Each regime that came
into power sought to legitimize itself through an explicit ideology: The Ayub
regime propounded the philosophy of modernization and economic development. The
Bhutto regime donned the mantle of redeeming the poor through socialism. Zia having
come into power through a coup d'etat, sought to perpetuate military rule through
the garb of a coercive and obscurantist version of Islamic ideology.
the absence of popular legitimacy, the Zia regime used terror for the first time
in Pakistan's history as a conscious policy of the government. President Zia ul
Haq publicly stated: "Martial law should be based on fear". In the same
vein, Brigadier Malik wrote: "Terror struck into the hearts of enemies is
not only a means, it is the end itself". (Quoted in Omar Noman's book: The
Political Economy of Pakistan). In the pursuit of this policy, the democratic
constitution of 1973 was set aside and draconian measures of military courts,
arbitrary arrests, amputation of hands and public lashing were introduced.
society, by and large, was historically characterized by cultural diversity, democratic
aspirations and a religious perspective rooted in tolerance and humanism. This
was one of the reasons why the founding father, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah
conceived of Pakistan's polity as democratic and pluralistic with religious belief
to be a matter concerning the individual rather than the state.
"You may belong to any religion or caste or creed ___ that has nothing to
do with the business of the state
.. We are starting with this fundamental
principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state
I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that
in the course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease
to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith
of each individual but in the political sense as citizens of the state."
Zia-ul-Haq in attempting to restructure such a state and society into a theocracy,
undertook two kinds of initiatives: First, measures designed to subordinate to
executive authority, institutions of state and civil society such as the judiciary
and the press, which if allowed to function independently could check governmental
power. In the case of the judiciary its essential powers to scrutinize the legality
of martial law or the orders of military courts were abolished. The judicial protection
against arbitrary detention of a citizen embodied in the right to Habeas Corpus
was eliminated for the first time in Pakistan.
case of the press, President Zia ul Haq gave a pithy statement of Martial Law
Policy with respect to the press: "Democracy means freedom of the press,
Martial Law its very negation". In the pursuit of this policy, press control
measures were introduced. The government constituted committees at the district
level to ensure that articles repugnant to the ideology of Pakistan were not published.
Those members of the press who had refused to acquiesce faced state repression.
A number of newspapers were banned and journalists were arrested and given flogging
sentences by military courts.
The second set of measures
towards a theocratic state sought to inculcate obscurantist views and induced
a narrowing of the citizens mind. It involved a suspension of the sensibility
of love and reason underlying the religious tradition embodied in Pakistan's folk
In the absence of a popular mandate, Zia claimed that his mission
to bring an "Islamic Order" in Pakistan had a divine sanction: "I
have a mission given by God to bring Islamic Order to Pakistan". Advocacy
for a theocratic social order was conducted through the state controlled television
and press. Furthermore the State undertook to physically intervene in controlling
individual behaviour with respect to the practice of religion. In August 1984
for example, the Nizam-e-Salat Campaign was launched through the appointment of
100,000 "Prayer Wardens" for rural and urban localities. The task of
these state functionaries was to monitor religious activities of individuals and
to seek their compliance in religious practices.
institutional roots of "Islamic Fundamentalism" were laid when government
funds were provided for establishing mosque schools (madrassas) in small towns
and rural areas which led to the rapid growth of militant religious organisations.
This social process which later came to be known as "Islamic Fundamentalism"
was catalyzed by the Afghan war.
As General Zia
moved towards the construction of a theocratic state and brutalized civil society,
his isolation from the people as a whole was matched by increased external support.
He sought political, economic and military support from the U.S. by offering to
play the role of a front line state in the Afghan guerilla war against the occupying
Soviet army. Accordingly, Pakistan obtained a package of U.S. $ 3.2 billion in
financial loans and relatively sophisticated military hardware. Moreover, with
support from the U.S., Pakistan was able to get additional fiscal space by getting
its foreign debt rescheduled, and getting increased private foreign capital inflows.
These official and private capital inflows played an important role in stimulating
macro economic growth in this period. For example GDP growth rate increased from
5% per annum during the Bhutto regime to 6.6% per annum during the Zia regime.
Foreign capital inflows also helped establish a political constituency both within
the institutions of the state and in the conservative sections of the urban middle
classes, for a theocratic form of military dictatorship.
As the Zia regime
engaged in a proxy war, some of the militant religious groups together with their
associated madrassas were provided with official funds, training and weapons to
conduct guerilla operations in Afghanistan. While they helped fight the war in
Afghanistan, the religious militant groups were able to enlarge the political
space within Pakistan's society and some of the institutions of the State.
From 1987 onwards, sectarian violence mushroomed in the Punjab province (which
till then had been relatively peaceful) and later spread across the country. The
phenomenon of large scale sectarian violence conducted by well armed and trained
cadres was closely associated with the rapid growth of Deeni Madrassas ("religious"
schools). Historically, such schools basically imparted religious knowledge. In
the late 1980s however a new kind of Deeni Madrassa emerged, which engaged in
systematic indoctrination in a narrow sectarian identity, and inculcated hatred
and violence against other sects. In 1998 there were 3,393 Deeni Madrassas in
the Punjab alone and 67% had emerged during the period of the Zia regime and after.
Between 1979 and 1994, many of the madrassas were receiving financial grants from
Zakat funds. According to an official report of the police department, most of
the madrassas were in fact providing religious education. Yet as many as 42% of
them were actively promoting sectarian violence through a well conceived indoctrination
process. The students predominantly from poor families were given free food and
lodging during their term at the madrassas. As poverty increased in the 1990s,
the burgeoning madrassas provided a growing number of unemployed and impoverished
youths with the security of food, shelter and an emotionally charged identity:
a personality that felt fulfilled through violence against the other.
As the new kind of sectarian madrassas emerged and grew during the Zia regime
so did sectarian violence. The number of sectarian killings increased from 22
during the 1987-89 period, to 166 during the 1993-95 period. Thus violence against
the other became both the expression and the emblem of the narrowed identity.
The mobilisation of these narrow identities involved a psychic disconnection
from the well springs of universal human brotherhood within the Islamic tradition.
Its liberating elements of rationality and love, were replaced in the narrowed
psyche, by bigotry and hatred. Violence against the "other" became an
emblem of membership within these identities. Thus, civil society divorced from
its universal human values began to lose its cohesion and stability.