Who is Pakistan's National Islamic Saint

Islam

Andreas Rieck

To person

Dr. phil., born 1954; 1976-1983 studied Islamic Studies, Political Science and Iranian Studies; 1984-1987 lecturer at the Orient Institute of the German Oriental Society (DMG) in Beirut (Lebanon); since 1989 at the German Orient Institute in Hamburg.

address: German Orient Institute, Neuer Jungfernstieg 21, 20354 Hamburg.
e-mail: [email protected]

Numerous publications on Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and generally on political Islam.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Pakistan declared its readiness to give the US "full support in the fight against terrorism". This step marked a turning point in Pakistani foreign policy.

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With the exception of Afghanistan, no other Islamic country has been as badly affected by the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks as Pakistan. However, while the Afghan Taliban regime has paid full price for its support of bin Laden's extremist network after years of hesitant excuses, the Pakistani leadership swerved in good time to "fully support the campaign against international terrorism". General Pervez Musharraf, chief executive of the military since October 1999 and self-appointed President of Pakistan since June 2001, has taken a high political and personal risk for this. He has not only incurred the wrath of the numerically strong and largely violent Islamist scene in his country, which has shown solidarity with the Taliban and Bin Laden for years, but has also gone against the tide of one of the moderate Pakistanis and the major secularist parties widespread anti-Americanism. Although his change of course was honored by the US and its allies with the diplomatic upgrading of Pakistan and pledges for generous new loans and other financial aid, the American bombing war in Afghanistan turned into a serious domestic political burden. With the collapse of the Taliban regime and the advance of the Northern Alliance, Pakistan also suffered a - at least temporary - considerable loss of influence and prestige in its neighboring country and has apparently become less important as an ally of the West.

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  • Pakistan's willingness to cooperate will nonetheless remain essential for a lasting pacification of Afghanistan. People, weapons and goods of all kinds have been crossing the 2,200-kilometer common border almost unhindered since the 1980s, which will not change much in the foreseeable future. There are more Pashtun citizens in Pakistan (15-20 million, excluding Afghan refugees) than in Afghanistan (an estimated 10-12 million), and there is a close network of family, commercial (both smuggling and legal trafficking) and political links between them -religious solidarity. Even after the failure of the Taliban project, Pakistan will be able to throw its weight in the balance in terms of Pashtun interests in Afghanistan.

    Incidentally, Pakistan has a great deal to gain from pacifying Afghanistan and the prospect of international engagement for reconstruction: it remains an indispensable transit country for most aid and capital goods, and this role would become even more important if the transport routes to Central Asia via Afghanistan were opened up and would be expanded. Work could also begin on a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, which has been planned since 1995. Most of the refugees in Pakistani camps, the number of which had risen to over two million in the last few months, could largely return, and with growing purchasing power, Afghanistan could become an important market for Pakistani goods.

    A consolidation of the new course of Musharraf, who gave up a seven-year-old unsuccessful policy on Afghanistan, should also have significant positive consequences for Pakistani domestic and Kashmiri policy. In late 2001, under pressure from Indian threats of war, Musharraf began to restrict the power and freedom of the Islamist parties, which over the past two decades have almost become a state within a state. This means a departure from the previous course of confrontation in Kashmir, where Pakistan's military had assigned the same religious parties and groups a central role since 1989.