Pakistan: the Limits of Islamization

Tuesday, February 6, 2007
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Philippines Conference Room
  • Frederic Grare

The islamization process in Pakistan is at the core of the contradictions and identity conflict of Pakistan. It is the permanent attempt to rewrite the history whose founding fathers intended to make the homeland for the Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent, much the against the will of the clergy. However it is also an instrument of perpetuation in power of a largely secular military, which constantly manipulates Islamic symbols.

Although widely discussed, the process of islamization in Pakistan has remained relatively limited. No elected legislature went beyond the expression of the idea of the supremacy of the Islamic law. No elected legislature ever passed a somewhat substantial provision. Despite an increasingly strong, or at least vocal religious pressure, the constitution and the legislation of the Pakistani state are still based on a compromise between modernist institutions and ever more pressing religious demands, yet still limited. The supremacy of the Sharia is regularly reaffirmed, yet its implementation does not progress.

The presentation will analyze the impact of the islamization policies, less however on the legal and constitutional system than on the economic, political and social life of Pakistan. Starting from the observation that the islamization process is more limited that it may seem, the presentation will draw on to say that this process reinforces more than it challenges the existing political and social order, and its most salient political expression, the current military regime, by preventing, on the one side the emergence of any real alternative political project and, although in a more pragmatic manner, by bringing back in mainstream politics the fraction of the social body which could possibly be tempted by more radical means of actions.

In this perspective, four dimensions will be more specifically studied: 1) The evolution of the role of religious movements and parties within the Pakistani state; 2) The relationship between these same religious movements and parties and the Pakistani establishment; 3) The specific role of the madrasas in this relation; 4) The relation the religious parties entertains with democracy.

Frederic Grare is a visiting scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He will lead a project assessing U.S. and European policies toward Pakistan and, where appropriate, recommending alternatives with Ashley J. Tellis and George Perkovich. Grare will focus on the tension between stability and democratization in Pakistan, including challenges of sectarian conflict, Islamist political mobilization, and educational reform. Grare also will facilitate interactions between U.S. experts and officials and European counterparts on the main policy challenges in South Asia.

Grare is a leading expert and writer on South Asia, having served most recently in the French embassy in Pakistan and from 1999 to 2003 in New Delhi as director of the Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities. Grare has written extensively on security issues, Islamist movements, and sectarian conflict in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He also has edited the volume, India, China, Russia: Intricacies of an Asian Triangle.

His most recent publications include: "India, China, Russia: Intricacies of an Asian Triangle, with Gilles Boquerat"(eds), (New Delhi, India Research Press, 2003); "Pakistan and the Afghan Conflict, 1979-1985: At the Turn of the Cold War" (Karachi, Oxford University Press, 2003); "Political Islam in the Indian Subcontinent: The Jamaat-i-Islami" (New Delhi, Manohar, 2001)

Grare has an advanced degree from Paris Institut d'Etudes Politiques and received his Ph.D. from the Graduate Institute of International Studies.

Dr. Grare's talk is the first seminar of the winter quarter South Asia Colloquium Series.