(review of Haqqani, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military), The Wall Street Journal. July 28, 2005.
Soon after London’s July 7 subway and bus bombings, investigators discovered that three of the suicide terrorists were children of Pakistani immigrants and had traveled recently to Pakistan. Two may have attended a militant training camp there.
The problem isn’t only Britain’s. In the U.S. last month, a father and his son–both U.S. citizens of Pakistani descent–were arrested in California, technically on charges of having lied to the FBI. The indictment declares that the son, contrary to his claims, received jihad training at an al Qaeda camp in Pakistan in 2003 and 2004. The camp’s training methods apparently involved target practice with photographs of President Bush, and the U.S. featured prominently in a menu of countries from which the trainees could select a jihad of their choice.
In the U.S., no less than in Britain, the pressing question is whether such Islamist extremists belong to a larger network of citizen sleeper-cells. But behind that question lies another: What is Pakistan’s part in this dystopian tale? That a major non-NATO ally seemed to harbor an al Qaeda training camp as recently as 2004 should be cause for alarm.
Formally speaking, of course, Pakistan is a frontline partner in the terror war. President Bush has even characterized Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, as the last bulwark against a radical Islamist takeover, praising the general for his commitment to “banning the groups that practice terror.” Thus the U.S., otherwise pledged to promoting democracy around the world, finds itself in an awkward embrace with a military ruler.
Against this backdrop, Husain Haqqani’s “Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military” should give Washington policymakers sleepless nights–and everyone else too. Mr. Haqqani knows whereof he speaks: He enjoyed an illustrious career in Pakistan as a journalist, diplomat and adviser to three prime ministers before coming to the U.S. in 2002. The analysis in his book benefits from his deep knowledge of Pakistan’s political history and, no less important, from his insider access to top political and military figures.
Mr. Haqqani hopes to defy the conventional wisdom that sees Pakistan as perpetually balancing two forces, with a strong military holding in check the radical excesses of the country’s mosques. Mr. Haqqani does not believe that the generals and the mullahs are adversaries at all. Rather, they exist in a kind of symbiosis–an alliance by which each helps the other “in their exercise of political power.” What is more, the alliance has been in place since the country’s founding.
After each of Pakistan’s many coups, Mr. Haqqani shows, the Pakistani military has “adopted Islamic ideology” to fashion itself as the guardian of the nation and its core beliefs. In doing so it has repeatedly co-opted Islamist organizations–notably the Jamaat-e-Islami–for cover and support. The military has also followed a policy of divide and rule, patronizing existing Islamist groups while seeding new ones that might rival them.
Mr. Haqqani marshals a wealth of evidence to document such claims. He describes in detail the mosque-military alliance during Pakistan’s first two military regimes–that of Field Marshall Ayub Khan (1958-69) and Gen. Yahya Khan (1969-71), both generally regarded as secular, whiskey-swilling good old boys. He thus shows that Pakistan’s creeping Islamization predates the rule of Gen. Zia ul-Haq (1977-88), the man widely held responsible for giving Islam a major role in all aspects of Pakistani life. Gen. Zia, it turns out, only tightened an alliance that already existed.
Mr. Haqqani argues that, over the past two decades, Pakistan’s army has fueled the passions of some of the country’s most extreme radicals. Bankrolling these groups has served the strategic purpose of rendering the military desirable by contrast. International observers–not least the U.S. State Department–thus conclude that the military is necessary for Pakistan’s stability. The shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) has played an especially critical role in this game.
As a 1990 ISI report on the future of U.S.-Pakistan relations concluded: “It was important to maintain the impression of widespread anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistani society, which could be assured by periodic demonstrations by Islamists. This would create sympathy for Pakistani military and intelligence officials among their US counterparts.” Flash forward to 2005: Gen Musharraf’s regime bans the protest rallies of journalists, feminists and members of the Pakistan People’s Party, headed by former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Meanwhile, Islamists manage to hold anti-American “million man marches” throughout the country. How little times have changed.
Mr. Haqqani’s book is not an easy read for the nonspecialist. His detailed narrative at times assumes a familiarity with Pakistan’s political history that many people will not possess. This quibble aside, though, his analysis will reward anyone who seeks to understand one of the most perplexing foreign-policy challenges facing the U.S. today.
After all, America does need Pakistan’s cooperation in the war against al Qaeda. What Mr. Haqqani shows is that a Manichean dichotomy–army good, Islamists bad–obscures the partnership between the two. A better way of combating Islamic radicalism, Mr. Haqqani argues, is to strengthen the very democratic forces that the military abhors.
Ms. Ayres, who is writing a book about nationalism in Pakistan, is deputy director of the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania.