Islamic & Politics in Pakistan from 1956 Till Present

Posted: September 3rd, 2013

Islamic & Politics in Pakistan from 1956 Till Present







Islamic & Politics in Pakistan from 1956 Till Present


            In earlier ages, religion was fully involved ion political matters of a nation or empire such as during the pre-reformation period when the pope used to be involved directly in governance. However, this came to change after the church was separated from the political arena. Recently, this has started to fall back though in a different way. This can be considered reconstruction of the involvement of religious matters in the political arena (Wynbrandt, 2009). There are religious movements and organizations that are concerned with the social political issues of a country. Islamism in particular has been involved in politics within their dominant polities or states where Islam is the majority religion.

Pakistan being one of the Islamic states has a deep relationship between religion and political arena. Therefore, Islam plays a big role in influencing the governance of the nation, and more so considering it is regarded to have led the struggle for independence (Wynbrandt, 2009). After independence, Pakistan was a democratic country as intended by Quaid-e-Azam, who was the founding father of Pakistan. The country became Islamic officially after the constitution of the 1956 was enacted into power (Haqqani, 2005). The constitution was Islamic, meaning that many ideas such as rules and regulations had been borrowed from Islamic religion. This was in an effort to include the majority considering the Muslims made up 80% of the total population of Pakistan. It is for this reason that this study’s focus question is how Islam had facilitated or hindered its democracy in Pakistan since 1956 when the country became Islamic officially until to the present. In a larger extent, Islamism has hindered development of democracy in Pakistan. More so, Pakistan has been politically influenced by three forces that fight for power to control the government, which as Islamic forces, democratic forces and the military of Pakistan.

Definition of Terms

            Islamism is one of the common names used in Pakistan. It can be defined as a belief of then Islamic religion taking control of both political and social lives of the people. However, the meaning could be varied within different groups, but control of politics and social lives of people in an area is the most common meaning use of the word. In Pakistan, Islamists believe that Islamism has the power to control both political and social lives of the people. In this case, the Islamic laws are enshrined in the government political laws and policies, where people expected to follow the laws to the letter. The law happens to be strict and failure in following the law is met with serious force by the Islamists. The laws have their punishment stated out for those who fail to follow them as supposed to be according to the Sharia law, which is the Islamic law.

Sharia is yet another common term in the Pakistan, which means a code of morals of conduct in the Islam religion or an Islamic jurisprudence. The rules and regulations stipulated out in the Islam region are the ones referred to as Sharia law, which all the Muslims are supposed to abide to. Considering Pakistan is an Islamic state, this means that the country uses the Sharia law in its constitution. In this case, the government does make use of the Sharia law in many occasions such as making policies for governing the state. For instance, the Sharia law determines punishment to some offences, and gives guidelines of financial issues.

Democracy is yet another term that is found everywhere around the world. The generally known definition of democracy is the situation where people are allowed to have their views heard and practiced. In Pakistan, democracy is believed to be process where the power of the government leadership is vested on people. This means the people voting the leaders they want to be represented by in the government. Despite the fact that Pakistan is a democratic country, it has never attained full democracy. When the country was turned into an Islamic state, the state of democracy changed. The country was divided into three where a third believed in democracy, another third in Sharia law, while the rest believe in dictatorship. This has brought a contradiction since there cannot be one agreed system, and there are always differing issues politically since all groups wants to be represented.

Period of Comparison

            Islamism started earlier in Pakistan but was recognized nationally when the state become an Islamic country in 1956. This was after the first constitution of Pakistan was put in place, which was Islamic by Chaudhry Muhammad Ali who was the prime minister then. This ended the dominion status of Pakistan and it was declared an Islamic nation. The country had started as a democratic, but after sometime activities of the country changed and never got to become fully democratic. Since 1956, Islam has remained a dominant force in Pakistan founding as well as politics. However, Islam has involved itself in the politics in a different way. In the past, it employed militia in the state, but currently they have opened up for democracy in several regions, but other regions remain under tight Islamic law. Considering the study is comparing the role and influence of Islamic in Pakistan, the period of comparison is since 1956 when the Islamic religion became part of the constitution, making the nation an official Islamic country.


            In order to conduct an extensive comparison of the Islam religion relation to politics in politics during the period of comparison specified, 1956 to present, there is need to review secondary ad primary sources. In this case, many historical books with information about Islam in Pakistan will be used. These books will clearly indicate the condition under which Pakistan became an Islamic state, and what role the Islamic religion has played in the Pakistan politics. In addition, the books and articles will provide evidence of how involvement of Islam in politics has gone through changes from 1956 to present day.

Using secondary sources such as books and scholarly articles will help in analyzing the Islamic relationship to politics in Pakistan in the current time. Some of these sources will include historical scholarly articles and books written by both Pakistan and western scholars. Scholarly articles will provide analyzed data on the roles Muslims in present Pakistan as well as the past. This will make it easy to evaluate the changes that have taken place in the involvement of Muslims in the past to the present.

Partial Description of Sources

History of Pakistan

In the book ‘A Brief History in Pakistan’ Wynbrandt (2009) stats by showing the way Pakistan was during independence from the British. The book indicates the political background of Pakistan. In addition, the book shows that Islam led the struggle for independence leading to the country becoming Islamic upon the making of a new constitution. More so, 80% of population in Pakistan is Islamic, hence the Islamic country was meant to allow the Muslims to continue practicing their values in accordance with their religion. This is the fact that led to Pakistan becoming a country on its own from India since most of the people living in the area were Muslims and felt having a country of their own would better represent them. This was done through establishing a political party of their own and electing leaders to represent them in the government. The book has also addressed ways in which Islam was involved in politics such supporting Mujahideen groups in Afghanistan around 1980s to perform terrorist activities (Wynbrandt, 2009). In addition, the book has addressed the different perceptions the leaders had on Islamic religion becoming involved in politics. For instance, whet Pakistan became an Islamic religion; the leaders started becoming dictatorial especially those in the army like General Ayub and General Zia. They used Islam to their advantage, by using the Sharia law that was strict, and gaining the support of those who wanted the Sharia law and formed dictatorial government (Wynbrandt, 2009). Therefore, this book provides a historical background of the relationship between Islam and politics in Pakistan.

Democracy of Pakistan

The study article, ‘Democracy in Pakistan’ is used to describe the rate of democracy in Pakistan from 1956 until now (Rizvi, 2003). According to the study, Quaid-e-Azam, one of the founders of Pakistan, planted the seed of democracy in Pakistan. However, the seed did not blossom since after his demise, the spirit of freedom died. The leaders who took over power from him were selfish thus; the nation never became fully democratized. Consequently, the nation was taken over by Islamic militia leader Army Commander-in-Chief General Ayub Khan through a military coup. This study shows how the Islam started taking control of politics in Pakistan. Additionally it portrays how Islam has played a part in democracy from 1956 until present ((Rizvi, 2003). In the past, there was a time the country had no democracy at all. This was in 1956 when the militia rule was in power. The militia rule was Islamic; therefore, they applied Sharia laws in Pakistan (Rizvi, 2003). Recently, the militia groups have allowed democracy to take place in Pakistan.

Definition of Democracy

To understand how Islam has facilitated or hindered democracy in Pakistan, it is worth looking at the meaning given to democracy in from different regions such as the western idea of democracy, Islamic idea of democracy as well as the idea of democracy according to Pakistan as a country (Khan, 2003). Defining democracy from the three different points of view provided by the different groups will provide a reason why there is a difference in democracies practiced in different areas. Specifically, it provides a reason why democracy in Pakistan differs a lot from that of the colonizer, Britain (Wynbrandt, 2009). Democracy has been defined in many ways across different groups since what one group might consider their right; others may not consider it a right. The general definition of democracy that applies in most groups of different areas is the fact that it is a government vested in the power of the people through electing agents of their choice to represent them in the government.

Western Democracy

The definition of democracy according to the west, democracy means fair and free elections in a nation, which they consider the most crucial in democracy. However, the west asserts further that democracy cannot be democracy unless the elections held in accordance to the constitution’s supremacy, the freedom of the people, the rule of law, as well as equal political and civil rights (Haqqani, 2005). The western democracy believes that in order for a country to be democratic, there must be equality in citizenship without a regard of religion, ethnicity, tribe, race or even regional background. This is the notion that all the people are regarded as equal in terms of the law, and nobody is above the law even the president. Everyone has equal rights in terms of the law, and nobody deserves any special favor by the law. The law is considered above everybody, and it does not recognize the people it is meant to rule in terms of classes, gender, race, ethnicity or region. It considers them all the same, and everybody is held accountable for their actions against the law irrespective of whom they are.

Another idea of democracy according to the west is equal opportunities for everybody to advancing their social and economic domains, as well as political. There is also guarantee of liberty and security of life for the citizens. This is to mean that everybody, irrespective of whom they are in terms of religion, class, or any other stratification, have equal opportunities in their country to carry out their work and compete among themselves for the opportunities available to advancing their social, economic, and political desires. Everybody has the freedom to live their life as they wish. When talking about democracy recognizing everybody as equal irrespective of religion, this is to mean that religion is not supposed to influence the law. This means that democracy recognizes there are several religions, and including one too extensively in the constitution would only exclude other people.

Therefore, the western democracy believes more in being secular, where people are free to follow any religion. In simpler terms, democracy in the west can be summarized by saying it is a government of all people, elected by people, and controlled by people, for the people irrespective of their differences. This means that people can come together and decide some matter in the government, which shall be granted as long as it is the wish of the majority. It also means the democracy advocates for a law that stands independent of any religion or groups in order to include all people. The western democracy is best demonstrated by the many democratic movements that come up to oppose the government in case they make policies that are not fair to the people of the countries. In addition, this can be portrayed by several political parties that exist, where views of all of them, both the ruling and opposing matter in making of policies.


Islamic Democracy

On the other hand, Islamic democracy has a different idea of democracy. Muslim democracy dates back to when most of the Arab world got independence from their colonizers. They had the choice to adopt the western notion of democracy, or model their own that fitted their religion and democracy at the same time. Pakistan was among the first nations to become Islamic after modeling their own constitution that was enshrined in Islam religion. This gave other Arab nations aspirations to make their own (Nasr, 2005).

Therefore, Islamic democracy is one that incorporates Islam and democracy together. The Islamic democracy recognizes that the government should be vested in the people. They recognize democracy too, as being allowed to do their will, which is exercising the Sharia law. They believe that God’s will is supposed to be law, and thus, above the people (Nasr, 2005). Therefore, the Islamic idea democracy is being able to exercise Sharia, which is their notion of democracy. However, this can be regarded as the older version of democracy, considering many are now advocating for a plurality in the government. This has influenced the notion of democracy in the Muslim world, where many feel that a democratic government should give the people their will to exercise the will of God, which they consider law. Therefore, the Islamic democracy means a government that advocates the Islamic religion and borrows its law from the Sharia law (Nasr, 2005).

Pakistan Democracy

            Finally, this study looks at the meaning of democracy in Pakistan in order to have a full understanding of why there have been opposing forces on the issue of democracy in Pakistan. Currently, Pakistanis are now changing their notion of democracy, with many people opting free and fair elections as it happened in 2008. According to the Doucet (2008), reporting got BBC, collected several definitions of democracy from Pakistan in a rally. He reported that there were different expectations from different people concerning democracy. According to the Pakistan People’s Party, democracy meant their return to power as a civilian government, while, for the journalists, it was putting an end to censorship and allowing free expression, the lawyers viewed it as the return of the chief justice who had been sacked in 2007. The ideas gotten from the people of Pakistan in general is obvious that they want a government elected by people for the people, and one that listens to the will of the people (Rizvi, 2003). This is more of a western notion, except that it is not defined whether anybody willing to lead can enter the political arena, or it has to be the few chosen families such as the Bhutto family.

The perspective of democracy according to Pakistan currently is more secular than Islamic where many people recognize that democracy does not have to be embedded in the religion. In addition, not all people are Muslims, and they are citizens of Pakistan requiring representation in the government. However, Islam has been used by the military in the past to lay a framework for the nation’s interests in ruling the civilians. In addition, the Islamic forces have vied for power in several occasions as well as had influence in the Pakistanis politics. This has created a continuous compromise for power between the civilian politicians who are more secular, the military and Islamic forces. This has led to the country having three divisions, those favoring civilian government, another favoring the military rule of dictatorship while the rest favor an Islamic rule. This causes an unbalancing of power within the government where one of the actors is influenced by the power of the others.

Islamic Influence in Politics

            The people of Pakistan do support Islamism in their government. However, not all people support the Islamic forces; rather, many opt having a democratically elected government, where Islamism is incorporated in the law since majority is Muslims. This means that many still support elements of Islamism in their government, but differ in terms of whom should lead, whether the Islamic forces, military or civilian government. However, majority favor a civilian government enshrined in Islamism while very, few would favor a military rule.

The military rule has always known that the Pakistanis support Islamism considering it is an Islamic country. Therefore, in their rule, they have used Islamism to govern the interests of the citizens in order to gain their support (Nasr, 2004). This creates a direct relationship of Islamism and politics, since the Islamic Sharia law is used to make policies and govern the people. This can be illustrated well by the history of Pakistan since they became an Islamic nation in 1956.

Before the constitution of 1956 that made Pakistan an Islamic state, the country was ruled under the western liberalism that advocated democracy, Muslims were quite in its opposition due to differing Muslim values and the western. Many Muslims did not like the western liberalism, which force the country to make its own constitution that included the Islamic religion as its main founding idea. The Islamic religion played a big role in governing the people considering they considered the will of God to law. This constitution did not last for long until it was removed from power when the military rule led by General Khan overthrew the civilian government.

In the study of the democracy of Pakistan, it has often been divided into four occasions depending on the rule that was in power. Most of this history starts when the country got independence, until 1958 when the civilian government was overthrown by the military rule. This was the first democratic government under Islamism considering the constitution was Islamic. It is obvious that Islam played a crucial role in the politics since it was enshrined in the constitution. During this time, there was slow development of democracy although the leaders were getting more corrupt and selfish. In their selfishness, they opted to become more of dictatorial than democratic. This was allowed by the nature of the Islamic constitution that used Sharia, which is strict on people who oppose its rule. At this time, Islamism aided in development of democracy by allowing people to practice their religion and use its law legitimately.

In 1958, Chief General Ayub Khan overthrew the civilian government and assumed power. After the taking over by the military rule, the Islamic ideas were still used to govern and gain the favor of the people (Stiftung, 2011). Those who have ruled in Pakistan have always known that to gain support it is necessary to recognize Islamism in their rule. During this rule, there was total bureaucracy from the military rule and the military dominated. The military ruled until 1971 when the second civilian government took over. During this time, Islamism was not quite influential in the politics.

The second civilian government that advocated for democracy was from 1971 to 1977. It was headed by Zulfilkar Ali Bhutto. During his rule, he aimed at restoring democracy in Pakistan and having a government of the people, with the interests of the people given priority. Islamism is the pillar upon which Pakistan was founded considering it was emancipated from India on bases of religion. Before it was partitioned from India, it had consisted largely of Muslims. Therefore, the Pakistan is founded on Islam, which   only asserts the religion’s influence in its politics. However, Bhutto was more secular and advocated for a democracy for all the people in the country. During this time, the Islamic extremists were opposing the civilian democracy, hence playing a big part in hindering the development of democracy. .

In 1977, another military rule took over the government headed by Zia-ul-Haq. This followed another bureaucracy just as the first. In addition, it also supported the use of Islamic in its rule to capture a majority. This was the rule that saw total influence of Islamism in the country, as Zia based his rule on strict Islamic principles including making strict use of Sharia law. This military rule lasted until 1988, when another civilian government led by Benazir Bhutto together with Nawaz Sharif took over, and served two terms as elected prime minister until 1999 (Stiftung, 2011). During this time, Benazir and Sharif tried to restore democracy to the people, but just other efforts; it was shortly followed by another military rule led by General Perves Musharraf. He displaced Nawaz and took the country back to military rule (Stiftung, 2011).

However, in 2008, the fourth effort to take the country back to democracy was initiated again when an election was held, and the people elected their leaders into the government. This is the current government presently, but it is faced by many social challenges such as a weak economy, political contention and division among the different political groups and military, poor governing, and above all, religious extremist. This makes the future of Pakistan democracy uncertain with all this problems and considering all the challenges facing the current challenges. The only hope is the devotion of the political parties (Stiftung, 2011).

It is evident that Islamism has been very influential in the politics of Pakistan, with the basic reason for its influence being that Pakistan was founded on religious reasons. The fact that Pakistan was founded on religious reasons makes it difficult to have a liberal constitution that does not incorporate Islamic principles, which leaves little room for people to be free to exercise their free will. For a long time, there has been a notion that there can be an Islamic democracy, one incorporating both. However, considering that democracy is based on free will and liberty as well as equal opportunities, including Islamic religion in democracy has been hard. Instead, it has hindered democracy more that it has helped facilitate.

What makes it harder is that those who oppose the Islamic principles or try to deviate from the religion are dealt with in rather a harsh way according to the Sharia law. In addition, jihad can be declared on those who oppose such a will, making it hard for people to oppose oppressive rules that are imposed on them. Therefore, Islamism remains a very influential force in politics, despite many people wanting to have a rule of law that separates religious matters from the political arena. In the western culture where democracy has been more successful, religion has been separated from politics, except when it comes to opposing rules that are unfair to the people. With religious principles such as those embedded in Islam, having free expression is hard considering that the will of God is considered law, which is above man and none has the right to oppose. Many leaders have taken advantage of this notion to preach democracy, but offer little more than documenting democracy.

Despite there being no perfect democracy that incorporates Muslim, Islam has played a crucial role in democracy for Pakistan. Islam occupies a particular role in shaping the politics of Pakistan. “In the 1980s Islamism supported the military’s drive for power and suppression of democratic forces,” (Nasr, 2004 p. 196). During this time, there was cooperation between the military, Islamic forces and the political parties, as well as competition for power, and making of rules in politics. This raised a complex interaction of the three players in Pakistan in the rule of civilian government led by Nazir Bhutto in 1988-1999. This complexity contributed and facilitated another military rule in 1999 due to democracy institutionalization. The interaction between civil, military and Islamism relations are influencing each other, shaping the unfolding of Pakistan politics.

In the 1970s, the Islamic forces played a crucial role in Pakistan, through providing a framework under which the interests of the nation are defined, ranging from domestic interests to international political issues. In addition, Islam has gone ahead to open up new foreign policies in Islamabad that have led to new possibilities through using Islamic activism in dealing with developments in Kashmir and Afghanistan. There has been a growing crucial importance of Islamism in shaping of Pakistan politics as well as social order and democracy. “Pakistan’s politics has been closely associated with mainstream Islamism, as defined, advocated, and led by parties such as the Jama’at-i Islami,” (Nasr, 2004 p. 196). This party, Jama’at-i Islami, achieved quite a lot of success in articulating for a coherent ideology of Islam, which was effective in leading a social action with the struggle of attaining a ‘Utopian Islamic’ state in which core principles and values of Islamism would be embodied and implemented. Thus, just as party achieved success in developments, so it would achieve success in finding a solution to social political problems facing Pakistan through its policies and ideologies that continue to influence the.

Another success of the Islamic party Jama’at-i Islami was during the rule of Ayub Khan who removed the constitution of 1956 that advocated Islamism in 1958 to 69. During this time, secular politics had taken root in Pakistan. Jama’at-i Islami, through instituting many Islamic ideas and postulations in the ‘political culture’ as well as key debates in Islamism, contributed to the weakening of the secular politics. Consequently, this led to the collapse of the Ayub Khan Rule in 1969, as well as leading to the collapse of the rule of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who tried to rule using socialism, between 1971, to 1977.

Islamism took strong hold in Pakistan during the rule of Zia ul-Haq of 1977 to 1988. It is during this time that Islamization took place in Pakistan in full force, using the Islamic law in making of policies, laws, as well as social order. According to Nasr (2004), “The Zia period witnessed the Islamization of laws, public policy, and popular culture, producing a unique case of systematic propagation of Islamism from above,” (p.197). Zia’s regime embraced Islamism fully, as well its vision for the society and used it to his advantage to increase the power of the state through ending slow, destructive war with Islamism. In addition, he was able to expand the power in both domestic and regional domains through the alliance with Islamism.

The alliance legitimized the military rule, and supported the containment of democratic forces in the name of building a state order based on Islamic values. This alliance managed to bring stability in Pakistan since it was stronger than one of the three actors standing alone. However, there were many inconsistencies and a diversified ideology as well as interest between the players, which did not allow its survival for long (Nasr, 2004). During this time, the politics of Pakistan were directly shaped by Islamism, through application of its principles and values in the government policies as well as social issues of the people. It was now obvious that supporting the Islamism yielded more power for the country through such an alliance.

The year 1988 saw the ending of the Zia rule as well as the breaking of the alliance between the Islamists and militants. This also saw the return of democracy in Pakistan under the rule of Nazir Bhutto, and the civilian government took power and gained power more than the Islamic and military rule. The Islamic and military forces went different ways each pursuing its own interests under a changed political arena. From 1988, the Islamic parties sought to create a relationship with the state, through continuous debates, negotiations, as well as confrontations that have continued to change both the politics of Pakistan and the nature of Islamism (Nasr, 2004).

After the end of the Zia rule, the democratic, civilian government led by the Pakistan People’s Party, PPP, was quite secular. Therefore, the Islamic definition in Pakistan gave a place for a more secular order after the end of the Zia rule that ended upon his death in a plane crash. Considering the rule ended from the death of the militant General, the military still held a lot of power since it was not through an overthrow or defeat. In addition, since the war in Afghanistan still waded on, Pakistan remained an Islamic country. Therefore, because the military was still strong, the civilian period of 1988 to 1999 was faced by many struggles for power between the militants and the civilian governments, as well as the Islamic forces and other secular politicians and institutions (Nasr, 2004).

During this rule, the democratic politicians sought to develop the country using secular principles away from the Islamic ones, in order to allow for democracy, as well as modernization. However, this was faced with a lot of opposition by the Islamic and military forces, which sought to make the country remain under Islamic rule. The Islamic forces together with military forces weaved foreign and regional policies that were deeply embedded in Islamism, leaving a lot of pressure to the domestic politics.

A coalition of the ‘principle pro-Zia forces and the Pakistan Muslim League led by Nawaz and Islamic parties such as were created Jama’at-i Islami, Jami’at-i Ulama-i Islam andami’at-i Ulama-i Pakistan was created  (Nasr, 2004). The coalition formed the Islami jumhoori Ittihad, (Islamic Democratic Alliance, IJT), that was served with the responsibility of opposing the Pakistan people’s Party in the elections of 1988. At this time, the military depended on the alliance to defeat Bhutto, and restore the islamization led by Zia in his regime.

The IJT was largely successful in challenging the PPP, and won the Punjab assembly and formed the government of this province. In addition, the IJT used its Islamic political ideologies to defend the benefits of the islamization that had taken place during the rule of Zia. This posed serious challenges to the PPP in governing the country and pushing for democracy. The IJT continued to struggle for power against the PPP, consequently leading to a governance crisis in the country. A divided parliament was faced with changing loyalties among the party members where some defected to the opposite parties resulted. In addition, the government was faced with other crisis including economic, corruption, and a growing hostility between the opposition leaders, Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif that yielded paralysis (Nasr, 2004). The military continued to interfere with democracy efforts in the country under the advisory of Zia’s senior advisor, Ghulam Ishaq Khan that saw the dismissal of the two governing parties, starting with the dismissal of the PPP and IJT followed shortly after (Nasr, 2004). Islamism continued to influence the politics of Pakistan, as well as democracy, through the alliance of Islamic parties.

The interference by the military weakened the growing democracy and took advantage of the situation. However, the dismissal of IJT from power led to its weakening and finally breaking up from the military, and the Islamic parties went ahead to join the Pakistan Muslim League, PML. This gave them freedom from the military, and they saw it as a chance to becoming dominant in the political arena. Independently from the military, he was able to rise to power with the Islamic political party. The military focused on interfering with the democratic parties and had no much regard for Islamism. Therefore, Islamism continued to influence and shape politics of Pakistan. Considering the Islamic parties were on their own, they were more vulnerable. “This was the first time in the Muslim world that the democratic process had produced a brake to Islamism,” (Nasr, 2004. p.198).

Things were changing between the military, and the Islamic forces, especially after Afghanistan was able to drive soviet occupancy out of their country. The rise of Taliban saw a change of things, where it offered help to those who supported its Islamic ideologies by providing them with resources. However, in 1997, a dramatic turn of events took place, where Nawaz won the elections by 63% hence had the right to form the government. During this year, the Islamic forces got the least entries in the government in the national assembly. Nawaz controlled the relationship between the Islamic and civilian ideologies where he created a rational relationship between the country, and Islamism. He went ahead to structure the party is a modern way, such as the European Christian Democratic Party. The PML was shaped as an Islamic democratic party, thus incorporating both democracy and Islamic principles in his rule. His rule had promised to serve all people, as well as religion of the people, and ensure development.

However, in 1998, General Musharraf was the leader of the military and perceived the rule of Nawaz as a threat. From 1998 to 1999, there was instability as Musharraf undermined the rule of Nawaz, and led the extremist forces in violence against the PML rule. There were attempts on Nawaz twice, by military groups that went ahead with the coup of 1999. In addition, there was an intensified military activism in Kashmir. There was a tension between the PML and the military led to the weakening of the civilian government, and finally to the coup of 1999, when the military took over, advocated for Islamization again, and dismissed all the relations that had been built by the PML (Nasr, 2004).

Musharraf sought to rule the country using the secular rule like the one used by Ayub Khan. He aimed at focusing his rule through coalition with the liberal Muslims and the modern classes of people with the military. This was considered necessary after the September bombing of Twin Towers in America. Musharraf advocated for a secular military, considering the Islamic forces had little influence currently. In addition, with the support of America, a secular regime was seen as necessary. In addition, by helping United States, the Islamic ties with Afghanistan would be dismissed since it meant going against the same Islamic tie that had been established and used by Pakistan in controlling Afghanistan. Therefore, without a strong military extremist force, the military would not be under much pressure from Islamism.

Islamism then rose to gain more influence during the elections of 2002, when the Islamic parties formed an alliance, Mutahhidah Majlis Amal (United Action Front, MMA). Musharraf and the military helped the alliance, since with the Islamic forces; he could continue to have influence in the politics of Pakistan. After the elections of 2002, although the Islamic election did not take the majority votes nationally, the MMA did well at the provincial level. Thus, Islamism continued to have a great influence in the politics of Pakistan.

The 2008 elections resulted in a coalition government led by the two main opposing parties, PPP and PML that won the majority seats. This meant that both the democratic, civilian party PPP has to share ideologies with the Islamic PML; hence, Islamism continues to influence the politics of Pakistan.

It is obvious that the civilian government has tried to restore democracy more than one, but failed to several factors. One of them is the military forces that also want to take control of the politics. The Islamic forces also have their influence, and advocate for an Islamic government. As seen, the kind of Islamic government advocated by the Islamists is quite strict and does not allow freedom of expression. Therefore, instead of facilitating democracy, Islamism has hindered its development in a larger extent. However, Islamic forces alone have not hindered development; rather it has been through a fight for power by the three actors causing an imbalance of power where the civilian government is most of the times defenseless when a military coup comes. The continuous fight for power as well as other external forces makes it difficult to have a civilian government with power to develop democracy since other actors have power to influence the government to favor their ideas.

Drivers of Islamism and Imbalance of Power in Pakistan

One of the forces that drive political Islam is the Islamic extremist forces that try to negotiate power. Some of these Islamic forces join to become allies in trying t fight their way to power. Considering there are people who support Islamism, they have support. This gives some power to influence the politics in Pakistan. The extremists try hard to change the country to what they believe is an ideal Islamic country. Such forces have also been contributed by external pressure such as during the Iranian Muslim revolution and recruitment of Muslims with other religionists such as the Mujahideen, the holy warriors, who were recruited to fight against the soviet occupation in Afghanistan (Khan, 2005). Some of these forces never dissolved after the war, with some resulting to terrorism while others remain as Islamic extremists seeking power in the government. These Islamic extremist forces have continued to fight for what they believe is right, having the country based on Islamic principles, which continue to influence politics in Pakistan (Wirsing, 2002).

The military forces have also contributed to the political Islam in Pakistan as illustrated during the rule of General Zia in 1977 to 1988. The rule sought to assert its legitimacy on grounds of religions rights by offering people an Islamic rule. During his rule, General Zia used Islam to his advantage in politics by asserting that an Islamic country should allow people to exercise their religious practices, hence ruling using the Sharia law that is enshrined in Islamic religion.

The imbalance of power is caused by lack of a unified governments that unites all the actors, the military, Islamic forces and civilian government. All compete for the same power, making it hard to have a powerful government that is not influenced by the others. Most important is that the people want a civilian government, but since the military has the power, chooses to lead through dictatorship, and seek to join forces with Islamic forces to gain more support.

There has been external influence in Pakistan that continues to cause an imbalance of power. For instance, during the Mujahideen war in Afghanistan, the Islamic forces of Pakistan gave their support and gained favors from the other Islamic forces such as Taliban. This gave the more power. In the invasion of Afghanistan by the United States, Islamabad was seen as the strategic point to base the troops in order to win the Afghan war. As such, the United States supported the military operations including their political agenda in order to gain their favor in using Islamabad. This caused an imbalance of power where the military knew they had support even in their political agendas, which could help them in war over Kashmir with India, which dates back since independence.

Currently, the Pakistan relation with America has changed due to few reasons such as bombing of the afghan border by the United States where several Pakistani soldiers died, killing of Pakistani citizens by an American agent and the sending of a memo by the Pakistan president requesting help to overthrow the army. This has distorted the relationship. Alternatively, the military now is planning to support the Taliban that is likely to become a powerful force in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of United States troops that might be in 2014. Using the Taliban, Pakistan army might have more power to win the Kashmir conflict against India that has been in existence since independence. Pakistan fights for this territory since 90 % of the population in this area is Islamic.


From the study presented above, it is obvious that Pakistan has been faced by up and downs in its quest for democracy. One of the factors contributing to the changing situation all the time since it was declared an Islamic nation is the fact that the democracy modeled for an Islamic country failed to work. Initially, after independence, the country was democratic and secular as Jinnah had intended. However, after the making of a constitution enshrined in Islamism, not everybody had the same ideology. The military under General Ayub Khan had a different idea, which was secularism. In addition, the rise of Islamic forces has contributed to the changing rules since different ideologies have continued to raise competition for power. The civilian governments have had to deal with challenges from both militants and Islamic extremists. The difference ideas on democracy have also contributed to the situation, where Islamism believe democracy it a government that allows people to practice their religion and recognizes Islamic law as law above any man. On the other hand, the secularists believe democracy to resemble the western, and compete to have their way done. These competing ideologies have caused the competition for power between the two actors, while the third, the military feel threatened by democracy, and view the Islamic forces as a strategic way to influence politics. All these competition for power has hindered the development of democracy by the civilian government. In addition, these have caused an imbalance of power in the country where the other outside sources have influenced the imbalance of power in the country.



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