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  • Soldiers and Islamists in Pakistan
  • Aqil Shah (bio)
Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military. By Hussain Haqqani . Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 2005. 397 pp.

Long after the third wave of democratization has washed over the rest of the world, Pakistan remains one of the last military-authoritarian holdouts. [End Page 169] In its 59 years as an independent state, the country has rarely had a democratically consolidated regime and its most recent "sort of" democratic transition after 1989 was ended by General Pervez Musharraf's 1999 coup. Despite this pattern-defying nature, Pakistan has been underanalyzed by scholars of democratization and is often misunderstood in academic and policy circles alike. Part of the reason for the neglect is that social-science orthodoxy discourages the study of single countries, and such research as exists focuses heavily on Latin America, Southern Europe, and the ex-communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, where multiple cases make generalizations easier to form.

This provocative new book by veteran Pakistani journalist Hussain Haqqani, examining as it does the "structural" relationship between mosque and military in Pakistan, should not be expected to fill that gap. It does not explicitly confirm, refine, or refute either actor-centric or structural theories of regime change, nor does it posit new hypotheses, so to a political scientist it might appear as "mere history."

Yet policy makers and scholars who want to understand political continuity and change in authoritarian contexts will ignore Haqqani's argument at their peril. First, his convincingly argued book directly challenges the widespread opinion in the United States that Pakistan's military is the best bulwark against that country's Islamic-extremist forces. Using not only historical but also fresh empirical evidence, Haqqani offers systematic insights into the often-puzzling links between a nationalist military and the religious right, insights that expose the supposed khaki bulwark against extremism as in fact the progenitor, fomenter, and beneficiary of radical Islamism. Second, and more critical for scholars, the implication of Haqqani's analysis is that democratic success in some cases requires, first of all, not economic development, political institutionalization, or social capital, but the absence of stable coalitions between an interventionist military and organized religion. Democratic advancement in such cases, to paraphrase Charles Tilly, will depend on the dissolution of coalitions between those who wield coercion and those who orchestrate commitment.

Since its founding in 1947, as Haqqani notes, the Pakistani state has played the "Hindu" or India card in order to unify a multiethnic polity around an Islamic national identity. This assimilative nationalism, one that often shades into a project for consolidating military author-itarianism, has typically meant the suppression of ethnic and regional demands for representation and autonomy. In the process, the military has "supported and sponsored" Islamist proxies, especially the revivalist Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), both to nullify domestic opposition and to balance regional threats emanating from India in the east and a traditionally irredentist Afghanistan in the west.

Haqqani traces the genesis of the symbiosis between the Islamists and their military patrons to the endgame of the nationalist struggle [End Page 170] against the British Raj in India. Drawing on the historian Ayesha Jalal, Haqqani argues that during the strategic bargaining for political autonomy with the British, the Muslim League's use of Islamic discourse to project itself as the sole representative of Indian Muslims communalized the Pakistan movement. In the postcolonial setting, the outbreak of the Kashmir dispute and the civil-military elite's use of Islam as a means to promote national integration, justified as it was on the basis of inflated threats from India, pushed the state toward militarization (p. 14, 26). The state's emphasis on Islam bolstered religious leaders, paving the way for an antidemocratic coalition between them and the military (p. 15).

Haqqani warns against seeing any particular civilian or military government as more or less Islamist, arguing that the Pakistani state's apparent ideological schizophrenia should be seen as reflecting a "consistent" policy based on religious nationalism and confrontation with India, with U.S. aid underwriting military modernization. This threefold, path-dependent trajectory may have begun as a "survival strategy" in the early 1950s, but over time (and...


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pp. 169-173
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