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National Institute of Pakistan Studies
Name of ScholarIrfanullan Khan
Title of Dissertation The Deoband Movement and the Rise of Religious Militancy in Pakistan
Issue Date2017
PublisherNational Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan

Research studies investigating the rise of religious violence in Pakistan invariably identify Deobandis as the most violent of all religious groups in Pakistan. these studies outline a number of factors regarded important for understanding the upsurge of religious militancy in Pakistan but fails to give any explanation that why these factors led to the militarization of the Deobandis and no other religious group.

The present study is an attempt to fil this gap in the available literature. The scholarly studies that attempt to explain and analyse the unprecedented upsurge of religious militancy in Pakistan have identifies a number of exogenous and endogenous factors as the root causes of the said militant activism. The endogenous factors given in these studies are; Pakistan’s ideological foundation, General Zia Islamization program and certain socio-economic changes brought about by remittances from the Gulf countries. While the exogenous factors include; Shia activism in Pakistan in the wake of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the pouring in of funds from some of the gulf States to curtail the same, Pakistan’s military Kashmir policy, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and General Zia’s military regime decision to support Afghan resistance to it, with the help from USA, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. These endogenous and exogenous factors which have been termed in the present study as the enabling factors of militancy do not explain their unequal effect on different religious groups. it is the contention of the present study that the increasing resort of the Deobandis to militancy for the fulfillment of their political objectives is the outcome of their religio-political approach. The Study show that it is the particular religio-political orientation of the Deobandis that works as a motivation for using violence and are accordingly called motivational factors of militancy. The thesis argues that the Deobandi inclination to use violence could be explained only taking into account these motivational factors.

For a better theoretical understanding of the Deobandis resort to violence the study proposes a synthesis of the primodialist and circumstantialist approaches. It is the contention of this study that the use of either the primodialist or circumstantialist approach fail to explain the Deobandi inclination to use violent means for their objectives more than any other religious group in Pakistan.

The study argues that the enabling factors of militancy outlined in the foregoing only explain the timing, magnitude and sustenance of the religious violence but its occurrence in the first place would not have been possible without the strong motivation on the part of the Deobandis to use violence for the fulfilment off their self-proclaimed responsibility for the upholding of Islam, as they interpret and define it. But as the enormous scale on which the religious militancy is presently occurring is because off the enabling role of the state the study proposes that its level and effect could be minimized if the state stops flirting with Islam for short term political gains. It is further proposed that the state undertakes serious , long-term and meaningful efforts for building a narrative to counter the narrative that sanctions a resort to violence.