The Growth of Islamism in the Pakistan Army

Jason Roach

30 January 2013

Islamization of the Pakistan Army is of significant concern to the National Security of the United States. Success in the United States’ campaign against global terrorism rests in large part with the fate of Pakistan. Many actors are at work within its borders to turn that nation and its army decisively against the United States and its interests in the region. Understanding these forces will allow American decision and policy makers to identify risks to the status quo and help mitigate threatening outcomes of Pakistan’s internal struggles.

This essay first defines the history of those risks and the significance behind them.

Islamization of the Pakistan Army has been occurring in some form since its birth in 1947. The nation was founded on the unity of a common religion. This religious identity was ingrained in the Army as a way of distinguishing itself from its Hindu counterpart. Officials accomplished this in superficial ways initially.[1]

In its early years, the Pakistan Army was very proud of its ability to separate religion from the conduct of its internal business. Initially, the Pakistan Army’s actions were characteristic of a capable conventional military force, focused on preservation of the nation. The promotion of officers was based solely on their leadership ability and understanding of the art of war.

Military organization and structure was left unaffected through the first 30 years of its existence, despite the Army’s reliance on Islamists and Militant Islam to affect both foreign and domestic issues. Since then the institution has gone through change, at times significant change, which began to alter the way the Army operated. More important, this change has affected the mindset of the officers and soldiers of the organization.

Shortly following the creation of the state, the Pakistan Army realized that they were the disadvantaged force when engaging in direct conventional conflict with the massive Indian Army.[2]

KPP. It existed happily throughout the ‘90s, festering into a global jihad effort that would achieve notoriety in the 2000s.[39]

Despite Musharraf’s efforts to eliminate it, his actions and the NATO war in Afghanistan have caused the sentiment to spread like pandemic influenza.[40]

Under the umbrella of an Islamized Army controlling the nation, Militant Islamists will thrive and spread, again achieving the capability to steal the spotlight on the grand stage.

The continued Islamization of the Pakistan Army has many potential outcomes that would impact the National Security Interests of the United States negatively. There is a strong history of it proceeding over the past six decades. It has roots that reach as far back as the movement for independence from the Great Britain and partition from India. As the time moves closer to American withdrawal of military forces in Afghanistan, the United States must continue to maintain a watchful eye in Pakistan.

Understanding developments within the nation will enable American policy to mitigate the impact on US-Pakistan relations. Ultimately, if relations deteriorate quickly, the United States must be able to prepare for the fallout. Comprehending the risks is half of readiness.