Inside the Mind of the Pakistani State Elite: Instrumental Islam and Closet Secularism

Sunday, January 9, 2011: 11:20 AM
Room 305 (Hynes Convention Center)
Ilhan Niaz , Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan
The Pakistani state has long employed religious rhetoric and elements to advance its strategic interest in both the domestic sphere and in the realm of national security policy. To some extent this instrumental use of Islam is rooted in the Muslim modernist struggle for greater autonomy/separate homelands from predominantly non-Muslim or Hindu India. To a substantial extent, however, the thought process of the Pakistani elite as regards the use of Islam for political ends is a subject that strikes at the heart of the controversial issue of primary identity. This elite that has simultaneously promoted Urdu as a symbol of Muslim identity while retaining English as Pakistan’s language of power and employed millenarian jihadism while continuing to think in realpolitik terms of strategic depth in Afghanistan and strategic parity with India.
The paper will attempt to piece together a picture of the mindset of the Pakistani state elite during Pakistan’s first two decades of independence by utilizing the declassified central government record. It is hoped that the paper will shed light on the formative period as regards Pakistan’s state mentality with particular reference to the issue of identity and the prolonged difficulty in coming to terms with the complexity inherent in the region’s history and culture. At present it appears that the relationship between instrumental Islam and the closet secularists is no longer manageable with the former having achieved substantial autonomy from the latter.