“Pakistan appears to be playing a double game of astonishing magnitude in Afghanistan” – so says a new report from the London School of Economics, which documents how Pakistani military intelligence is not only aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan, but is actually represented in the Taliban’s governing apparatus.
This is the same Pakistani government that receives billions from the United States in order to fight against the Taliban. The Senate voted last fall to triple the amount of non-military aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion annually — money that was supposed to go to build democracy and aid anti-terror efforts. “We should make clear to the people of Pakistan,” said a naïve and befuddled Sen. Richard Lugar (R.-Ind.), “that our interests are focused on democracy, pluralism, stability, and the fight against terrorism.”
The people of Pakistan undoubtedly know that, but it is not so clear that they’re actually on our side. In September 2008, the New York Times reported that “after the attacks of September 11, President Pervez Musharraf threw his lot in with the United States. Pakistan has helped track down al Qaeda suspects, launched a series of attacks against militants inside the tribal areas — a new offensive got under way just weeks ago — and given many assurances of devotion to the antiterrorist cause. For such efforts, Musharraf and the Pakistani government have been paid handsomely, receiving more than $10 billion in American money since 2001.” However, “the survival of Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders has depended on a double game: assuring the United States that they were vigorously repressing Islamic militants — and in some cases actually doing so — while simultaneously tolerating and assisting the same militants.”
What has changed since then? Only the regimes in both Islamabad and Washington, but neither the double game nor the false assumptions that continue to allow it to be played.
One fundamental assumption that all too many Pakistani officials hold is that when something goes wrong with society, it is because the people have faltered in their fidelity to Islam and only renewed religious fervor can solve the problem and restore prosperity to the nation and health to the society. This assumption militates against the idea that any amount of American aid will significantly alter the situation in Pakistan, or lessen popular support for the Islamic jihad of the Taliban and allied groups. For the Americans will always be infidels, no matter how much money they lavish upon the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Pakistan has struggled since its independence with the relationship between Western principles and Sharia norms. It was founded as a secular state, but Islamic activists resisted its secular character from the beginning. In 1956, eight years after independence, it was proclaimed an Islamic Republic. Amid a great deal of ongoing unrest, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto promised in 1977 to implement the Sharia. Shortly thereafter President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who had taken power in a bloody coup, declared that the Sharia was above Pakistan’s civil law. Unrest has continued and the small Christian community in Pakistan has suffered considerably under the blasphemy laws implemented in accord with the Sharia – laws that can be and are easily manipulated by Pakistani Muslims to victimize their Christian neighbors.
When he traveled in Pakistan, the renowned writer V.S. Naipaul discovered that “failure led back again and again to the assertion of the faith.” He quotes an article in the Pakistan Times by A.H. Kardar, “the former cricket captain of Pakistan, and an Oxford man.” Says Kardar of modern Pakistan: “Clearly, the choice is between materialism and its inseparable nationally divisive political manifestoes, and the Word of God.” A new severity invariably follows.
If Islamic orthodoxy were differently constituted, it wouldn’t be so vulnerable to exploitation by fanatics and demagogues who invoke religious principles as the basis of their legitimacy — but that’s precisely the problem. And it’s a problem that everyone who believes that the House of Islam can easily be secularized and fit into place as another ingredient in a global multicultural society should examine carefully. Especially those in Washington who keep showering more and more American billions upon the practitioners of the Pakistani double game.