You are here

Anil Bhatt: How far is Pakistan Army radicalised? What are its implications for India?

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • P.K. Upadhyay replies: Religious radicalisation has two profiles. First is the society at large which may not actively pursue the radical agenda, but empathises with it and willingly or under duress supports it. The other profile comprises people who want to actively further the radical agenda by forcing their diktat on others through terror, inducement, or persuasion. This would apply to the growth of Islamic radicalism in Pakistani society at large also. And what ails a society, ails the nation’s armed forces also, as the latter springs from the former. Pakistan Army emerged from the erstwhile British Indian Army and retained its structures and ethos. Very few changes, that too cosmetic in nature, were made in the structure and functioning of the Pakistan Army in independent Pakistan. However, things began to change after General Zia-ul Haq initiated his Islamisation policies (out of as much his personal beliefs as his political strategy to deal with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s political legacy).

    Pakistan Army, up to this point of time comprised of Muslim soldiers and officers who naturally revered, or at least had sympathy for Islam and Islamic causes, but did not want it to interfere with their professional duties and functioning. However, Zia’s Islamisation policies brought in a new breed of officers and men who wanted to pursue an active Islamic agenda in military matters. Not only proselytization activities of the Deobandi/Wahabi dispensation were allowed in the barracks, even active personnel were allowed to go for activities such as Tabligh. A new breed of military thinkers and strategicians also emerged who began to propound a merger of social jihadism with military plans. The name of Brigadier S. K Malik is foremost among such military scholars. His treatise, The Quranic Concepts of War, propounded the inevitability of a conflict between Dar-ul Islam (the world of Islam) and Dar-ul Harb (the world of non-believers) in which not just Islamic armed forces but even the society had to join in and use terror to such an extant that the enemy lost the will to fight even before the actual conflict started.

    This doctrine led to the creation of non-state armed surrogates by the Pakistan Army/ISI like Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP – to quell the Shiite opposition to Zia-ul Haq’s pro-Sunni Islamisation measures), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (to cow-down Christians and other minorities). It also led to creation of various Kashmir/India centric armed groups beginning with Hizb-ul Mujahideen and going on to Lashkar-e- Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Muhammad. Anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan further strengthened this breed of officers and soldiers in Pakistan Army. When General Musharraf tried to pull back the clock, it is these elements who struck back. There have been reports of some units of Pakistani armed forces, particularly in the frontier forces, having refused to conduct operations against the Islamic fighters belonging to Tehriq-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani General Headquarters (GHQ) using predominantly Shiite Northern Light Infantry (NLI) for taking on TTP in Swat and other areas of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Pakistan Army is not fighting the TTP just to preserve the state; it is fighting to ensure its own survival also. The TTP does not want to rest content just with sustaining an ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ with its British or Western oriented structures and ethos, it wants to replace them, including the military traditions and practices, with structures and ethos that conform to the Quran and the Sunnah as per its understanding of Islam. There are indications that the number of those who support this agenda is constantly increasing and moving upwards in Pakistan’s armed forces. The attempts on Musharraf’s life, the Mehran attack last year and the most recent attack on PAF Minhas, all of whom had strong links with men in uniform, suggest that the virus of Islamic radicalism has travelled far in Pakistan’s military establishment – a fact that has been acknowledged by the top brass also from time to time. While most of the top generals may have remained immune to this virus, the same can not be said either of the middle level officers, and most certainly not, for the lower ranks.