Political Islam in South Asia
Are Knudsen (2002)
Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI Report R 2002:14)
This report analyses the growth of political Islam in South Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan and India's Jammu and Kashmir Province). In Pakistan the failure of parliamentary democracy and the weakening of civil society have spurred the growth of social protest in the form of a political Islam. The call for implementing Sharia (the holy law of Islam) and the expansion of jihad (in the sense "holy war") are examples of political protest expressed in a religious idiom.
Pakistan is still a moderate Islamic country, but with a growing and increasingly violent Islamic militant lobby. The army is still firmly in charge but because of its patronage of the key militant groups, cannot take decisive action against them. The army likes to portray itself as the guardian of democracy but is in fact an obstacle to it. At the moment, the return to "true" democracy in Pakistan looks bleak.
The Kashmir conflict has for half a century marred relations between India and Pakistan and is currently the biggest security threat in the region. The intensification of the conflict since 1989 in the form of an insurgency against Indian rule was in large measure due to growth of political Islam. At the moment, the unresolved Kashmir conflict remains the biggest security threat on the subcontinent.
The Taliban movement was created and nurtured by Pakistan and support for its regime in Afghanistan was a cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy. Although the Taliban regime has been defeated militarily, it can still present a long-term challenge to a future government in Afghanistan. The presence of the Al Qaeda "cells" in Pakistan's tribal areas and in some of the major cities pose a security threat, especially if they ally themselves with the country's most militant groups. In this sense the Taliban will not go away, but continue to represent a security challenge to Pakistan and the new government of Afghanistan.