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• Dr. Muhammad Hanif Khalil has resumed the charge as Acting Director of the National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad w.e.f. 25-09-2023
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National Institute of Pakistan Studies
Name of ScholarSyed Mujawar Hussain Shah
Title of Dissertation Religion and Politics in Pakistan (1972-88)
Issue Date1994
PublisherNational Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad

The literature on religion and politics in Pakistan revolves around two themes: firstly, the conflicting role of religion in the making of Pakistan where it was used by the traditionalist ulama to negate the idea of territorial nationalism in South Asia and secondly by the modern advocates of the Pakistan Movement in a purely political context. The present study, however, attempts to see this co-relation at different levels. These levels are the state, the assembly, the political parties, elections and political leadership.

The underlying theme is that both the modernists and the traditionalists used Islam to argue and advance their respective political objectives. The modernists equated Islam with the modern secular institutions while giving in to a few cosmetic changes in order to satisfy the ulama. They had not prepared themselves well about the applicability of Islam in the socio-economic systems of the country. Some time they would use Islam to mobilize the public opinion or to satisfy their political compulsion keeping in view the agitational politics at home as well as the diplomatic obligation abroad. This view is clearly demonstrated during the Bhutto’s rule. This process, however, did not amount to any radical change in the body-politik of Pakistan but yielded more ground to the political ambitions of the ulama.

Subsequent political uses of Islam during the Zia period were aimed at achieving two objectives: firstly, to keep the tempo of the agitational movement initiated by the ulama against Bhutto, and secondly to deny the masses election and parliamentary democracy. General Zia’s constituency was certainly the army but his Islamization was meant both as a tool of legitimacy for the general public as well as to buy the loyalties of the religious spokesmen of the society. We could not read any higher motives in his so-called Islamization than just a way of perpetuating his political rule. His ordinances and public rhetoric were directed against the critics of his authoritarian regime and to keep the Pakistan People’s Party away from the political arena. But the irony of the whole issue is that even the genuinely elected and legitimate political governments could not eliminate the impact of his Islamization. This was the result of the fear of any possible public protest in the name of undoing what some circles believed to be acts of Islamization. This process could be of interests to the political pundits of future development in Pakistani society. It has also been demonstrated that the real social and economic problems of the country could not be buried under the weight of religion as has been displayed in the secession of East Pakistan as well as the Martial Law of 1977. If religion has acted as an anchor for some politicians, it has also drowned their political ambitions in the strong currents of social and economic problems.