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Vying for Allah's Vote

Understanding Islamic Parties, Political Violence, and Extremism in Pakistan

Haroon K. Ullah

Publication Year: 2013

What is driving political extremism in Pakistan? In early 2011, the prominent Pakistani politician Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by a member of his own security team for insulting Islam by expressing views in support of the rights of women and religious minorities. Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, was killed by gunfire and explosive devices as she left a campaign event in December 2007; strong evidence links members of extremist organizations to her slaying.

These murders underscore the fact that religion, politics, and policy are inextricably linked in Pakistan. In this book, Haroon K. Ullah analyzes the origins, ideologies, bases of support, and electoral successes of the largest and most influential Islamic parties in Pakistan. Based on his extensive field work in Pakistan, he develops a new typology for understanding and comparing the discourses put forth by these parties in order to assess what drives them and what separates the moderate from the extreme. A better understanding of the range of parties is critical for knowing how the US and other Western nations can engage states where Islamic political parties hold both political and moral authority.

Pakistan's current democratic transition will hinge on how well Islamic parties contribute to civilian rule, shun violence, and mobilize support for political reform. Ullah's political-party typology may also shed light on the politics of other majority-Muslim democracies, such as Egypt and Tunisia, where Islamist political parties have recently won elections.

Published by: Georgetown University Press

Series: South Asia in World Affairs series

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

I am indebted to many individuals and institutions for their support of this project. The American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS) and the William J. Fulbright Fellowship Program both awarded grants that funded part of my extensive research and fieldwork. Special thanks to the AIPS committee: Mark Kenoyer...

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Chapter 1: Introduction

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pp. 1-6

In early 2011, the prominent Pakistani politician Salman Taseer was assassinated by a gunman who believed he had insulted Islam by expressing politically moderate views and defending the rights of women and religious minorities. At the time of his death Taseer was the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s...

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Chapter 2: Islam and Democracy in Pakistan

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pp. 7-30

There are few nations where the rise of extremist political groups is of greater international significance than Pakistan. Poised with a fully loaded nuclear arsenal at the crossroads of religious extremists, nationalist fervor, and the war on terrorism, Pakistan’s importance to global geopolitical stability and international...

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Chapter 3: Islamic Parties in Pakistan

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pp. 31-50

It may seem natural, even obvious, that an overwhelmingly Muslim country such as Pakistan should be home to confessional Muslim political parties. But the existence and persistence of Islamic political parties in Pakistan were not givens. Although the Islamic parties of what is now Pakistan predate the existence...

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Chapter 4: Muslim Democratic Parties: Origins and Characteristics

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pp. 51-74

Conventional wisdom holds that political parties in democracies will grow more moderate over time by participating in the electoral and governing processes. As noted previously, this assumption is largely based on observations of socialist parties in nineteenth-century Europe, but it does not apply to...

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Chapter 5: Islamist Parties: Origins and Characteristics

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pp. 75-105

As a definitional matter, all Islamist parties support state enforcement of religious law and practice.1 Beyond that fundamental point of agreement, however, there is significant ideological diversity among Pakistan’s Islamist parties, which vary in their interpretations of Islamic texts and views of how...

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Chapter 6: Islamic Voters in Pakistan: Motives and Behavior

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pp. 106-126

In chapters 4 and 5 I describe the historical catalysts, ideological underpinnings, organizational models, and historical growth of the three main Islamic parties in Pakistan, each of which represents one of the three key party types. Clearly ideology—whether it is religious, as in the case of Islamists, or economic...

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Chapter 7: Political Strategy: When Extremism Works

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pp. 127-153

Building on evidence presented in previous chapters about the ideological roots and political histories of Islamic parties in Pakistan, and the calculations and biases of Pakistani voters, this chapter discusses the complex political courtship between parties and voters. I focus particularly on the macro-level...

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Chapter 8: Lessons Learned: How Pakistan Informs the Arab Spring and Afghanistan

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pp. 154-173

While much of the discussion in the previous chapters is specific to the Pakistani context, the underlying research could have broader relevance in understanding political behavior in other Muslim-majority nations. Some of the core findings of this study are potentially transferrable to...

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Chapter 9: Foreign Policy Implications and New Trends

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pp. 174-188

Awareness of the broader context, history, and motivations underlying the behavior of Islamic confessional parties in Pakistan could vastly improve the ability of foreign policymakers to successfully navigate the ever-changing and often bewildering political terrain there. Oversimplified and uninformed...

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Appendix 1

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pp. 189-196

The sharia-secular model is an adaptation of a classic two-player signaling game. Parties 1 and 2 are both preparing for an upcoming election. The voters know that each party prefers either constituency A or constituency B, but they do not know where the parties’ real preferences lie. The probability...

Appendix 2

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pp. 197-212


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pp. 213-236

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 237-242


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pp. 243-251

E-ISBN-13: 9781626160163
E-ISBN-10: 1626160163

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 3 figures, 7 tables
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: South Asia in World Affairs series