In attempting to explain why so many attacks—abortive and successful—can be traced back to a single country, analysts tend to dwell on the 1980s, when Pakistan acted as a staging ground for the successful American and Saudi-funded jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. But while the anti-Soviet campaign undoubtedly accelerated Pakistan's emergence as a jihadist haven, to truly understand the country it's important to go back further, to its creation.
Pakistan was carved out of the Muslim-majority areas of British India in 1947, the world's first modern nation based solely on Islam. The country's name means "Land of the Pure." The capital city is Islamabad. The national flag carries the Islamic crescent and star. The cricket team wears green.
From the start, the new country was touched by the messianic zeal of pan-Islamism. The Quranic scholar Muhammad Asad—an Austrian Jew born Leopold Weiss—became an early Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations. The Egyptian Said Ramadan, son-in-law of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, made Pakistan a second home of sorts and collaborated with Pakistan's leading Islamist ideologue, the Jamaat-e-Islami's Abul Ala Maududi. In 1949, Pakistan established the world's first transnational Islamic organization, the World Muslim Congress. Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, the virulently anti-Semitic grand mufti of Jerusalem, was appointed president.
Through alternating periods of civilian and military rule, one thing about Pakistan has remained constant—the central place of Islam in national life. In the 1960s, Pakistan launched a war against India in an attempt to seize control of Kashmir, the country's only Muslim-majority province, one that most Pakistanis believe ought to be theirs by right.
In the 1970s the Pakistani army carried out what Bangladeshis call a genocide in Bangladesh; non-Muslims suffered disproportionately. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto boasted about creating an "Islamic bomb." (The father of Pakistan's nuclear program, A.Q. Khan, would later export nuclear technology to the revolutionary regime in Iran.) In the 1980s Pakistan welcomed Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Palestinian theorist of global jihad Abdullah Azzam.
In the 1990s, armed with expertise and confidence gained fighting the Soviets, the army's notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spawned the Taliban to take over Afghanistan, and a plethora of terrorist groups to challenge India in Kashmir. Even after 9/11, and despite about $18 billion of American aid, Pakistan has found it hard to reform its instincts.
Pakistan's history of pan-Islamism does not mean that all Pakistanis, much less everyone of Pakistani origin, hold extremist views. But it does explain why a larger percentage of Pakistanis than, say, Indonesians or Tunisians, are likely to see the world through the narrow prism of their faith. The ISI's reluctance to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism—training camps, a web of ultra-orthodox madrassas that preach violence, and terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba—ensure that Pakistan remains a magnet for any Muslim with a grudge against the world and the urge to do something violent about it.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Sadanand Dhume explains: