the fanaticism of the jihadi warriors to fight Pakistan’s proxy wars for it in Afghanistan, and later in Kashmir. In pursuing this strategy, the military acted as a midwife, giving birth to a murderous jihadi culture which went on to consume it.”[39]

Pakistan was not alone. The United States, and other Gulf countries, similarly benefited from the Soviet withdrawal of Afghanistan and contributed to the “Kalashnivkov” culture that emerged in Pakistan.[40] The large influx of Afghan refugees, who brought with them their weapons, drugs, and militants to Pakistan, contributed to the “rise [of] Pakistani militancy and terrorism.”[41]

Therefore, religious conflict remains a key source of tension in Pakistan. In recent years, Pakistan’s religious parties have been revived and organized along sectarian affiliation. While the Jama’at-i-Islami, Pakistan’s largest Islamist party, eschews sectarian violence, the party’s call for an Islamic state is its ultimate objective. Other Islamist parties are organized along various schools of thought, representing key Barelvi or Deobandi political aspirations, which are reflected in at least 25 percent of Pakistan’s religious seminaries, or madaris.[42] According to a Pakistani Islamic scholar, the religious class in Pakistan yields enormous power. He indicated their financial contributions from the population, including Pakistani government officials, support a booming madrasa system which is the fabric of Pakistani society. “Even the Pakistani army supports the ulema (religious scholars)[43] in the madaris,” thereby affirming the importance of da’wa (i.e., the propagation of Islam) across the country.

Finally, both U.S. and Pakistani authorities express concern that the al-Qaeda leadership continues to exploit and depend on its networked relationship with Pakistani militant groups to survive as an organization and spawn a new generation of violent jihadis that threaten the region’s precarious stability.[44] Al-Qaeda also has exploited the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and Iraq to motivate Pakistani youth to wage jihad against the West and perceived secular regimes, such as Pakistan. Widening support for the message of Bin Laden—the “James Bond that never dies”[45]—exists within the country’s select mosques and religious schools. Author’s interviews of Deobandi and Barelvi imams in Karachi, for example, suggest that so long as Bin Laden is alive, Pakistani youth will be inspired and radicalized by the movement he has spawned.

Emerging Domestic Challenges

Since the start of 2007, two events in Pakistan, the removal of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, Iftikar Mohammad Chaudhry and the Jamia Hafsa case, have caused alarm in the international community, causing concern that Islamabad is vulnerable, weak, or unsure of its political position. The latter involves protests by women clad in black burqas of the Jamia Hafsa seminary in front of the Laal Masjid[46] in the capital city of Islamabad—an unprecedented move in Pakistan’s history.[47] The women’s illegal acts include seizing a children’s library, kidnapping a brother owner and demanding she renounce her sect, and forcing the closure of video shops for selling movies deemed inappropriate to a Muslim audience.[48] Threats to the state have captured international headlines: “We are ready to give our lives for our religion. If any commando action is taken, it will be retaliated. We are ready for Fedai (suicidal) attacks.”[49] Included in their demands is the release of terrorists and shout slogans praising Usama bin Laden and Mullah Omar.[50]

That the women of the Jamia Hafsa madrasa have violated the law by illegally encroaching on public land and threatening the Government of Pakistan of suicide attacks should the state refuse to comply with the Shariah or Islamic law has stunned most Pakistanis. Daily editorials from mainstream Pakistani newspapers reflect the public’s distaste with the government’s inaction. In an op-ed in early April in the Daily Times, the writer indicates, “no other country in the world [except Pakistan] lets its citizens take the law into their own hands and becomes [the] accusers, judgers and dispensers of justice.”[51] A senior Pakistani journalist indicated to the author, “The Ghazi brothers who lead the Hafsa show are very old and known assets of some of the Salafi fanatics in our [Pakistan] intelligence agencies. They were often found harboring al-Qaeda at their mosque and seminary” and are actively engaged with Taliban leaders.[52] Another journalist points to the male custodians of Laal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa seminary as having broadcast the message that “Pakistan’s mosques and seminaries raise terrorists and not scholars.”[53]

Related to the Jamia Hafsa case is madrasa reform. The military’s push to reform the former Pakistan’s Madrasa Ordinance Act has come under great scrutiny by Western and Pakistani observers. According to a former Pakistani civil servant—who conducted a thorough study of madaris in one Punjab locale years ago—the registration of madaris is “a failed project.”[54] While seminaries that registered under the new law received a slush fund to teach ‘mainstream’ education, it was unclear whether the government followed through with this proposal.  The Pakistani source added that Pakistan appears not to be committed to madrasa reform, given the widely held perception that, as long as religious schools do not threaten the government, they are permitted to operate. The trouble is, however, that many madaris’ administrators act above the law. While some encroach on public land and teach an austere form of Islam, they also provide a social welfare system that the government is unable to currently replace. Furthermore, Islamabad continues to stress to the international community that madaris are not linked to London’s 7/7 attacks. The Minister for Religious Affairs Ijazul Haq told BBC Radio in early May that “there is no such activity in any madrassa in the country. It might have taken place in Afghanistan,”[55] thus shifting blame onto its neighbor. Of particular note is the Minister’s confidence in the madrasa registration process, which he claimed had enabled 98 percent of all seminaries in the country to register with the government. A former Pakistani civil servant, however, refutes this claim. According to him, Pakistan had never taken seriously the issue of madrasa reform and therefore is a “failed project.”[56]

The second crisis the government now faces arose after the suspension of the Supreme Chief Justice in March 2007. Since the incident, the government has faced mounting opposition, including exiled leaders; a well-known Pakistani writer Ayaz Amir in late March called the episode Musharraf’s “biggest blunder whose fallouts will be far [more] dangerous than Kargil.”[57] An Urdu slogan inscribed on the Pindi chapter of the High Court Bar Association, tumhari aik naan, tumhein amar kar gai[58] accurately reflects the idea that the government will pay a high price for its actions against Chaudhry. Furthermore, the riots and protest in the country in support of the Chief Justice and respect for the judiciary as an independent body make it clear that the military will be held accountable for “manhandling” Chaudhry’s forced removal against the wishes of the legal community and the media.[59]

Coincidentally, the two incidents occurred this spring. The timing of the two events within weeks of one another not only weakens the government’s position but will force Islamabad to quickly resolve the crises. A popular opinion voiced in the Pakistani press is the government’s intention to allow “anarchy” created by the radicals of the Jamia Hafsa case to “divert attention [away] from the judicial crisis.”[60] These events could cast a shadow of doubt on the government’s intention to uphold free and fair elections later this year. The events could further prompt the international community to question Musharraf’s ability to move Pakistan towards an open political system that stymies corruption, mismanagement of resources, and nurtures a liberal religious movement capable of diluting the loud voices of right-wing maulvis, jihadi politicos, and their supporters.  How Islamabad resolves this incident will be a test of Musharraf’s policy of “enlightened moderation.” What matters now is how the government will resolve the two crises while holding onto power.

External Threats

Of the many challenges ahead, a resurgent Taliban using Pakistan to maneuver, regroup, and rearm destabilizes not only Pakistan’s internal security but damages Afghan-Pakistan relations. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid’s recent statement, “Taliban bases and sanctuaries in Pakistan are at the heart of the problem,” point specifically to Quetta as the Taliban base and safe haven.[61] The exploitation of the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which Ahmed considers the “world’s [new] ‘terrorism central’,[62] inhabited by Pashtun tribes, has refocused attention in Washington and Islamabad.[63] The penetration of the tribal belt by al-Qaeda—once an ally of Pakistan’s intelligentsia[64]—and the Taliban is publicly acknowledged by the Pakistani military. According to Pakistan’s military spokesman, Major General Shaukat Sulat, “We don’t deny the Taliban come and go, but that is not the entire truth.”[65] Whatever the truth may be, greater U.S. engagement in Afghanistan creates risks for Pakistan. After the U.S. assumed control of NATO forces in Afghanistan, the Taliban said 2007 will be “the bloodiest year for foreign troops” and have indicated a ready supply of at least 2,000 suicide bombers for their spring offensive against the United States.[66] Concerns of the “Talibanisation of Pakistan”[67] presents enormous challenges ahead for the multiple countries engaged in Kabul, whose future is linked closely to Islamabad’s actions.

The Taliban’s rise also bedevils Pakistan’s relationship with Iran, who “gained from the collapse of the Taliban” before 9/11.[68] A reemerging Taliban once again puts the Iran and Pakistan relationship at risk. Islamabad’s fear of an of Iranian inspired Shia subversion inside Pakistan,[69] rooted in the 1979 Shia revival, may be unfounded as regional stability serves Iran’s interests. However, Iran is keen not to provoke the rise of a militant Sunni regime in Afghanistan and is particularly “on guard that Saudi-sponsored Wahhabism does not become ascendant.”[70]

While a crackdown against the Taliban suits Pakistan’s immediate interests, it is not clear how Pakistan will be able to sever its ties completely with Kashmiri separatists. On its eastern border, India is perhaps the most significant threat. A U.S. researcher noted Indian intelligence services’ clandestine operations against Pakistan in Afghanistan.[71] Despite a composite dialogue with India, the core issue between Islamabad and New Delhi remains the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.[72] As a senior Pakistani scholar notes, the conflict in Kashmir is “unfinished agenda of the Partition of the [Indian] sub-continent and as an issue of granting the right of self-determination to the Kashmiris.”[73]

Pakistan’s original plan to drive India out of Jammu and Kashmir by then ISI Director-General Hamid Gul has since evolved, although observers suggest that Islamabad will continue to support Kashmiri separatists so long as India remains the dominant power in the region.[74] Several studies examining the ISI’s heavy-handed role in Kashmir and Pakistan’s Kashmir policy are of considerable importance, but few have addressed alternative solutions to a systemic problem between India and Pakistan.[75] Most South Asian experts would agree that Islamabad’s support for the Islamic militancy “remains [the country’s] most successful strategic weapon against Indian regional hegemony, including its penetration into Afghanistan.”[76] Hence, an unresolved Kashmir conflict could complicate Pakistan’s efforts to curtail terrorism and sectarianism for years to come.[77] Of course, the Kashmir crisis may not be the only dispute that prohibits Pakistan and India from long term cooperation. An American expert on Pakistan makes it clear that “even if Kashmir is ‘resolved,’ in the long term India will continue to develop economically and militarily in ways that Pakistan cannot owing to the vast differences in resources and national potential of the two states.”[78] Still, a resolution on Kashmir could open the doors of opportunity for both countries. How and when resolution to the crisis takes place is a question no one can yet answer.

Looking Ahead

With Pakistan’s history of surprise politics, it is uncertain whether national elections will take place this year, as promised by Musharraf. Rule by a military junta is undesirable for the West, and outgoing U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker has emphasized on numerous occasions to Pakistani audiences the need to hold free and fair elections in order for democracy to take root. At the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar in March, the Ambassador emphasized the theme for this year’s discussion group, known as “Democracy Dialogues,” to promote a prime U.S. foreign policy initiative—the spread of democracy.[79]

How likely democracy will take hold in Pakistan, given its immediate and long-term threats, is an open question. Arguments that Pakistan could have taken a different course, by inviting back two key opposition leaders—Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif—are met with resistance. But so long as Pakistan continues to keep former leaders out of the country, the more the current elite will be judged by its apparent unwillingness to tolerate dissident voices. In the near term, commitments in Pakistan mean improving its counter-terrorism cooperation with U.S. intelligence agencies and other Western authorities.

Attuned to American interests in the region, Pakistan has demonstrated an effort to engage the Afghan leader. Early this month, the two leaders met in Ankara, Turkey to renew their determination to fight terrorism. According to a U.S. official, the meetings between Musharraf and Karzai reflected a willingness to work together on “counterterrorism issues [for] both countries’ security interests as well as the stability of the region.”[80] But an Afghan economic officer in the U.S. Embassy in Kabul doubts that cooperation will last. In a discussion with the author, he noted the growing mistrust between the two countries.[81] Other observers in Pakistan have indicated a worsening of Afghan-Pakistan relations, and one individual noted that “Afghanistan is now an alient country to Pakistan”—a shocking observation given the two countries familial, tribal, ethnic, and religious ties. As a senior Pakistani diplomat accurately stated, “we are children of the same parents.” Recent reports of tit-for-tat violence and Pakistan’s alleged support for the Taliban reinvigorate the mutual distrust and interference that has now defined Pakistan’s relations with its neighbor. With no guarantee that the Ankara meeting would affirm progress between Musharraf and Karzai in eliminate seemingly unassailable jihadi networks, like the Taliban and the warlords that offer support, the international community can expect growing ferocity and disenchantment between Afghans and Pakistanis.

The ultimate question remains: what is the political future of Pakistan? While no one can predict Islamabad’s political outcome, a few core assumptions are likely to hold true in the near-term. First, Any future political system will need to confront the dynamic communities in Pakistan as they relate to one another and the state. The ground realities of sectarian strife, varied ideological groups, and conflicting interpretations of political Islam set in motion an ongoing process of conflict and cooperation that could either be integrated into the mainstream political system or cause a political explosion. The likely competition for scarce resources, the distribution of skills, knowledge, and religious dominance means varying political Islamists, as well as religious extremists, might struggle vociferously for public support and political power.

Secondly, influential militant Islamists, some linked to terror networks, will maintain a grip on the population for legitimacy, credibility, and independence from the state structure. Varied militant groups, both sectarian and extremists, have for years operated within a political space afforded them by the state which has permitted them to firmly establish themselves as free agents, even though previously they were instruments of coercion and of convenience. Not feeling bound to Pakistan’s state policies, these groups will likely undertake action within their own rules, norms, and principles to harness their strengths and goals. The JUI-F militants’ failure to abide by the recently signed treaty with the government is an example of the militants’ strength to act with impunity and disregard the center of power in Islamabad.[82]

Third, Pakistan will unlikely be able to monitor all trans-boundary activities, creating the need for greater reliance on collective security and collective burden-sharing with the people. Using a central, activist, and effective participatory approach that require the cooperation of the Pakistani public in centers of terrorist activity, such as select neighborhoods in the cities or known areas in key provinces, can help ensure a national effort to address particular issues or specific regional concerns. In exchange for public support, the state should consider making available state-funded and organized social and welfare programs to scores of Pakistanis, who currently receive such aid from militant and sectarian groups. (i.e., JuD uses its provision of social services to win the public’s support and fulfill a religious duty.)[83]

Conclusions / Policy Recommendations

Bearing in mind Pakistan’s regional realities and imperfect partners, U.S. choices in Pakistan will be viewed in the context of America’s broader foreign policy portfolio in South Asia. Washington will need to reconsider how to best develop policies towards Pakistan within the backdrop of current threats and regional instability. Providing Pakistan with the necessary resources—political, economic, and military—to undertake the momentous task of rooting out terror groups and their sympathizers should be contingent on Islamabad’s performance within a realistic timetable.

Likewise, Pakistan’s desire to cement closer ties with Washington should be aligned with the peaceful settlement of outstanding disputes with its Re-balancing U.S. policy towards Pakistan to reduce the long-term spillover of extremism and radical Islam into the region should take into account two key points: first, an increased U.S. diplomatic presence in Pakistan can be stabilizing. This would convince Pakistan—and regional allies, such as Afghanistan—that America is genuinely interested in promoting stability among uncertain neighbors and will act as a mediator to reduce the seeds of conflict among the New Delhi-Islamabad-Kabul axis. Second, increased U.S. engagement with Pakistan and its allies opens several routes for a vigorous dialogue within Pakistan, particularly among the conglomerate of Islamists, on key issues, such as Kashmir and the question of the army’s support for the cross-border insurgency.

Reform in Pakistan need not be restricted to the political realm. Washington can further aid Islamabad in investing in its public and religious education sector, thus helping to improve the country’s high illiteracy rate.  U.S. financial assistance to Pakistan must be delivered to educators, community activists, and local NGOs, such as al-Mustapha—a charitable organization offering health services managed by a former Pakistani politician. Aid should also be funneled to democratic / liberal women’s groups, rural development projects, shelters for the underprivileged, and select religious leaders. While Western aid can be contentious, as it creates suspicion that U.S. aid comes from its intelligence service, there are creative ways to ensure that U.S. aid to the Pakistani government reach grass-roots organizations and needy communities.

Specific recommendations for the United States and Pakistan to help elevate Pakistan’s posture in the global market and guarantee long-term stability in the country can include the following: improve Pakistan’s administration of public schools, offer teacher training programs, increase the standards of primary school education, broaden the scope of education in madaris, and encourage the expansion of private educational institutions. While the benefits reaped from these initiatives will be realized in the long-term, the country’s transient political actors should consider investing heavily in education today to guarantee the country’s survival in the future. This will require refocusing the country’s resources, time, and energy into the educational sector, both secular (public) and religious institutions. Without making some changes, Pakistan will not be able to tap into and nurture the country’s expertise, such as the youth’s technical aptitude.

Second, Pakistan needs to reform its judicial system to win the public’s confidence in law and order maintained by the police, local law enforcement agencies, and the intelligentsia. Replacing the system of patronage within the services and other governmental agencies is a prerequisite to having an accountable and legitimately sound institution of justice. The government should consider allowing highly qualified civilians to hold senior positions, based on their knowledge, skills, and abilities to encourage the public to take part in the country’s political future. Pakistan also needs to prosecute individuals for corruption, including elite family businesses and military personnel. Needless to say, for institutions to be functional, the country’s feudal lords must be replaced by local governments who can represent the needs of the people rather than manipulate them.

Third, Pakistan’s willingness to settle old scores with its neighbors in a realistic political timetable helps to set expectations and push the government to address more consistently the ‘high’ politics of peace and security with neighboring countries. Pakistan must create incentives to resolve peacefully the Kashmir crisis, the festering conflict in Baluchistan, tensions with the radical religious groups such as the Taliban and other militias in the NWFP and FATA, as well as find creative solutions to the Islamabad-New Delhi-Kabul axis of power. Pakistan should increase its diplomatic influence as an alternative to military might to reduce signs of an aggressive posture towards its neighbors. Addressing concerns that affect all neighboring countries, such as the threat of terrorism, can help to improve Islamabad’s bilateral relationships with other South Asian states and diminish longstanding international rivalries.

Additionally, a key to stability in Pakistan is to increase its bargaining power against violent political Islamists, to avoid intense competition between them and the state, and to undermine their overall influence in Pakistan’s civil society. While Washington can push Islamabad to disarm various militant groups operating in remote areas and along the border, only Pakistan can determine the right strategies for weakening the extremists’ resolve. As it remains a sensitive subject, Pakistan’s open attacks against violent political Islamists could create a backlash and facilitate further violence against the state. A more feasible strategy would be to accept all forms of expression and dissent within Pakistani society to avoid the appearance of autocratic rule. Dissent in Pakistan, however, has to be managed in such a way that it does not threaten the stability of the state nor force the state to take repressive action against opposing “parties.”

Any successful engagement policy must take into account improved relations between the states and its citizens. As Ambassador Crocker indicated, there is a need to “broaden people-to-people understanding. There is a need to understand perceptions, realities, and complexities.” Improving understanding can only be possible through exchanges, visits, and scholarships for the younger generation. As the students of Islamabad’s Quaid-i-Azam University made clear to the author during a visit in February 2007, the failure to recognize and meet Americans as a people will increase deeply-held views of the “Other” as a monolith who do not question its government’s foreign policy agenda. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as Americans, like Pakistanis, are a diverse mix of peoples, cultures, faiths, and identities.

Through long-term engagement with Pakistan, negative perceptions on both sides can be replaced with positive experiences and interactions. Long-term U.S.-Pakistan engagement will also reassure Islamabad that the risks it has taken for siding with America will outweigh the negative consequences of having to fight extremists at home while keeping violent political Islamists at a distance. So long as the United States keeps Pakistan engaged, Islamabad can be an enduring partner in the war on terror and beyond.

[1] Farhana Ali is a scholar and author of several internationally published research papers.

[1] Data collected from multiple sources.

[2] Remark by Pakistani Senator before a U.S. and Pakistani audience in February 2007.

[3] Some of these publications include Tayyabat, Akhbar-e-Jahan, Al-Qalam, Ummat, Jasarat, Kahmir ul-Yaum, Al-Haq, Ghazi, Sangat, Nida-e-Millat, Zarb-e-Taiba, Nannay Mujahid, Ghazwa Times, Naqqara, Takbeer, Wadi, Talo-e-Islam, Nawai Waqt with circulations that range from 2,000-200,000.

[4] This statement is based on author’s professional experience in the U.S. Government, as well as discussions from 2005-early 2007 held with Pakistani Government officials in both Pakistan and the United States. Pakistani officials include former and current intelligence and military officers. Also see work by Christine Fair, The Counterterror Coalitions: Cooperation with Pakistan and India for additional data.

[5] Statement made at an international seminar organized jointly by the Institute of Regional Studies in Islamabad and the Hanss Seidel Foundation in August 2005. Also see Global Terrorism: Genesis, Implications, Remedial and Countermeasures, op. cit., p. VII.

[6] Musharraf made this statement on February 3, 2007 in reference to constructing the Kalabagh Dam by 2005. Within this context, he indicated that the eradicating terrorism and extremism were prerequisites to development of the country. Thus far, the dam’s progress has been stalled by national separatists in Baluchistan. During author’s visit to Quetta in late December 2005,the issue of the Kalabagh Dam was contentious. Local militant groups called a strike in the city to thwart the government’s efforts to move forward with building the dam. Such strikes are called in advance and printed in the paper to warn the population to remain indoors. Most of all, the strikes offer the local militants some form of bargaining or political power/influence against the government. To this day, Baluchi nationalists remain a thorn in Pakistan’s ability to exert full control over Baluchistan.

[7] Nasir Jamal and Ahmed Hassan, “Taliban: An Afghan issue,” Dawn, November 20, 2006.

[8] Discussion with the author in April 2007.

[9] Remark made by a Pakistani Senator.

[10] The News, April 17, 2007

[11] The Pakistani General presented his paper regarding global threats to stability at the National Defense University in Islamabad, February 21, 2007.

[12] Interview conducted in March 2007.

[13] Murshed’s book, Afghanistan

[14] Statement made by retired Pakistani General at a conference held at the National Defense University (NDU) in Islamabad in February 2007. He also noted the existence of weak governance and the growth of radical Islam as a potential future challenge to the existing regime. Finally, the General indicated that there exists “no clash of cultures” between the West and Islam; rather, “U.S. policies feed anti-Americanism [and] are seen as a destructive track policy.” A retired U.S. Army officer also shared this view; at the conference, he publicly noted “America and Pakistan are growing apart, [and partly because] U.S. channels are anti-Pakistan.”

[15] Statement made by a high-ranking Pakistani military officer, now retired.

[16] Statement made to the author by a senior RAND policy analyst, May 3, 2007.

[17] The power of the JuD should not be underestimated. Author’s discussions with Pakistani independent journalists, former military and intelligence officers, all agree that after the Pakistani army, JuD is the most organized group in the country. The key difference, noted one Pakistani journalist, is that JuD does not rely on Western support to sustain its popular base.

[18] Groups such as the JuD and the Al Rashid Trust immediately responded to Pakistan’s earthquake crisis in October 2006. Regarded in part as humanitarian organizations, the government is hard pressed to take action that would tarnish the image of these groups’ for fear of backlash and reprisal.

[19] Rubin and Siddique, “Resolving the Pakistan-Afghanistan Stalemate,” USIP, October 2006, p. 14.

[20] Discussions with both Barelvi and Deobandi imams believe Usama’s capture has been diverted by the war in Iraq and Afghanistan; a few told the author that his capture “does not suit America’s interests at this time.” November-December 2005.

[21] The play opened in May 2007 but pressure from religious right-wing parties prevented the Ajoka Theater in Lahore from showing the satire.

[22] Several militant groups have a women’s league, such as the JuD while other political Islamists also have a separate party for women, such as the JI.

[23] The term “Islamist” is used widely in the West and the Muslim world. A broad definition of the term is anyone from the Muslim faith who participates actively in the social, economic, or political realm. Hence, an Islamist is a neutral term and is not associated with violence. Attaching the term “political” to Islamist implies that a Muslim either holds political power, is vying for political influence (i.e., the leader of a party not yet elected into power, such as the Muslim Brotherhood), and/or someone who believes in the active role of Muslims in a given polity or governance system, which could include the Caliphate. One need not be an extremist to believe in the return of the Caliphate, but the likelihood of an Islamic renaissance today is an open-ended question. Pakistani scholars of Islam, to include the late Maulana Mawdudi and Dr. Israr Ahmed, wrote extensively about the need for an Islamic renaissance, or nahda, rooted also in Arabic literature, in order for Muslims to coexist peacefully and under the rule of God’s law, or hakimiyya.

[24] There is a wide range of Islamic views and practice in Pakistan; it is a unique country where Muslims are free to express religious opinion, particularly since Musharraf has opened the space for religion. The state’s open/secular policies permit the population to express liberal, non-Islamic beliefs, for which the radical or neo-conservatives have strongly condemned publicly and privately.

[25] Some of these publications include Tayyabat, Akhbar-e-Jahan, Al-Qalam, Ummat, Jasarat, Kahmir ul-Yaum, Al-Haq, Ghazi, Sangat, Nida-e-Millat, Zarb-e-Taiba, Nannay Mujahid, Ghazwa Times, Naqqara, Takbeer, Wadi, Talo-e-Islam, Nawai Waqt with circulations that range from 2,000-200,000.

[26] South Asian experts Barnett Rubin and Abubakar Siddique indicate that Pakistan’s position as a front-line ally on the GWOT “has led to tensions with the Islamist-military alliance.” Tensions arise over the arrest of al-Qaeda leaders and a crackdown against the Taliban and local militants.  “Resolving the Pakistan-Afghanistan Stalemate,” USIP, October 2006, p. 14.

[27] See Kanchan Lakshman, “Deep Roots to Pakistan’s sectarian terror,” Asia Times, July 9, 2003. For a more detailed analysis of Pakistani militant groups, see Amir Rana, Gateway to Terrorism, (India: Minerva Press, 2003) and A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan (India: Mashal Books, 2004), and Mariam Abu Zahab and Oliver Roy, Islamic Networks: The Pakistan-Afghan Connection, (UK: C Hurst and Co Publishers, 2004).

[28] For a detailed analysis of the MQM, see Oskar Verkaaik, Migrants and Militants, pp. 56-136 (New Delhi: Manas Publications) 2005

[29] See Muhammad Amir Rana, (translated by Saba Ansari) A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan (Lahore, Pakistan: Mahsal Publishers) 2006

[30] With improved relations between India and Pakistan, Musharraf has banned many of these groups and a few remain on Pakistan’s watch list by the ISI, such as the Jamaat ud-Dawa (formerly the Lashkar-e-Taiba).

[31] For in-depth background and first-hand account information, see the book by former Pakistani Ambassador, S. Iftikhar Murshed, Afghanistan: The Taliban Years, (London, England: Bennett & Bloom) 2006.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Political Islam has always been a reality and tour du force in Pakistan since its birth in 1947. The clearest manifestation of political Islam is within the creation of the Jama’at al-Islami, Pakistan’s first and largest political party founded by the late Maulana Mawdudi, whose work on Islamic resurgence and doctrine define the group’s activities and membership. This article is not intended to address the evolution of political Islam and its various manifestations throughout Pakistan’s history. The important point is that political Islam likely exhibits greater influence on the country’s overall Muslim population than the myriad of extremist groups combined.

[34] Discussion with a researcher in Karachi who is studying terrorist and extremist groups in Pakistan; December 2005

[35] Rana, p. 283

[36] This incident was reported widely in the Pakistani press. For background, see Dawn, March 31, 2007; Daily Times, February 2, 2007, March 26, 2007 and April 8, 2007; South Asian Analysis Group, March 30, 2007. The women have demanded the release of Khalid Khawaja, a former Pakistani intelligence officer with links to the Taliban and Usama bin Laden. He is currently in a Pakistani jail for instigating the women of the Jamia Hafsa seminary to speak against the state for demolishing mosques and madrasas built in Islamabad on government property.

[37] Comment made to the author by a retired Pakistani military officer, April 2007.

[38] See M.S. Korejo, Soldiers of Misfortune, Pakistan under Ayub, Yahya, Bhutto and Zia, (Lahore, Pakistan: Ferozsons, 2004), pp. 154-210.

[39] See Zahid Hussain, Frontline Pakistan.

[40] Many scholars have given this subject due attention; for background, see Stephen Cohen’s The Idea of Pakistan (Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press) 2004; Steve Coll, Ghost Wars ( (New York: Penguin Press) 2004; Musa Khan Jalalzai, The Foreign Policy of Pakistan, (Lahore, Pakistan: Ariana Publications), 2003; and

[41] For background of the Afghan jihad on the tribal areas, see Tribal Areas of Pakistan: Challenges and Responses, eds Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema and Maqsudul Hasan Nuri, (Islamabad, Pakistan: Islamabad Policy Research Institute) 2005; Ch. 4, pp. 129-150

[42] See Barbara Metcalf, “Traditionalist Islamic Activism: Deoband, Tablighis and Talibs,” and Mandavi Mehta and Ambassador Teresita C. Shaffer, “Islam in Pakistan: Unity and Contradictions.” For background on the madaris and their influence on Pakistani society, see Robert W. Hefner and Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Schooling Islam: Modern Muslim Education (Princeton: February 2007), and a forthcoming book by Muhammad Qasim Zaman, The Ulama in Contemporary Islam, (Princeton University Press, March 2007).

[43] A Pakistani female academic in Islamabad calls the religious local leaders (or maulvis) the “VIPs of the local masses.” Comment made to author during November 2005 visit.

[44] The links between Pakistani militants and al-Qaeda are mostly found in Urdu literature. See Amir Rana, Jihad-e-Kashmir Aur Afghanistan (The Jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan). The English publication, Pakistan Media Monitor, produced by independent researcher, Muhammad Shehzad, provides some information of the ties, but the extent of their relationships is not publicly available.

[45] Statement made by a Pakistani researcher in a private discussion with the author.

[46] Laal Masjid or Red Mosque is known for training and funding the holy warriors of the Afghan jihad. Firebrand pro-jihad clerics Maulana Abdul Aziz an Maulana Abdul Rasheed manage the Laal Mosque. South Asian Media Net, April 1, 2007 and Dawn, March 31, 2007.

[47] The News, April 13, 2007

[48] Dawn, March 31, 2007; Online International News Network, April 14, 2007; Daily Times, March 26, 2007

[49] Daily Times, February 2, 2007

[50] South Asian Analysis Group, March 30, 2007. The women have demanded the release of Khalid Khawaja, a former Pakistani intelligence officer with links to the Taliban and Usama bin Laden. He is currently in a Pakistani jail for instigating the women of the Jamia Hafsa seminary to speak against the state for demolishing mosques and madrasas built in Islamabad on government property.

[51] Daily Times, April 8, 2007

[52] Discussion with a former high-ranking Pakistani official and now senior editor of an Urdu newspaper; interview took place in Karachi, April 2007.

[53] Op-ed by Kunwar Idris, “Surrendering to the militants,” Dawn, April 15, 2007

[54] Official now resides in Islamabad and works on other issues. Discussion took place in April 2007.

[55] The Pakistan Newswire, May 3, 2007.

[56] Meeting occurred in Islamabad in April 2007.

[57] See Ayaz Amir’s op-ed in Daily Jasarat, March 16, 2007.

[58] Literally, this translates into “your one piece of bread will be remembered for all times.” Figuratively, this phrase suggests that the government’s suspension of the Chief Justice will be stamped in history; the slogan is likely meant to remind the army that it will not be forgiven for its harsh actions against the Chief Justice—an act for which there is internal opposition against Musharraf and external disfavor with the military ruler for disregarding the writ of the judicial institution.

[59] Editorial in the Urdu daily Islam, April 11, 2007

[60] The News, April 16, 2007

[61] See Ahmed Rashid, “Letter from Afghanistan: Are the Taliban Winning?” Current History, January 2007, pp. 17-20, and “A Taliban comeback,” Yale Global Online, May 23, 2006. [61] Noted in January 2007, Maj. General Shaukat said, “they [insurgents] do come for rest and recuperation.” Washington Post, January 1, 2007, A20.

[62] Ibid, “Letter from Afghanistan.”

[63] Author’s discussions with a senior U.S. Government official, who spent weeks along the Afghan-Pakistan border, noted that a solution to the problem requires more than military might. He strongly advocated the need to understand the cultural and human terrain; that is, to better understand the tribal belt, the U.S. Government would need to spend time with the Pashtun tribes to learn about their deeply rooted cultural history and beliefs as well as become familiar with the people currently supporting the insurgents.

[64] A discussion of al-Qaeda’s links with the ISI or conversely, the ISI’s support of al-Qaeda remains controversial. However, it is noted in several places, including Stephen Cohen’s The Idea of Pakistan, p.191.

[65] See Pamela Constable, “Pakistan Denies It Harbors Taliban,” Washington Post, January 21, 2007, A20. According to the Major, “75 percent of [the problem] lies on the Afghan side…of four known top Taliban commanders, three are Afghan and one is Pakistani.”

[66] Reuters, February 4, 2007. The Taliban’s seizure of several towns and villages in the past few years has dampened Western euphoria; some express disappointment with Kabul, the international community, and neighboring countries, to include Pakistan, in countering the rise of terrorism. See Alastair Leithead, “Afghan analysis as general bows out,” BBC News, Afghanistan, February 2, 2007.

[67] A common phrased used to indicate the Taliban’s influence in certain areas of Pakistan. The influx of Afghan refugees and the mujahidin, with military and weapons training from the Afghan jihad, into Pakistan has created what many Pakistani academics and policymakers call the rise of the “Kalashnikov culture.” Author’s interviews of Pakistani scholars at Islamabad-based think tanks and at Quaid-e Azam University in late 2005 indicate that Pakistan’s state policy to support the large numbers of Afghan refugees has had long-term negative consequences for the country.

[68] See Mahan Abedin, “Iran: Understanding the Relationship with Pakistan and al-Qaeda,” in Terrorism Monitor, Volume II, Issue 17, Jamestown Foundation , September 9, 2004.

[69] Ibid.

[70] See Marvin G. Weinbaum, “Afghanistan and its Neighbors,” United States Institute of Peace, Special Report 162, June 2006, pp.12-13.

[71] U.S.-based researcher has done extensive work on Afghanistan for years; his interviews, meetings, and discussions with Afghan and Indian officials and security forces lead him to conclude that Indian meddling in Afghan-Pakistan relations could stymie counterterrorism progress between the two countries.

[72] For background, see Ashraf, Fahmida, “Models of Conflict Resolution and the Kashmir Issue,” Pakistan Horizon, vol. 56, no. 2, April 2003, pp.119-133.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Private discussions between the author and senior Pakistani officials indicate that India’s continued control over Kashmir with an overwhelming military force—in comparison to other South Asian countries—will remain a thorn in Indo-Pakistan relations. Until Kashmir is resolved, cultural exchanges, for example, between the two countries might be ineffectual.

[75] The literature on this subject is expansive and well-documented. A few studies worth mentioning are: Sean Mitchell, “Pakistan’s ISI: The Invisible Government,” International Journal of Intelligence, Volume 16, no. 3; “Kashmir” articles in Pakistan Horizon, Volume 56, no. 2, April 2003;

[76] Rubin and Siddique, p.14.

[77] This article excludes an important discussion of Pakistan-Indian cooperation since 9/11 to reverse its aggressive posturing in Kashmir. Briefly, both countries have made considerable progress in improving bilateral ties; Musharraf’s historic visit to India for a cricket match is evidence of Pakistan’s efforts, as well as Musharraf’s recent talks with the Indian High Commissioner in January 2007 stressed the need to resolve the Kashmir issue if relations between the two counties are to normalize. (See The News, January 10, 2007). Pakistan and India first began talks on Kashmir at the Foreign Secretary level in 1990 and between 1990 and 1992, six rounds of talks were held, which resumed in 1994; both countries agreed to establish working groups. After a period of silence, the two countries resumed talks in late 1999, with slow progress since.  Also worth noting is that Kashmir is not a “national” problem; that is, Kashmir is and has been a concern for the Punjab-dominated military and province. Other provinces, such as Baluchistan and Sindh, for example, “do not have this siege mentality.” Remarks made to author by a Rear Admiral of the Pakistani Navy.

[78] Fair, The Counterterror Coalitions: Cooperation with Pakistan and India; also see

[79] U.S. Department of State webpage, Accessed on April 4, 2007.

[80] The Pakistan Newswire, May 3, 2007

[81] Discussions with an American Embassy Islamabad officer, May 2007.

[82] For background, see ICG Report from December 2006, “Pakistan’s Tribal Areas: Appeasing the Militants.” A summary of the report follows: The Musharraf regime concluded the treaties with ‘Pakistani Taliban’/militants in South Waziristan in April 2004, and North Waziristan in September 2006. For various reasons, the government and FATA-based militants agreed to sign the treaty. Militarily, the war in the FATA was worrisome for Musharraf. (a) It tied up 80,000 soldiers and levies at its peak, diverting Pakistan’s resources away from maintaining its military posture against India; (b) security forces losses had been mounting in the region, and civilian casualties had also been occurring regularly, leading to further alienation of the population; (c) the violence had shown signs of spreading out of the FATA to the PATA areas of NWFP, and increasing radicalization of settled areas of NWFP was of mounting concern. (d) It can also be said that strategically, the Pakistan state’s interests in limiting Pashtun violence in Afghanistan were conflicted. While responsibility towards the ISAF and international obligations indicated interdiction of the cross-border movement of Taliban (both Afghan and Pakistani) and Hekmatyar forces, strategic considerations of keeping a hostile regime in Kabul on the back foot indicated otherwise. (e) It may also be that Islamabad realized the paucity of tools at its disposal to limit the violence in the FATA, given its limitations in promoting the rule of law in these areas (which is a major focus of the ICG report). (f) The growing coordination and alliance of anti-government forces (Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, Tajik, Arab and Chechen al-Qaeda elements, Hekmatyar’s Hezb e-Islami, and the Sipaha-e-Sahaba/Jaish-e-Mohammad elements from Punjab/NWFP) in the FATA areas was also worrisome when the Islamabad regime was pushed by sectarian violence internally – the pressures to negotiate to ease the organizational motive of multiple Islamic groups was therefore ever-present. Even though the treaty language bound the parties to mutual non-aggression, it also included an agreement from the militants to stop cross-border attacks. Therefore, the treaties themselves were not a threat to ISAF/Kabul interests; it was the fact that the militants ignored the spirit of the agreement by continuing if not increasing cross-border movement. Therefore, the question one should ask is – what gave the militants this strength to act with impunity, despite the treaties? What is striking is the growing power of the JUI-F in being a broker between the government and Islamic militants, and the inability of the state to exercise full authority in this remote area. Based on the report’s final assessment, one could reach the conclusion that violence continues to ensue in the region, especially in other agencies such as Bajaur, and PATA parts of NWFP such as Tank and Dera Ismail Khan. The activities of militant leader Baitullah Mehsud (of the Mehsud tribe of S. Waziristan) are of concern, considering a Jan 15, 2007 strike against his forces by the military that killed more than a dozen people. His network is implicated by Islamabad in the latest violence in NWFP in 2007. Tribal tensions may be at play – though the Wazirs in North and South Waziristan may be holding to non-aggression against the security forces, the Mehsuds are not (given multiple suicide bombings in 2007). Two years after the accord, violence in South Waziristan has been high, no high-value al-Qaeda targets have been found, and movements across the border continue. Meanwhile, in the Waziristans, ‘Talibanization’ of local customs and control over the structure of society continues, with the Political Agent method of governance employed by Islamabad losing its traditional sway. Deobandi parties and factions are indoctrinating the local tribal areas into their philosophies and will be able to use the undereducated foot soldiers from FATA in their future challenge to the state.

[83] More information of the JuD’s welfare programs can be found on their webpage: