Dictionary of Terrorism

By John Richard Thackrah | Go to book overview

P

Pakistan

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is ruled by the Pakistan People's Party. Since independence in 1947 it has suffered numerous political crises: with civilian governments replacing military and vice versa and martial law having to be imposed on certain occasions.

In 1971 after a civil war, East Pakistan broke away from West Pakistan and formed Bangladesh. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a popular civilian ruler in the 1970s but he was ousted by General Zia-ul Haq, arrested and sentenced to death on a charge of murdering an opposition political leader. Islamicisation was accelerated in all spheres of political and social life and many political opponents were harassed and detained. Zia himself was killed in a mysterious air crash in 1988 and Bhutto's daughter Benazir became the head of state for two periods in the late-1980s and 1990s. Kashmir remained a problem in relation to India; and Pakistan was opposed to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in December 1979. It supported the Mujaheddin, Afghan resistance groups based in Pakistan, and allowed the USA to use Pakistan territory to supply arms to the rebel groups. In the first Gulf War, in spite of the pro-Iraq tendencies of the population, troops were sent to Saudi Arabia to offer limited support.

Islamicisation continued in the 1980s and 1990s coupled in recent years with evidence of attacks on the minority Christian population by religious extremists. The country has been periodically shaken by inter-ethnic violence in particular between the Sindhi's and the Muhajirs (former Indian refugees).

Pakistan began to develop its nuclear weapon construction project to the alarm of many Western countries, and this came to a head in 1998 when both Pakistan and India tested nuclear devices within weeks of each other. Political and ethnic violence in the mid-1990s tainted Bhutto's efforts to bring democracy and equal rights to the country.

Islamic fundamentalist parties have grown in influence. The Islamic Democratic Revolution Party hope that their threat of an Islamic revolution in Pakistan on the pattern of the Iranian revolution will force the government to effect peaceful constitutional changes. Many of its leaders have been detained under house arrest. The Jamiat-i-Jalaba is a rigidly orthodox right-wing Islamic fundamentalist organisation strongly opposed to the emancipation of women and to liberal and Western influences in education. A similar party, the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam, is a fundamentalist party which advocates a constitution in accordance with Islamic teachings.

Separatist and minority movements are common. In Baluchistan, a tribal area in south-west Pakistan, there has been an intermittent guerrilla war over the last two decades - with as many as 25,000 guerrillas under arms. Even the ending of the Sadari system, i.e. the rule of tribal chiefs with private armies and the power to administer justice and raise taxes, has not curbed the hostility felt by Baluchis to the strong controls imposed by the Pakistan government. Both the Baluchistan Liberation Front and the Baluchi Students' Organisation

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