Pakistan after benazir promise and peril towards an islamic democracy dr saleem h ali
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Pakistan after Benazir: Promise and Peril towards an Islamic Democracy Dr. Saleem H. Ali. [email protected] http://www.uvm.edu/~shali. Map of Pakistan. Historical context. One of only two modern countries formed solely on the basis of religion

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Pakistan after benazir promise and peril towards an islamic democracy dr saleem h ali l.jpg

Pakistan after Benazir:Promise and Peril towards an Islamic DemocracyDr. Saleem H. Ali

[email protected]

http://www.uvm.edu/~shali



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Historical context

  • One of only two modern countries formed solely on the basis of religion

  • Former British India was divided into India and Pakistan in 1947 (including what is now Bangladesh)

  • Civil war in 1971 led to the formation of the independent state of Bangladesh

  • The essential tension between a theocratic versus secular state has existed since inception


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Three Limitations to Pakistan’s democratization

  • The army’s dominance in every aspect of political and economic life

    • Refer to new book By A. Siddiqua Military Inc.

  • A lack of education leads to asymmetric and inefficient outcomes

    • People are much more easily taken in by propaganda and conspiracy theories

  • Feudal elite still control the political scene

    • Benazir was part of this establishment


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Islam and Democracy

  • Considerable debate about the prospect of democracy in Islam given a history of non-electoral politics

  • Clearly not dynastic in its early history but tensions existed on this too – Shia versus Sunni split on dynastic succession

  • Meritocracy and consensus (shuraa) were the main deliberative mechanism rather than pure voting output


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Islam and Pluralism

  • Diversity is accommodated within a fairly regimented system in traditional doctrines

  • However, Islamic societies have shown the ability to adapt much more than they are given credit for these days (as far back as Moorish times or Emperor Akbar’s reign in India: Maria Rosa Menocal’s work)

  • In contemporary societies Malaysia, the UAE and the gulf states are often presented as examples of pluralism (without democracy)


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Can Pakistan follow a path in this regard after Benazir?

  • Benazir initially had placated a lot of the traditional Islamist elements: she recognized the Taliban government and was willing to meet Mullah Umar in the early nineties

  • More recently her views had moved towards confrontation with the Islamists

  • The moderate majority in Pakistan is increasingly afraid of the armed militants

  • External intervention is still anathema to most Pakistanis regardless of political persuasion


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Suggestions for U.S Policy

  • Focus on populist appeal rather than personality-driven politics: there’s more to Pakistan than Musharraf and Bhutto

  • Support a major arms buy-back / exchange for development effort that leads to more robust economies in NWFP and Southern Punjab

  • Public diplomacy efforts should continue as they have been started since 9/11 – example the 200+ Fulbright program and the work of World Affairs Councils


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