Pakistan faces various conflicts with religious dimensions, many of which are monsters of its own creation. None pose a threat to the state's survival, writes Frederic Grare of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Pakistan is not the victim of a single conflict, but rather a series of localised conflicts of different natures, which, due to the nature of the actors and the policy of the state, are unlikely ever to coalesce into a single threat. Moreover, violence is hugely variable across the country, and even within provinces.
As such, despite the deaths of over 50 000 people in the past decade As of December 15, 2013. « Fatalities in Terrorist Violence 2003-2013 », South Asia Terrorism Portal, http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/pakistan/database/casualties.html through political violence, much of it with religious dimensions, such violence does not pose a threat to the Pakistani state. Neither political violence nor its religious dimension is a new phenomenon. They were intrinsic to Pakistan's creation and independence. All four provinces and the Northern Territories have suffered, but in recent years the hardest hit have been Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Jacob Shapiro, Saad Gulzar, Political Violence in Pakistan: Myths vs. Realities, Policy Brief, International Growth Center, 2nd April 2012. http://www.princeton.edu/~jns/papers/political_violence_policy_brief_129... where since June 2014, a high-profile military operation 'Zarb-e-Azb' has been waged against a number of militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda, resulting in the deaths of a number of militant commanders. The offensive has been framed in religious terms, with Pakistan's two largest Islamic clerical groups (the Pakistan Ulema Council and the Council of Islamic Ideology) issuing fatwas declaring the operation a jihad against terrorism.
Large areas of the country are unaffected, and poor governance makes it hard to identify the weakness of state institutions with violence. However, its persistence - exacerbated by the use of violent proxies by the security establishment - undermines the confidence of citizens in their government. However, increasing communal and sectarian violence between religious groups, often justified through reference to Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, particularly affect the country's minority groups including Shia, Ahmadiyaa and Christians, with annual deaths resulting from sectarian attacks rising threefold since the 1990s.
As it has progressed, the religious causes of violence have become unclear, as loose religious ideologies serve as rallying points rather than drivers of violent action. This ambiguity is made more so by most Pakistani Islamist schools of thought sharing the aim of building an Islamic state by means of jihad. As such, the differentiation between Islamist groups lies in their pro- or anti-state leanings, in either case articulated on theological lines.
Despite the increased level of violence observed after 9/11, the most comprehensive development of religiously motivated political violence in Pakistan can be traced to the ideologically-charged atmosphere of the 1980s.
The Islamic revolution in Iran, the Iran-Iraq War, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan all had an impact on the level of violence in Pakistan. Sunni and Shia extremist militant organisations started targeting members of the other sect, and Sunni militant organisations were used by the security establishment to carry out operations in Afghanistan and Kashmir. But these phenomena affected Pakistan mostly because of the Islamisation policies of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the military dictator who had seized power from Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1977.
Islamisation - the attempt to impose an Islamist social and political system - became a policy at the end of the 1970s as a way to eliminate subnational identities after the secession of East Pakistan. Islamabad implemented it with particular vigour in the two provinces adjacent to Afghanistan to counter ethnic separatism. Which later became Khyber Pakhtunkhwa These areas later served as a base of operations for Mujahedeen operations in Afghanistan. In this context, the state was able to use militant Islamist movements as an instrument of foreign and domestic policy, without having to cope with the dangers of such groups imported from abroad.
9/11 marked a new qualitative change. Under pressure in Afghanistan after the international intervention, Islamist movements began to seek refuge in Pakistan and started operating from lawless or less controlled parts of the country, with or without the complicity of the state security apparatus. However, it is only after about 2005 that Pakistan's capacity to control militant organisations became a real question. Until then, although a number of radical organisations had started operating independently from the security apparatus, the latter still prevailed.
The situation changed again in 2005 with the eruption of another separatist insurgency in Balochistan. The state's control over the province became more and more elusive, bringing back memories of the secession of East-Pakistan in 1971 and, rightly or wrongly, new fears of secession.
The state used militant Islamist movements as policy instruments
The Red Mosque incident of 2007 was another turning point, which called into question the state's capacity to control a monster of its own creation. For months, radical militant organisations had accumulated weapons in the compound of a mosque located in a residential area in Islamabad, a few hundred metres away from the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's premier military intelligence agency. After months of indecision, the army finally intervened, killing about a hundred militants in the assault. Attacks against the army, the ISI, and other sections of the military—previously unheard of—began almost immediately. There followed a cycle of attacks and retaliations, which became even more acute a year later when some militant movements captured a substantial part of the Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The province subsequently saw a 14-fold increase in casualties. Jacob Shapiro, Saad Gulzar, op. cit.
Both the Baloch insurgency and the conflict between the state security apparatus and radical Islamist organisations persist today. None of them can be considered a real threat to Pakistani territorial integrity any longer. But, although the Baloch separatist movement has been severely affected by the repression, both the insurgents and the radical Islamists retain the capacity to affect the Pakistani state. In the process, radical religious movements have been polarised between anti and pro-state organisations, with the Pakistani security establishment still deploying the latter in proxy operations both internally and externally.
The insurgency in Balochistan sets ethnic Balochs - fighting for the independence of the province - against the federal government. It is distinct from the conflict with the Pakistani Taliban in the FATA or from the fight against al-Qaeda or sectarian groups in other parts of the country, though these conflicts sometimes overlap or facilitate each other. Balochistan, where a strong Taliban presence developed after 2001, is particularly interesting in this regard. Traditionally, Baloch nationalists have rejected the Islamisation project, less for its ideological content than because they rightly perceive it as part of a larger scheme to isolate individuals and make them more amenable to Islamabad's policies. As a result, they have always opposed Islamist movements, Safdar Sial and Abdul Basit, Conflict and Insecurity in Balochistan: Assessing Strategic Policy Options for Peace and Security, Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, October-December 2010, 3. but the weakening of the nationalists through military repression is also sapping their resilience.
In parallel, Balochistan has also become a nexus of sectarian outfits: the Lashkar-e-Janghvi (LeJ), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, and Sipah-e-Mohammad, among others, have established a presence in the province, backed by a vast network of Deobandi madrassas. The Deobandi movement was initially a Sunni revivalist movement created in Deoband, a city of Uttar Pradesh, in pre-independence India, as a reaction to British colonialism seen as corrupting Islam. Post-independence it survived as a revivalist movement in India, but in Pakistan it became the inspiration of several conservative religious political organisations. One might expect Baloch people, including the separatists and the state security apparatus would converge in their opposition to sectarianism. In reality, there is a strong suspicion that the intelligence agencies may be using some segments of the sectarian militant groups as proxies against Baloch nationalists. The result has been a collapse of the legitimacy and authority of not only the federal government, but also its provincial counterparts.
Four main categories of non-state actors can be identified: jihadi networks that do not question the Islamic character of the Pakistani state, and focus mainly on India and Afghanistan; organisations with a revolutionary mission within Pakistan; sectarian groups; and separatist organisations from Balochistan. The only organisations loyal to the state belong to the first category. Categories also tend to be increasingly blurred. Organisations such as the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat (ASWJ), LeJ, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JM), and Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen now seem increasingly linked with the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda. They receive funding, logistical support, training and sanctuary from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Huma Yusuf, op. cit. Moreover, initial distinctions between sectarian and jihadi groups, but also between jihadi groups and revolutionary organisations, although not always clearly defined in the past, are now becoming even more tenuous.
Pakistan's security establishment has supported a number of militant proxies since partition, both in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Their importance has varied over time. Many groups formed to meet the needs of a particular set of circumstances, and a number have been restructured, renamed or disbanded.
The three following organisations, which belong to three different schools of thought, are still active and represent three examples of the evolution of the jihadi movement after 9/11. The Hizbul-Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Toiba have remained in the camp of the pro-state organisations and have both dutifully cooperated with the Pakistani security establishment for operations in Kashmir and, for the LeT, in other parts of India. The Jaish e-Mohammad initially followed a similar trajectory but large sections of the organisation have joined the anti-state camp.
Set up by the Jamaat-i-Islami, The Jamaat-i-Islami is a social-conservative Sunni school of thought created by Abul Ala Mawdudi in 1941. It later became a political party. The JI aims at the establishment of an "Islamic government" and opposes ideologies such as nationalism, capitalism, socialism, and secularism but advocates democracy as part of the Islamic political ideal. reportedly at the request of Pakistan's intelligence agencies, the Hizbul Mujahideen, led by Syed Salahuddin, stands for the integration of Jammu and Kashmir within Pakistan. Though not the most significant organisation, it is important as it is representative of why and how the Pakistani security establishment cooperates with Islamist groups in specific contexts, sometimes using one against another. It is a key component of the United Jihad Council, a coalition of 14 Pakistan-based organisations. Technically a Kashmiri organisation, the Hizbul Mujahideen operates from Pakistan, where its headquarters are located. Islamabad has used this organisation to counter the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), a secular organisation that seeks the complete independence of Kashmir.
9/11 was a turning point for Pakistani jihadi networks
The Lashkar-e-Toiba is today the most important and the most lethal jihadi organisation. It is also probably the greatest threat to regional stability. Formally created in 1990, led by Hafiz Mohammed Syed, the LeT actually appeared in 1985 as Jamaat ud Dawa. Its first front was Afghanistan, where it facilitated the participation of Pakistani followers of the Ahl-e-Hadith In its contemporary form, the Ahl-e-Hadith movement emerged in Northern India in the nineteenth century. It is a reformist Sunni movement which draws its membership from the upper class and rejects folk Islam and Sufism, often popular with the poor and working class. In Pakistan it inspired some of the most radical organisations. tradition to the jihad against the Soviet invasion. It later shifted to Jammu and Kashmir and mainland India and is held responsible for the Mumbai attack of November 26, 2008 that killed almost 200 people. The LeT holds preaching and jihad to be the two essential components of Islam. It has long offered rhetorical, financial and training support to other extremist organisations, including al-Qaeda. Its links with the Pakistani Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) are well known. "Lashkar-e-Toiba", World Almanac of Islamism, October 2, 2013, http://almanac.afpc.org/lashkar-e-taiba
The Jaish-e-Mohammad was created in January 2001 in Karachi by Maulana Masood Azar, a former leader of the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, after Indian authorities released him to free the passengers of a hijacked Air India flight. The JM belongs to the Deobandi school. It is closely linked with the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the LeJ, and is responsible for several attacks on Christian and Shi'i in Pakistan. It aims to unite Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan and advocates the destruction of India and America.
These three organisations mainly recruit educated youths from the urban lower-middle class, although differences exist between them. See C. Christine Fair, Anirban Gosh, Arif Jamal, Don Rassler, Nadia Shoeb, The fighters of Lashkar-e-Taiba: Rcruitment, Training, Deployment and Death, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, Occasional Paper Series, March 2013. The Jaish e-Mohammad recruits, for example, essentially from the small towns and madrassas of rural Pakistan.
The 9/11 attacks were a turning point for all three groups. Their choices determined the future trajectory of their relations with the Pakistani security establishment and triggered an unanticipated deterioration in the security situation. As a result of the international pressures Pakistan faced at the end of 2001 to combat al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the government officially banned the LeT and the JM. In reality, both were gently told to lie low and to disappear for some time; their choice was between this, or defying the military and thus losing its protection. See Stephen Tankel, Domestic Barriers to Dismantling the Militancy in Pakistan, United States Institute for Peace, September 9, 2013, pp.14-15
The resumption of the Composite Dialogue (the peace process between India and Pakistan) in January 2004 marked another stage in the evolution of the relationship between the state security apparatus and the jihadi organisations. Reportedly, the intelligence agencies now started paying the latter to stop their activities, keeping the jihadis in reserve should they wish to strike at India in the future.
However, the jihadi organisations reacted differently and the attitude of the security agencies varied accordingly. Unlike the LeT and the JeM, the Hizbul Mujahideen was never banned, but had to curtail its activities severely. It was at some point relatively marginalized in Kashmir itself. But whenever Islamabad felt the need of a malleable proxy to maintain the fiction of a Kashmiri-led rebellion against the Indian administration in Kashmir, the organisation would reappear. It claimed, for example, responsibility for some of the incidents in Srinagar in the summer and autumn of 2013. Ibid
The LeT was banned in January 2002 and renamed Jamaat-ud-Dawa, though the Kashmiri branch continued to operate freely under its former name. Yet the leadership was careful not to antagonise the Pakistani authorities and was able to impose its will on its followers. The LeT could continue its activities until it was again authorised to carry out militant operations in the Indian part of Kashmir. But even diminished support for operations in Kashmir did not decrease assistance for operations elsewhere in India, such as the Mumbai attack of 2008.
The JM was banned in January 2002 and Maulana Masood Azar placed under house arrest. However, JM continued to operate freely in Kashmir and many parts of Pakistan. Its offices were closed down in the major cities, but remained open in smaller cities. Muhammad Amir Rana, A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan, Lahore, Mashal, 2004, pp. 234-235 Despite, or perhaps emboldened by this tolerance, a faction of the movement decided to take active action against foreigners in Pakistan at a time when the regime was trying to improve its international image. They found themselves in direct conflict with the authorities and some of the movement leaders were eliminated. The JM can no longer be counted as a reliable ally of the Pakistani security establishment. This evolution is reflected in a substantial part of the Pakistani Islamist movement.
Religious organisations seeking to change Pakistan's social and political system to conform with their own interpretation of Islam have always existed in Pakistan. However, they were of little consequence until Zia-ul-Haq gave them political space and legitimacy and turned them into state policy instruments. The post-9/11 political and diplomatic context gave them a new importance. Pakistan's own constraints, in particular the need to reconcile the imperative to maintain relations with the United States with the desire to preserve the militants as a favourite tool to advance its regional foreign policy objectives, precipitated the conflict in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Pakistan had agreed to help the United States fight al-Qaeda while maintaining its support for the Taliban. Under U.S. military pressure, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Pakistani commanders who had been associated with them in Afghanistan sought shelter in the FATA, leading to a further radicalisation of the region. Local groups resisted the Pakistani army's subsequent interventions, and ceasefires invariably collapsed after mere weeks or months.
After the Red Mosque incident, in July 2007, the conflict escalated further, uniting militant organisations and turning what had been localised conflict into a de facto insurgency. For a while, observers feared that this conflict might spread to engulf the entire country; since then it has been reduced considerably, though not eliminated. Two major organisations stand out among the revolutionary groups.
Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi
The Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM) was created in 1994 by Sufi Mohammad. Its goal was to enforce Shariah law in the Malakand division of Pakistan (a region including the Swat Valley). That same year, the group forcefully took over several government functions in Swat. After 2001, the return of many young combatants from Afghanistan and the replacement of Sufi Mohammad by his son in law, Maulana Fazlullah, led to a series of occasional battles with the police and the armed forces. After 2007, it nevertheless benefitted from the unofficial support of the Musharraf government in order to embarrass the provincial government of the North West Frontier Province, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The TNSM was, however, kept under relative control until 2009, when it seized control of a sizeable portion of Swat before being pushed out by the army.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was created in 2007. It is essentially an umbrella organisation "loosely uniting up to 30 groups of Pakistani militants along the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan," Carlotta Gall and Deccan Walsh, "How the Pakistani Taliban Became a Deadly Force", The New York Times, November 2, 2013. each of them aiming at establishing local spheres of Shariah rule. The TTP is today the deadliest among Pakistani militant outfits, now operating from the Afghan side of the border, pushed there by the Pakistani army. The TNSM and the TTP had formed an alliance in the aftermath of the Red Mosque siege in 2007, and the TTP has become the face of the insurgency. After the death of Hakimullah Massud in 2013, Maulana Fazlullah was chosen by the TTP leadership to be their new chief.
A number of TTP commanders have declared their allegiance to Baghdadi and ISIS, since the group's announcement of the establishment of a ' Caliphate' in June 2014, highlighting a number of ideological and tactical splits within the group.
Sunni-Shi'i clashes were rare before partition in the provinces of United India that now constitute Pakistan. They increased after partition as a result of deep social divides but remained limited. Since 1989 however, some 9151 deaths can be directly attributed to sectarian violence alone. As of December 8, 2013. « Sectarian Violence in Pakistan 1989-2013 », South Asia Terrorism Portal, http://www.satp.org/sarporgtp/countries/pakistan/database/sect-killing.html Such violence primarily ( but not exclusivelyViolence is also common between Deobandi and Barelvi, two schools of Sunni Islam.) involves Sunnis and Shias, the latter accounting for 15 to 20 percent of Pakistan's population. Pakistan has the second largest Shia population after Iran.
The Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), a sectarian organisation created in Jhang (central Punjab) to counter the new Shi'i assertiveness resulting from the Iranian revolution with the acceptance (and later support) of the regime, transformed what were essentially economic and social grievances into outright hatred of the Shia. The SSP provided these discontented people with a political platform and access to the political arena. It has been carrying out attacks against Shi'i since 1985 and has occasionally clashed with Barelvi groups. The Barelvi movement was created in the Indian city of Bareillly at the turn of the 20th century in defence of traditional Sunni Islam. In Pakistan it soon found itself in opposition to the Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith organisations. It is no coincidence that Jhang, where Shia landowners have traditionally held political power, became the first city to fall prey to sectarian violence in the mid-1980s in an effort to dislodge the traditional power holders. The SSP was created as an instrument to fulfill this objective. See also Eqbal Ahmed, 'The conflict within', Dawn, 15 February, 1998. The SSP is now operating under the name Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) and led by Ahmed Ali Ludhianvi.
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), led by Akram Lahori, was formed in 1996 by a break-away group of the SSP. It operates essentially as the military wing of the SSP in anti-Shia activities, but has also conducted operations in Kashmir and Afghanistan.
Shias also have their own sectarian organisations, although less numerically significant, which regard themselves as protectors of Pakistan's Shia community. The Sipah-e-Mohammadi Pakistan (SMP), created in 1993, and led today by Gulam Raza Naqvi, is the most important of them. It resurfaced in 2008-2009 and is involved in sectarian conflict with LeJ and ASWJ, mostly in Lahore and Karachi.
The Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan (TJP) is a more minor organisation. Under the leadership of Syed Sajid Ali Naqvi, it aims primarily at organising Shia resistance to Sunni extremism but is also involved in sectarian killing. Like the ASWJ and others, the TJP has been banned twice but continues to operate under different names. Huma Yusuf, Sectarian Violence: Pakistan's greatest security threat?, NOREF, Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, July 2012.
The social dimension of the Sunni-Shia struggle (setting landless, deprived Sunnis against Shia landlords) in Pakistan is a driver of the high levels of recruitment to Sunni and Shia organisations. In the 1980s and 1990s Sunni political aspirants who lacked political assets such as land, education, or family connections often saw violence as their ticket to political power. They constituted the vast majority of the SSP and LeJ membership.
After 9/11, Pakistan's policy U-turn in Afghanistan drew Sunni sectarian groups and international terrorist groups closer. Both benefitted from the ambivalence of the Pakistani state in its relationship with extremist groups. Despite being banned in 2002 by Pervez Musharraf, and banned again 10 years later in March 2012 under its new name, the SSP remains operational.
Sunni sectarians often adhere to Deobandi ideology
Moreover, initially limited to specific areas in central and southern Punjab and Karachi, the influence of sectarian groups has crossed these boundaries to affect the entire country. The LeJ is currently focusing on the Shia Hazaras of Balochistan. But sectarian clashes have also occurred in the Gilgit-Baltistan region in the north of Pakistan, mostly against the ASWJ, and in Khyber Pakhtunkwa where, besides traditional Sunni-Shia clashes, instances of intra-sectarian violence between Deobandis and Barelvis have been observed, though it is unclear whether this violence is for purely ideological reasons.
Most Sunni sectarian groups belong to the Deobandi school of thought. Ideology, however, is essentially a rallying point. It primarily defines who does not belong, rather than what is to be done. In these organisations, jihad has become associated with a cult of violence as the only way to cleanse the Ummah. Certain that they will earn a spot in paradise, their members are willing to kill and die. But social and economic dynamics also played a major role in their development. A large number of people benefited financially from violence. Violence was also attractive to many of the socially deprived, because they felt suddenly empowered. Religious leaders in particular realised how much greater the impact of their sermons would be if they were backed by real threats and violence, leading to a constant "rage" posture. Khaled Ahmed, 'Its mostly Muslim kill-Muslim here', The Friday Times, August 22-28, 2003, p. 9. But they were soon trapped in their own rhetoric and compelled either to become more radical or to lose their followers. Disillusioned youth were only too prone to follow the clergy, as they felt the traditional, less radical religious parties had failed to defend their faith.
The Baloch nationalist scene is quite rich and diverse, but three separatist organisations are resorting to violence as a means of promoting their political objectives:
Baloch Liberation Army
The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) is a clandestine organisation associated with the Marri tribe. The BLA is said to be led by Hyrbyair Marri and stands for the independence of a "Greater Balochistan" including Pakistani, Iranian, and Afghan Balochs. Michael Brown, Mohammad Dawaod, Arash Iranlatab, Mahmud Naqi, Balochistan Case Study, INAF 5493-S: Ethnic Conflic: Causes, Consequences and Management, June 21, 2012, www.carleton.ca/cifp/app/serve.php/1398.pdf
Baloch Republican Party
The Baloch Republican Party (BRA) is led by Brahumdagh Bugti, leader of the Bugti tribe, who took the organisation's reins after the 2006 killing of his grandfather Akbar Bugti by the Pakistani army. Like the BLA, it advocates the independence of a "Greater Balochistan." The BRA opposes all political dialogue with Pakistan's federal authorities, accusing Islamabad of perpetrating a genocide against the Baloch people and calling upon the international community to intervene on Balochistan's behalf. Ibid.
Baloch Student Organisation
A third organisation, the Baloch Student Organisation (BSO) is of particular importance, having had some unifying impact on the Baloch nationalist movement. Created in 1960, the BSO recruits its members from among educated Baloch youths. It has trained and produced many nationalist leaders and as such, is a particular target for repression by the intelligence agencies. It is composed of several factions that support most Baloch nationalist parties, including the BLA. This has never, however, prevented the BSO from acting independently. Today, the BSO-Azad faction, a hardline movement aligned with the BLA, seems to be the dominant wing of the organisation.
The significance of these groups lies in their resistance to the Islamisation policies pursued by the Pakistani state since the Zia ul Haq regime.
Pakistan continues the Islamisation of its immediate environment
But their emergence as the lead organisations against the centralisation policies of the federal state bears witness to the weakening of the nationalist parties and the parallel progress of radical movements in Balochistan. Amid the state of anarchy in the province and led by the madrassa network, radicalisation is on the rise. The Afghan and Pakistani Talibans and al-Qaeda have a strong presence in the region, while sectarian groups have stepped up their activities. Pushed out of Punjab to Balochistan by the Pakistani security agencies and benefitting from a large, sympathetic madrassa network, the LeJ, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Imamia Student Organisation, and Sipah-e-Mohammed have all established a presence in the province as well.
Unlike the Pashtun-populated areas, the territories inhabited by ethnic Balochs were, until recently, largely secular. Today, the LeJ is now recruiting among the Baloch population and some of its most prominent leaders in the province are said to be Baloch. The result is a shift from religious activism to militancy and the exponential rise of sectarian violence.
The Pakistani state likes to describe itself as a victim of its regional environment. It has indeed been impacted by the ideological trends and rivalries that have affected the Muslim world. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, have been sources of funding for religious groups of various affiliations.
Pakistan has been, and continues to be, a major actor in the Islamisation of its immediate environment. The conflict in Kashmir was 'Islamised' thanks to Pakistani support for radical organisations. The pre-eminence of the most radical organisations in Afghanistan was established thanks to Pakistan's support for the Mujahedeen in the 1980s and for the Taliban and others in the 1990s. Most of the groups that have turned their weapons against the state in the first decade of the new millennium previously have been supported financially, logistically, and with training by Pakistan itself. Pakistan is, therefore, primarily a victim of its own policies.
Additionally, although no evidence has ever being shown of their involvement, Islamabad has accused New Delhi and Kabul of supporting the Baloch insurgency and, more recently, the TTP. Had it ever existed, such support could have had only one purpose: to raise the cost of Pakistan's own proxy war by perpetuating against it the same tactics it has employed against its two neighbours.
Al-Qaeda, a non-state actor, has in fact been the most influential external actor, and the declaration in September 2014 of the establishment of a new South Asian franchise 'al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent' was widely seen as a response to the growing factionalism characterising the global jihadi movement, and the growing regional influence of ISIS. Al-Qaeda has cooperated with most anti-state Islamic organisations and has in the process influenced their agendas. Al-Qaeda is also partly responsible for the increase in Pakistan's sectarian violence and has exacerbated the contradictions of Pakistan's policies. Pakistan was trapped in its own system of Islamic alliances and its Western alliances antagonised both al-Qaeda and its Pakistani allies.
Whatever its understanding of the dynamics in Pakistan, the international community ended up playing Pakistan's own game. Out of its fear of Islamic radicalism, it supported the Pakistani army, which was the origin of the problem. In the process it exacerbated the situation.
The views expressed by this author remain solely their own and are not to be taken as the view of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
Last updated 22 December 2014.