It was in the 1960s that the army increasingly linked itself to the ideology of Pakistan and thrust itself into the role of protecting this ideology, the cornerstones of which were Islam and a perpetual hostility to India… Pakistan Army’s adoption of a religious ideology did not, in fact, conflict with the British model. After all, the British had long made use of religion in their military training. The British emphasis on martial races compelled them to devise elaborate handbooks so that officers could identify and recruit such races, including the Punjabi Musalmans and the Sikhs. This attention to religion continued once the recruits had joined the force and resulted in the codifying of some forms of religious practice and even of appearance, such as the requirement that Sikhs keep their hair uncut and wear a turban (Gell 1996). The British also took care to enforce religious practice among its officer corps, as attested in some Pakistani officers’ biographies… Given that the British made use of religion, it should not come as a surprise that the Pakistan Army continued to do so upon independence.
The army’s role in defending Pakistan’s ideological frontiers began with Mohammad Ayub Khan, who became the first Pakistani army chief on January 17, 1951, following the departure of Gen. Sir Douglas Gracey (Haqqani 2005). Britain’s transitional role officially ended when Ayub became the chief of the army. In 1958 he took over the state in a bloodless coup, which he described as “the Revolution in October 1958” (M.A. Khan 2006, 15). There is no evidence that Ayub or his colleagues had any serious interest in Islamism or Islamic orthodoxy; in fact his autobiography, Friends not Masters, demonstrates contempt for religious leaders and evinces his desire for Pakistan to adopt a modern Islam, as detailed in his volume and elsewhere. Ayub sought to build a strong central government that would be reinforced by Islam.
Some of the strategies that Ayub employed included changing the significance of Pakistan’s numerous Sufi shrines and the relevance of the saints attached to them. Ayub would use these shrines as a means of modernization. He wanted to limit the direct participation of the ulema in politics but also to associate his government with Islam. He also wanted to restrict the role of the hereditary religious leaders (pirs) associated with Sufi shrines as well. Both the pirs and ulema had goals and views of Islam that were at odds with Ayub’s own vision of modern Muslim state. These pirs, along with their sometimes millions of followers, had long become embedded in politics. After all, they could easily deliver the vote banks of their followers.
Ayub sought to associate himself with this popular form of Islam to legitimize himself while also stripping the pirs of their political influence. To do so, he established the Department of Auqaf to oversee all of these shrines and other religious endowments. In this way he sought to demonstrate to the public that the government, rather than the pirs, was best equipped to take care of these shrines… Despite Ayub’s efforts, the pirs remain an important political actor in Pakistan as evidenced by the many contemporary politicians who are hereditary spiritual leaders associated with shrines.
[quote]Ayub’s writings evince a belief that, should Pakistan’s ideology fail, Pakistan would also fail[/quote]
Under Ayub the army arrogated to itself the task of protecting Pakistan’s ideological as well as physical frontiers. In a 1960 article for Foreign Affairs, Ayub reiterates his support for Pakistan’s ideology and seeks to define it. In offering his definition, he draws heavily on the famed Pakistani Islamist political philosopher and poet Dr. Mohammad Iqbal:
Pakistan was… almost losing its ideology in the very act of trying to fulfill it… Iqbal, one of the main creators of our ideology, had taken pains to define it in very clear terms: “In Islam the spiritual and the temporal are not two distinct domains and the nature of an act, however secular in its import, is determined by the attitude of mind with which the agent does it. It is the invisible mental background of the act which ultimately determines its character. An act is temporal or profane if it is done in a spirit of detachment from the infinite complexity of life behind it. It is spiritual if it is inspired by that complexity… The State from the Islamic standpoint is an endeavor to transform these ideals into space-time forces, an aspiration to realize them in a definite human organization.” It is this sort of human organization which Pakistan aspires to become and one of my endeavors is to clear at least a part of the way by liberating the basic concept of our ideology from the dust of vagueness and ambiguities it has accumulated over the years. (emphasis added).
The tenor and content of the article demonstrates the extent to which Ayub, his secular credentials notwithstanding, was willing to mobilize Islam in the name of protecting the nation…
It is clear from both Ayub’s autobiography and the Foreign Affairs essay that among the key elements of his conceptualization both of the ideology of Pakistan and of Pakistani nationalism were “Pan-Islamic aspirations and fear of Hindu and Indian domination” (Haqqani 2005, 42). In Friends not Masters he argues that the cause of Pakistan’s most significant problems is India’s “inability to reconcile herself to our existence as a sovereign independent State. The Indian attitude can only be explained in pathological terms. The Indian leaders have a deep hatred for the Muslims… From the beginning, India was determined to make things difficult for us”.
Later in the same volume, Ayub, describing India’s posited hegemonic impulses, its implacable hostility to Pakistan, and the intolerance of the Hindu priestly caste, the Brahmins, contends:
India was not content with her present sphere of influence and she knew that Pakistan had the will and the capacity to frustrate her expansionist designs. She wanted to browbeat us into subservience. All we wanted was to live as equal and honourable neighbors, but to that India would never agree. It was Brahmin chauvinism and arrogance that had forced us to seek a homeland of our own where we could order our life according to our thinking and faith… There was [a] fundamental opposition between the ideologies of India and Pakistan.
Ayub’s writings evince a belief that, should Pakistan’s ideology fail, Pakistan would also fail. To ensure the success of this ideology, and thus of Pakistan, then, his government had to actively promote it and secure its legitimacy within Pakistan. This required the government to mobilize the same kinds of tools other states employ to socialize their citizens, such as public school curricula, print media, radio, and television. Ayub’s government used these instruments to restrict public debate about the nature of the Pakistani state and its ideology…it is important to note that Ayub’s government engaged the entire apparatus of the state to consolidate and protect Pakistan’s ideology. Pakistan’s educational system became an obvious tool of Ayub’s government, and it remains an important means of propagating and protecting the ideology of the state. During his tenure, Ayub laid the foundations of Pakistan’s current national educational system. His government undertook a massive review of educational policy, the results of which were compiled in 1959 in the Sharif Commission report. Reflecting Ayub’s revolutionary mission, the commission’s recommendations were aimed at developing a national consciousness along the lines of Ayub’s ideology.
The Sharif Commission report had two overarching goals: achieving national integration and homogenization; and modernizing Pakistan’s economy and society…The report also established a textbook board, whose primary task has since been to ensure that country’s textbooks align with the government’s policies…this curriculum offered—and continues to offer— deeply problematic histories of Islam in the region and xenophobic characterizations of India and Hindus and has over time come to emphasize Sunni Islam, to the exclusion of other Muslims and non-Muslims…
Although Ayub’s government focused on the educational sector, he also mobilized other state apparatus. The Ministry of Information and Bureau of National Reconstruction ensured that radio, television, magazines, book, newspapers, and films reflected the same message as the school system. By doing so, Ayub’s regime was able to disseminate his ideology among adults, who were outside the direct reach of the school system.
While Ayub may have been the first army chief to advocate a role for the Pakistan Army in defending Pakistan’s ideological as well as physical frontiers, he was not the last. Zia contended that the “preservation of [the] ideology and the Islamic character of the country was… as important as the security of the country’s geographic boundaries”…
Zia’s approach to managing Islam however differed sharply from that of Ayub. Whereas Ayub sought to co-opt Sufi shrines and circumscribe the power of the pirs associated with them while limiting the political inputs of the ulema, Zia did not feel the need to associate his regime with Sufi Islam. During his period, he increased the direct participation of the ulema parties and involved them in the functions of the state. Whereas Ayub reappropriated the Urs festival of the saint associated with the shrine to promote modernizing programs, Zia gave these events considerably less promotion. (Note that Z. A. Bhutto adopted a very similar strategy to shrine management as Ayub before him.) While Zia was associated with attempting to reinstate “the original Islamic social order that prevailed at the time of the Prophet Mohammad(PBUH),” his government did not entirely disavow Sufi saints and shrines (Ewing 1983, 263) but instead redeployed the identity of saints as models of piety…
The author is an Assistant Professor in the Security Studies Program within Georgetown University’s Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service. The book will be released in Pakistan later this month