Pakistan continues the Islamisation of its immediate environment :Wider Aspects of the Conflict

Pakistan continues the Islamisation of its immediate environment :Wider Aspects of the Conflict

The significance of these groups lies in their resistance to the Islamisation policies pursued by the Pakistani state since the Zia ul Haq regime.

But their emergence as the lead organisations against the centralisation policies of the federal state bears witness to the weakening of the nationalist parties and the parallel progress of radical movements in Balochistan. Amid the state of anarchy in the province and led by the madrassa network, radicalisation is on the rise. The Afghan and Pakistani Talibans and al-Qaeda have a strong presence in the region, while sectarian groups have stepped up their activities. Pushed out of Punjab to Balochistan by the Pakistani security agencies and benefitting from a large, sympathetic madrassa network, the LeJ, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Imamia Student Organisation, and Sipah-e-Mohammed have all established a presence in the province as well.
Unlike the Pashtun-populated areas, the territories inhabited by ethnic Balochs were, until recently, largely secular. Today, the LeJ is now recruiting among the Baloch population and some of its most prominent leaders in the province are said to be Baloch. The result is a shift from religious activism to militancy and the exponential rise of sectarian violence.

Wider Aspects of the Conflict
The Pakistani state likes to describe itself as a victim of its regional environment. It has indeed been impacted by the ideological trends and rivalries that have affected the Muslim world. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, have been sources of funding for religious groups of various affiliations.
Pakistan has been, and continues to be, a major actor in the Islamisation of its immediate environment. The conflict in Kashmir was ‘Islamised’ thanks to Pakistani support for radical organisations. The pre-eminence of the most radical organisations in Afghanistan was established thanks to Pakistan’s support for the Mujahedeen in the 1980s and for the Taliban and others in the 1990s. Most of the groups that have turned their weapons against the state in the first decade of the new millennium previously have been supported financially, logistically, and with training by Pakistan itself. Pakistan is, therefore, primarily a victim of its own policies.
Additionally, although no evidence has ever being shown of their involvement, Islamabad has accused New Delhi and Kabul of supporting the Baloch insurgency and, more recently, the TTP. Had it ever existed, such support could have had only one purpose: to raise the cost of Pakistan’s own proxy war by perpetuating against it the same tactics it has employed against its two neighbours.
Al-Qaeda, a non-state actor, has in fact been the most influential external actor, and the declaration in September 2014 of the establishment of a new South Asian franchise ‘al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent’ was widely seen as a response to the growing factionalism characterising the global jihadi movement, and the growing regional influence of ISIS. Al-Qaeda has cooperated with most anti-state Islamic organisations and has in the process influenced their agendas. Al-Qaeda is also partly responsible for the increase in Pakistan’s sectarian violence and has exacerbated the contradictions of Pakistan’s policies. Pakistan was trapped in its own system of Islamic alliances and its Western alliances antagonised both al-Qaeda and its Pakistani allies.
Whatever its understanding of the dynamics in Pakistan, the international community ended up playing Pakistan’s own game. Out of its fear of Islamic radicalism, it supported the Pakistani army, which was the origin of the problem. In the process it exacerbated the situation.
The views expressed by this author remain solely their own and are not to be taken as the view of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
Last updated 22 December 2014.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Director and Senior Associate, South Asia Program
Frederic Grare is senior associate and director of Carnegie’s South Asia Program. His research focus on South Asian political and security issues and the search for a security architecture. He also works on Afghanistan and Pakistan’s regional policies, and the tension between stability and democratization, including civil-military relations, in Pakistan.


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