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Pakistan was established as a state in 1947 after a separation from the Indian British Empire. From its beginning, the country has had a turbulent life with political instability and ethnic disputes characterizing its existence. While Pakistan was established as a secular state with a Muslim majority, the country has exhibited over the decades showed signs of evolving into an Islamic State. Such an outcome would have dire consequences for democratization.
Reason for Move towards Islamic State
The prevailing economic conditions have increased the popularity of Islamic movements all over the country. Farhat notes that most Pakistanis blame bad government policies for the high unemployment, inflation, and lack of access to education and healthcare in the country (121).
Islamists express skepticism over the ability of the secular leadership, which is blamed for Pakistan’s problems. Saudi influence has also been a contributing factor to the evolution of Pakistan into an Islamic state.
Due to the lack of financial opportunities in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has been a major destination for Pakistanis working abroad since the 1970s. When the Pakistani workers return home from this Islamic state, they are influenced by the religious teachings of Saudi clerics (Farhat 122).
Western dominance has also accelerated the move towards Islamic reform in Pakistan. After the events of 9/11, the cooperation between the Pakistani government and the United States has increased with Pakistan becoming a key strategic ally. Radical Islamists see this as a corruption of Islam by the West.
Farhat points out that this challenge of the West has become the single most important factor promoting the renewal of Islamic movements in Pakistan today (129). Western dominance has fueled nationalistic sentiments and many people are in support of an Islamic renewal.
Impact of Islamic State on Democracy
Evolution to an Islamic State will hurt democracy in Pakistan. Politicians have been known to employ religious criteria to justify their actions in Islamic states. This will be to the disadvantage of Pakistanis of other religions and Islamic sub-sects.
Ishtiaq observes that While Pakistan has a Muslim majority with 96% of Pakistanis being Muslims, the Muslim community is not monolithic and it contains different sub-sects (195). An Islamic state would therefore threaten democracy since it would give rise to sectarianism in Pakistani territories.
By adopting an Islamic character, Pakistan has enacted many laws that are discriminatory to non-Muslims. For example, the third constitution of 1973 required the president and the prime minister to be Muslims (Ishtiaq 198). Such laws are not in line with the democratic principles that give each person equal opportunity in the state.
The Islamic state will ensure that only practicing Muslims can take up key leadership positions in the country. An Islamic state will also hurt democracy since the ruling elite may resort to Islamic rhetoric to undermine the opposition. Farhat demonstrates that Islamic symbolism may be used to legitimize leadership that would otherwise be voted out in a true democracy (127).
Pakistan is a country with a rich Islamic history spanning centuries and the country was created with these religious and cultural bearings in mind. However, Pakistan was created as a Muslim state and not an Islamic State. The trends articulated in this paper are moving Pakistan towards becoming an Islamic State. If this happens, the democratic values currently enjoyed by the country will suffer as Islamic laws becomes adapted all over the land.
Farhat, Haq. “A state for the Muslims or an Islamic state?” Religion and Politics in South Asia. Ed. Ali Riaz. NY. Routledge, 2010. 119-145. Print.
Ishtiaq, Ahmed. “The Pakistan Islamic State Project: A secular Critique.” Religion and Politics in South Asia. Ed. Ali Riaz. NY. Routledge, 2010. 185-211. Print.