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Pakistan: Identity and Islamic Ideology

Making Sense of Pakistan by Farzana Shaikh


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Pakistan: Identity and Islamic Ideology Jawid Laiq hasty retreat from this position after the Americans held the Taliban regime in Kabul responsible for providing a base for the Al Qaida attacks on New York. The army is now involved in operations to subdue the Pakistani branch of the Taliban who have become a threat to the

hither Pakistan? A short question which bothers all those interested in Pakistan. There are many long answers to this brief question. Farzana Shaikh has chosen to respond to the query by concentrating on a single aspect – the Islamic identities of Pakistan. In meticulously documented detail, she has probed the clash of ideas and the cross-currents of politics which led to the emergence of a muddled Pakistani i dentity in 1947 and which have continued to bedevil Pakistan thereafter.

Shaikh suggests that the movement for Pakistan was set off by an Indo-Muslim religious discourse along with the desire for economic and political gain by some Muslim segments. The twin impulses of Muslim separatism and of protection/ promotion of Islamic standards were essential ingredients of the Pakistan movement. The complex web of contested versions of Islam is described in minute detail by Shaikh. She attests that “It is this contestation over the multiple meanings of Islam that accounts today for the doubts about the meaning of Pakistan and the significance of being Pakistani”.

Political leaders, military rulers, theological figures, have all used their myriad versions of Islam to push forward their self-seeking agendas for power and pelf.

Economic & Political Weekly

october 10, 2009

Making Sense of Pakistan by Farzana Shaikh

(London: Hurst and Cambridge University Press India); 2009; pp ix + 274, Rs 695.

In a chapter titled, “The Burden of Islam”, the author traces the history of the conflicting visions of Islam propagated by Syed Ahmad Khan, Muhammad Iqbal, Jinnah, Zulfiqar and Benazir Bhutto, Generals Ayub Khan and Zia-ul-Haq, the Deobandis, the Wahabis and the numerous Jamaats. (There is quite a lot of overlapping in the first three chapters on “Why Pakistan?”, “Who Is a Pakistani?” and “The Burden of Islam”. They could have been more tightly edited.)

Professional Army

A subsequent chapter, titled “Between Crescent and Sword” forms the most interesting part of the book. It charts the troubled descent of a professional army towards an Islamic army. The army’s use of diverse groups of jihadi lashkars or holy warriors as force multipliers is also provided in detail. She notes that it was Benazir Bhutto’s civilian regime which initially nurtured the Taliban, starting in 1993. The army consequently supported the Taliban to set them up as strategic allies to control Afghanistan. In September 2001, Musharraf had to beat a

vol xliv no 41

Pakistani state.

Foreign Policy

Pakistan’s foreign policy has been largely dictated by its unending quest for strategic, diplomatic and military parity with India. This has spilled over into its policy towards Afghanistan. Shaikh aptly explains that “Pakistan’s Afghan policy is best understood as an extension of Pakistan’s historical claim to parity with India. Just as nuclear weapons have served Pakistan as ‘equalisers’ in its quest for military parity with India, so too has Pakistan’s Afghan policy come to represent the ultimate test of Pakistan’s aspirations to rival India as a regional hegemon.” Shaikh acutely sums up Pakistan’s relationship with the United States as that of a “sullen mistress” constantly craving for her partner’s support against India. Her American partner is, however, usually distracted by his global affairs with many other suitors and his confrontations with sundry opponents.

Shaikh concludes that “Many Pakistanis now believe that the magnitude of the threat posed to their country by such [Islamist] violence is so immense that its future can no longer be guaranteed without the support and cooperation of its neighbours, including erstwhile foes, notably India…But tilting the balance


more firmly towards cooperation rather

than conflict as the basis for a new

understanding of Pakistan will be a

demanding exercise.” Shaikh’s book makes substantive sense

for those seeking the ideological under

pinnings of Pakistan. For many others

seeking a wider sense of Pakistan’s

rich and diverse society and a depiction

Advani, Shalini (2009): Schooling the National Imagination: Education, English, and the Indian Modern (New Delhi: Oxford University Press); pp z + 205, Rs 575.

Agha, Sameetah and Elizabeth Kolsky (2009): Peoples, Places and Spaces in Colonial India: Fringes of Empire (New Delhi: Oxford University Press); pp xvi + 256, Rs 675.

Alternative Survey Group, Indian Political Economy Association (2009): Global Economic Crisis: A People’s Perspective Fiasco of Neo-liberalism (Delhi: Daanish Books); pp x + 258, Rs 450.

Aziz, Sartaj (2009): Between Dreams and Realities: Some Milestones in Pakistan’s History (Karachi and Oxford: Oxford University Press); pp xviii + 408, Rs 595.

Bandyopadhyay, Sekhar (2009): Decolonization in South Asia: Meanings of Freedom in Post-independence West Bengal, 1947-52 (Oxon and New York: Routledge); pp 246, price not indicated.

Bhowmik, Someswar (2008): Behind the Glitz: Exploring an Enigma Called Indian Film Industry (Kolkata: Thema); pp xii + 115, Rs 80.

Bissell, William Nanda (2009): Making India Work (New Delhi: Viking/Penguin); pp xl + 248, Rs 499.

Chaube, Shibani Kinkar (2009): The Making and Working of the Indian Constitution (Delhi: National Book Trust); pp 285, Rs 70.

Deshpande, G P (2009): Talking the Political Culturally and Other Essays (Kolkata: Thema); pp 127, Rs 150.

Dias, Ayesha Kadwani and Gita Honwana Welch, ed. (2009): Justice for the Poor: Perspectives on Accelerating Access (New Delhi: Oxford University Press); pp xxii + 678, Rs 895.

Dusenbery, Verne A, Darshan S Tatla, ed. (2009): Sikh Diaspora: Philanthropy in Punjab – Global Giving for Local Good (New Delhi: Oxford University Press); pp xviii + 312, Rs 750.

Gellner, David N, ed. (2009): Ethnic Activism and Civil Society in South Asia (New Delhi: Sage Publications); pp viii + 367, Rs 750.

Giustozzi, Antonio (2009): Empires of Mud: Wars and Warlords in Afghanistan (New Delhi: Foundation Books); pp x + 332, Rs 795.

Giustozzi, Antonio, ed. (2009): Decoding the New Taliban: Insights from the Afghan (New Delhi: Foundation Books); pp xiii + 318, Rs 795.

Green, Nile (2009): Islam and the Army in Colonial India: Sepoy Religion in the Service of Empire (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press); pp xvi + 217, Rs 695.

of P akistan as a living organism, this book offers too narrow a perspective. The economic struggles of the working people of Pakistan and the cultural assertions of its various ethnic communities are barely mentioned. In a single sentence, Shaikh does mention that “An emancipated media, a newly galvanised legal fraternity, an astonishingly

Books Received

Grondelle, Marc Van (2009): The Ismailis in the Colonial Era: Modernity, Empire and Islam (New Delhi: Foundation Books); pp xvi + 139, Rs 595.

Gupta, Amlan Das, ed. (2007): Music and Modernity: North Indian Classical Music in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction (Kolkata: Thema); pp 256, Rs 160.

Kandyil, Achuthan M (2009): Writing Indian History: A View from Below (Kolkata: Samya); pp xii + 448, Rs 700.

Karashima, Noboru (2009): South Indian Society in Transition: Ancient to Medieval (New Delhi: Oxford University Press); pp xix + 301, Rs 750.

Kutty, P K S (2009): Years of Laughter: Reminiscences of a Cartoonist (Kolkata: Thema); pp xii + 295, Rs 500.

Majumdar, Rochona (2009): Marriage and Modernity: Family Values in Colonial Bengal (New Delhi: Oxford University Press); pp 343, Rs 750.

Manchanda, Rita (2009): The No Nonsense Guide to Minority Rights in South Asia (New Delhi: Sage Publications); pp xvi + 304, Rs 350.

Marglin, Stephen A (2009): The Dismal Science: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community

(New Delhi: Oxford University Press); pp xvi + 359, Rs 795.

Mehrotra, Deepti Priya (2009): Burning Bright: Irom Sharmila and the Struggle for Peace in Manipur

(New Delhi: Penguin Books); pp xv + 219, Rs 275.

Misra, Harekrishna (2009): Governance of Rural Information and Communication Technologies: Opportunities and Challenges (New Delhi: Academic Foundation); pp 299, Rs 895.

Modi, Renu, ed. (2009): Beyond Relocation: The Imperative of Sustainable Resettlement (New Delhi: Sage Publications); pp xxx + 432, Rs 850.

Mohanty, Sachidananda, ed. (2009): Sri Aurobindo: A Contemporary Reader (New Delhi: Routledge); pp xiv + 236, Rs 325.

Murali, Atlury, ed. (2009): Putchalapalli Sundarayya: An Autobiography (Delhi: National Book Trust); pp xi + 432, Rs 145.

Nanda, Meera (2009): The God Market: How Globalization is Making India More Hindu, Random House India, Noida, pp 240, Rs 395.

Pal, Manoranjan, Premananda Bharati, Bholanath Ghosh, T S Vasulu, ed. (2009): Gender and Discrimination: Health, Nutritional Status and Role of Women in India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press); pp xxviii + 324, Rs 750.

Pereira, Angela Guimaraes and Silvio Funtowics, ed. (2009): Science for Policy: New Challenges, New

october 10, 2009

vibrant artistic community, a clutch of combative historians and human rights activists are all in the forefront of new trends”. She says nothing more about these groups.

Jawid Laiq ( is a political reporter and author of The Maverick Republic.

Opportunities (New Delhi: Oxford University Press); pp xxx + 360, Rs 750.

Puttaswamaiah, K, ed. (2009): Milton Friedman – Nobel Monetary Economist: A Review of His Theories and Policies (New Delhi: Oxford & IBH Publishing Co Pvt Ltd); pp xiv + 285, price not indicated.

Rangarajan, C (2009): India: Monetary Policy, Financial Stability and Other Essays (New Delhi: Academic Foundation); pp 428, Rs 995.

Salik, Naeem (2009): The Genesis of South Asian Nuclear Deterrence: Pakistan’s Perspective (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press); pp xii + 324, Rs 495.

Samaddar, Ranabir (2009): Gandhi’s Dilemma in War and Independence (Kolkata: Frontpage); pp xiii + 125, Rs 195.

Sankaran, Kamala (2009): Freedom of Association in India and International Labour Standards (Nagpur: Lexis Nexis – Butterworths Wadhwa); pp xxx + 382, Rs 495.

Sharma, O P (2009): The International Law of the Sea: India and the UN Convention of 1982 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press); pp lix + 357, Rs 795.

Sinha, Rakesh (2009): Deceptive Equality: Deconstructing the Equal Opportunity Commission (IPF Monograph 1) (New Delhi: India Policy Foundation); pp 70, Rs 50.

Swaminathan, A M (2009): Food Security: Policy Options for Tamil Nadu (New Delhi: Academic Foundation); pp 174, Rs 595.

Trautmann, Thomas R (2009): The Madras School of Orientalism: Producing Knowledge in Colonial South India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press); pp ix + 334, Rs 875.

Upadhyay, Archana (2009): India’s Fragile Borderlands: The Dynamics of Terrorism in North East India (London: I B Tauris and Co); pp xx + 308, Rs 895.

Verma, Som Prakash (2009): Interpreting Mughal Painting: Essays on Art, Society, and Culture (New Delhi: Oxford University Press); pp xvi + 201, Rs 595.

Virmani, Arvind (2009): The Sudoku of India’s Growth (New Delhi: BS Books); pp x + 275, Rs 650.

Wadhwa, D C (2009): Endangered Constitutionalism: Documents of a Supreme Court Case (Pune: Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics); pp xc + 325, Rs 795.

Zachariah, K C and S Irudaya Rajan (2009): Migration and Development: The Kerala Experience (Delhi: Daanish Books); pp xxxiv + 318, price not indicated.

vol xliv no 41

Economic & Political Weekly

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