US embassy cable - 92ISLAMABAD8548

ONE YEAR AFTER THE SHARIA ACT, CREEPING ISLAMIZATION CONTINUES

Identifier: 92ISLAMABAD8548
Wikileaks: View 92ISLAMABAD8548 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Islamabad
Created: 1992-06-08 12:07:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV KISL PHUM KPRP PK
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 081207Z JUN 92
FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7513
INFO AMCONSUL LAHORE
AMCONSUL KARACHI
AMCONSUL PESHAWAR
AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
AMEMBASSY RIYADH
USIA WASHDC 6386
AMEMBASSY ACCRA
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ISLAMABAD 08548 
 
 
USIA FOR NEA - RUGH 
 
ACCRA FOR HOLZMAN 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL: OADR 
TAGS: PGOV, KISL, PHUM, KPRP, PK 
SUBJECT: ONE YEAR AFTER THE SHARIA ACT, 
         CREEPING ISLAMIZATION CONTINUES 
 
REFS:  A) ISLAMABAD 7242;  B) ISLAMABAD 6252; 
       C) 91 ISLAMABAD 16291;  D) 91 ISLAMABAD 7153 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL -- ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  SUMMARY:  PRIME MINISTER NAWAZ SHARIF'S SHARIA 
(ISLAMIZATION) ACT, PASSED BY THE PAKISTANI NATIONAL 
ASSEMBLY ONE YEAR AGO, WAS SYMPTOMATIC OF THE 
GROWING INFLUENCE OF ISLAMIC IDEOLOGY ON PAKISTANI 
POLITICS.  THE POORLY DRAFTED AND VAGUELY WORDED 
DOCUMENT PRODUCED NO DRAMATIC CHANGE IN PAKISTANI 
SOCIETY.  THE LAW, IN FACT, REPRESENTED A DEFEAT FOR 
THE RIGHT-WING ISLAMISTS WHO HAD PROPOSED FAR MORE 
SWEEPING ISLAMIZATION LEGISLATION.  NONETHELESS, 
ALTHOUGH THE ISLAMIC RIGHT REMAINS BUT A PERIPHERAL 
FORCE IN PAKISTANI LEGISLATIVE POLITICS, THEIR 
SINGLE-MINDED PURSUIT OF THEIR GOAL OF AN ISLAMIC 
STATE IS INCREASINGLY SHAPING CONTEMPORARY PAKISTANI 
CULURE. 
 
3.  ISLAMIST ACTIVISM POSES A REAL THREAT TO 
PAKISTANI STABILITY AND PROGRESS.  BY PROMOTING 
INTOLERANCE WITHIN PAKISTANI SOCIETY, THE RELIGIOUS 
RIGHT HAS WIDENED THE DIVISIONS BETWEEN RELIGIOUS 
SECTS, CONTRIBUTED TO THE SURGE IN VIOLENCE 
THROUGHOUT PAKISTAN, AND HAMPERED THE GOP'S ABILITY 
TO SET POLICY BOTH IN DOMESTIC AREAS SUCH AS FAMILY 
PLANNING AND ON FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES LIKE 
AFGHANISTAN AND KASHMIR. 
 
4.  THEIR "SUCCESSES," HOWEVER, SUCH AS THEY ARE, 
HAVE NOT WON THE ISLAMISTS BROAD POPULAR SUPPORT. 
WE ANTICIPATE NEITHER AN IRANIAN-STYLE ISLAMIC 
REVOLUTION IN PAKISTAN NOR AN ALGERIAN-STYLE 
ISLAMIST VICTORY AT THE POLLS.  RATHER WHAT WE ARE 
LIKELY TO SEE IS A CONTINUING STRUGGLE BETWEEN 
MODERNISTS AND ISLAMISTS TO DETERMINE THE SHAPE OF 
PAKISTANI SOCIETY.  THE GOVERNMENT MEANWHILE WALKS A 
FINE LINE, WORRIED ABOUT THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT'S 
ABILITY TO USE ITS MILITANT MEMBERS TO CREATE 
PROBLEMS IN THE STREETS, BUT EQUALLY AWARE OF THE 
THREAT TO THE NATION'S SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC 
DEVELOPMENT IF THE ISLAMISTS ADVANCE THEIR AGENDA 
UNCHECKED.  END SUMMARY. 
 
-------------------------------- 
WORTH THE PAPER IT'S PRINTED ON? 
-------------------------------- 
 
5.  WHEN THE PAKISTAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY PASSED PRIME 
MINISTER NAWAZ SHARIF'S SHARIA ("ISLAMIC LAW") BILL 
IN MAY 1991, THE PM'S CONFIDANTS PRIVATELY DESCRIBED 
IT AS AN IMPORTANT VICTORY OVER THE RELIGIOUS 
RIGHT.  BY INTRODUCING HIS OWN SHARIA BILL, NAWAZ 
HAD ESSENTIALLY BOTH ACCEDED TO THE ISLAMISTS' 
CAMPAIGN PRESSING THE GOP TO INSTITUTE ISLAMIC LAW 
AND DERAILED IT, BY WATERING THE LEGISLATION DOWN TO 
THE POINT OF MEANINGLESSNESS. 
 
6.  THE SHARA ACT ITSELF WAS POORLY DRAFTED AND 
CONSISTED PRIMARILY OF VAGUE STATEMENTS CALLING FOR 
THE TRANSFORMATION OF PAKISTAN INTO AN "ISLAMIC 
WELFARE STATE" AND MANDATING THAT MUSLIM CITIZENS 
"ORDER THEIR LIVES ACCORDING TO ISLAMIC LAW."  THE 
ONLY GOP ACTION ACTUALLY MANDATED IN ITS TEXT WAS 
THE CREATION OF COMMITTEES TO STUDY METHODS OF 
ISLAMIZING EDUCATION AND THE EVENTUAL ELIMINATION OF 
INTEREST FROM THE ECONOMY.  IN CONTRAST TO EARLIER 
SHARIA BILLS DRAFTED BY THE ISLAMIC RIGHT, NAWAZ'S 
SHARIA ACT ALSO GUARANTEED THE INVIOLABILITY OF 
PAKISTAN'S PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY AND INTERNATIONAL 
OBLIGATIONS AND CONTAINED LANGUAGE SAFEGUARDING THE 
RIGHTS OF PAKISTAN'S NON-MUSLIM MINORITIES.  ONE 
YEAR AFTER THE ACT'S PASSAGE, IT REMAINS ESSENTIALLY 
IRRELEVANT TO PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT AND SOCIETY.  THE 
FEARS OF RELIGIOUS MINORITIES, HUMAN RIGHTS WORKERS, 
AND WOMEN'S GROUPS THAT THE ACT WOULD TRANSFORM 
PAKISTAN INTO A THEOCRACY, GUTTING THE ECONOMY AND 
CIVIL LIBERTIES IN THE PROCESS, REMAIN ESSENTIALLY 
UNREALIZED. 
 
----------------------------------- 
ISLAMIZATION THROUGH THE BACK DOOR? 
----------------------------------- 
 
7.  MEANWHILE, THE RELIGIOUS PARTIES ARE WEAKER THAN 
EVER WITHIN THE LEGISLATURE, AND WITH THE DEFECTION 
OF THE JAMAAT-I-ISLAMI--THE LARGEST ISLAMIST 
PARTY--FROM NAWAZ'S RULING COALITION, THEIR ABILITY 
TO INFLUENCE GOVERNMENT POLICY IS FURTHER 
DIMINISHED.  THE ISLAMISTS' STATUS AS RELIGIOUS 
TEACHERS AND LEADERS OF CONGREGATIONS GIVES THEM A 
READY PULPIT, HOWEVER, TO PROMOTE ISLAMIZATION AS 
THE ANSWER TO PROBLEMS OTHERWISE FAR FROM THE SPHERE 
OF RELIGION -- THE DIVISION BETWEEN RICH AND POOR, 
THE DECLINING ACCESS OF THE POOR TO EDUCATION AND 
UNEMPLOYMENT, INFLATION, AND THE ERODING 
LAW-AND-ORDER SITUATION. 
 
8.  THE ISLAMISTS' STATUS AS RELIGIOUS LEADERS, AND 
THEIR ABILITY TO BRING LARGE NUMBERS OF MILITANT 
STUDENT SUPPORTERS OUT INTO THE STREETS AT SHORT 
NOTICE, HAVE LED SUCCESSIVE GOVERNMENTS OF PAKISTAN 
TO APPEASE THEM RATHER THAN CONFRONT THEM DIRECTLY. 
UNDER PREVIOUS GOVERNMENTS, SUCH APPEASEMENT TOOK 
THE FORM OF PROHIBITION, LEGISLATION DEFINING THE 
POLYDOX AHMEDI SECT AS "NON-MUSLIM," AND THE 
INSTITUTION OF ISLAMIC CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR 
EXTRAMARITAL SEX OR OTHER "UN-ISLAMIC" BEHAVIOR. 
DESPITE NAWAZ'S SUCCESSFUL DERAILMENT OF THE 
MOVEMENT FOR A SHARIA BILL, THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT'S 
INFLUENCE OVER THE DIRECTION OF PAKISTANI CULTURE 
AND SOCIETY CONTINUES TO GROW. 
 
9.  FOR EXAMPLE, PAKISTAN'S FASTEST GROWING 
RELIGIOUS PARTIES -- THE ANJUMAN SEPAH-I-SAHABA 
PAKISTAN (ASSP) -- ACTIVELY CRUSADES FOR THE 
CREATION OF A SUNNI STATE, WITH SHIAS DECLARED 
"NON-MUSLIM."  BOTH THE ASSP AND ITS PRIMARY NEMESIS 
THE SHIA TEHRIK-I-NIFAZ-I-FIQAH-JAFARIA (TNFJ) HAVE 
PROFITED BY ARTICULATING AND ENCOURAGING A GROWING 
STRAIN OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE WITHIN PAKISTANI 
SOCIETY WHICH IS FAR MORE WIDESPREAD, AND DANGEROUS, 
THAN ANY THE NATION HAS PREVIOUSLY EXPERIENCED. 
 
10.  THERE HAS ALSO BEEN AN INCREASING RELIANCE BY 
OFFICIALS ON "ISLAMIC" PROVISIONS IN THE PAKISTANI 
PENAL CODE.  FOR EXAMPLE, THE ARTICLE WHICH 
PENALIZES BLASPHEMY IS, IN THE VIEW OF MANY 
OBSERVERS, INCREASINGLY BEING USED TO INTIMIDATE AND 
HARRASS NON-MUSLIMS.  A PENDING CASE AGAINST 
PROMINENT SOCIOLOGIST DR. AKHTAR HAMEED KHAN (REF B) 
CHARGES HIS RECENTLY-PUBLISHED CHILDREN'S STORY IS 
AN ALLEGORICAL SLAP AT PROPHET MOHAMMED'S FAMILY. 
SEVERAL CHRISTIANS HAVE BEEN SIMILARLY CHARGED IN 
RECENT MONTHS, USUALLY AFTER FINANCIAL OR POLITICAL 
DISPUTES WITH ISLAMISTS.  A CHRISTIAN TEACHER WAS 
KILLED IN JANUARY 1992 BY A TEENAGER WHO HAD READ AN 
ANONYMOUS FLYER ACCUSING THE TEACHER OF INSULTING 
ISLAM.  EQUALLY TROUBLING WERE THE (FORTUNATELY 
UNSUCCESSFUL) EFFORTS OF THE SUNNI FUNDAMENTALIST 
JAMIAT ULEMA-I-ISLAM (JUI) PARTY TO PRESSURE THE 
BALOCHISTAN PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT INTO DECLARING A 
LOCAL SECT, THE ZIKRIS, TO BE NON-MUSLIM.  A 
DECISION TO THAT EFFECT COULD HAVE SPARKED SERIOUS 
SECTARIAN VIOLENCE IN THAT PROVINCE. 
 
11.  CONTEMPORARY PAKISTANI TELEVISION ALSO LARGELY 
REFLECTS THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT'S IDEA OF "ISLAMIC" 
BEHAVIOR AND ITS GROWING INFLUENCE.  CNN BROADCASTS 
ARE HEAVILY CENSORED WITH SCENES OF WOMEN IN 
"UN-ISLAMIC" DRESS OR EVEN OF MOTHERS KISSING THEIR 
CHILDREN BLANKED OUT.  GUIDELINES FOR WOMEN'S DRESS 
IN DOMESTIC BROADCASTS WERE RECENTLY TIGHTENED, WITH 
WOMEN NOW REQUIRED TO COVER THEIR HEADS REGARDLESS 
OF THE TYPE OF CHARACTER THEY ARE PORTRAYING. 
POSITIVE PORTRAYALS OF WOMEN IN NON-TRADITIONAL 
ROLES ARE NEARLY NONEXISTENT.  DISCUSSION OF SUCH 
ISSUES AS AIDS, BIRTH CONTROL, AND SEXUAL 
HARRASSMENT IS RARE AND GENERAL, WITH AIDS IN 
PARTICULAR OFTEN TIED TO "WESTERN BEHAVIOR" SUCH AS 
THE "FREE MINGLING OF THE SEXES." 
 
12.  IN YET ANOTHER AREA, EDUCATION, THE GOP HAS 
REGULARLY ACCEDED TO ISLAMIST PRESSURE TO INCREASE 
THE ISLAMIC CONTENT OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM. 
LONG-STANDING LEGISLATION MANDATING ISLAMIC AND 
QURANIC STUDIES FOR ALL MUSLIM STUDENTS HAS 
REPEATEDLY BEEN REVISED TO INCREASE THE PERCENTAGE 
OF TIME DEDICATED TO "ISLAMIA."  WHILE NON-MUSLIM 
STUDENTS ARE EXEMPTED FROM ISLAMIC STUDIES, ALL 
CIVIL SERVICE APPLICANTS--REGARDLESS OF FAITH--MUST 
PASS ORAL AND WRITTEN EXAMS ON ISLAMIC STUDIES.  THE 
WEIGHT GIVEN TO THIS SECTION WITHIN THE CIVIL 
SERVICE EXAM HAS, MOREOVER, BEEN RAISED TO THE POINT 
THAT MUSLIM CIVIL SERVICE APPLICANTS HAVE COMPLAINED 
TO US THAT ISLAMIC ACTIVISTS HAVE AN UNFAIR 
ADVANTAGE. 
 
13.  THE GOP IS ALSO UNDER GROWING ISLAMIST PRESSURE 
TO ADD RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION TO THE INFORMATION 
INCLUDED ON CITIZENS' NATIONAL IDENTITY CARDS, WHICH 
MUST BE PRESENTED BEFORE A PAKISTANI CAN LEGALLY 
VOTE, APPLY FOR A JOB, BE ADMITTED TO UNIVERSITY, OR 
ENTER MILITARY SERVICE. 
 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
DEMOCRACY CHALLENGED: THEOCRATIC PRIMACY AHEAD? 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
14.  CONFRONTATION BETWEEN THE MODERNIST AND 
ISLAMIST OUTLOOKS HAS BEEN SHARPEST IN REACTION TO 
THE FEDERAL SHARIAT COURT'S INCREASED ACTIVISM. 
GENERAL ZIA CREATED THE SHARIAT COURT IN 1980 TO 
BOLSTER HIS ISLAMIZATION CAMPAIGN, APPOINTING AND 
FIRING JUDGES AT WILL TO ENSURE FAVORABLE VERDICTS. 
SINCE ZIA'S DEATH, HOWEVER, THE COURT HAS BEEN 
STEERING A COLLISION COURSE WITH THE GOP.  RULINGS 
SINCE JUNE 1990 INCLUDE: JUDGMENTS REPLACING CIVIL 
PENAL CODES WITH AN "ISLAMIC" SYSTEM OF PUNISHMENTS; 
A NOVEMBER 1991 SHARIAT COURT RULING DEFINING ALL 
INTEREST PAYMENTS AS UN-ISLAMIC; AND A MAY 1992 
RULING UNDERCUTTING THE PROTECTIONS IN THE EXISTING 
POLITICAL SYSTEM WHICH HAD BEEN A KEY FEATURE OF THE 
SHARIA ACT AND A CHECK ON ISLAMIST EFFORTS TO 
SUBORDINATE THE GOVERNMENT'S LEGISLATIVE AUTHORITY 
TO THE MULLAHS.  THE GOP REPORTEDLY HAS NO INTENTION 
OF IMPLEMENTING THESE JUDGMENTS, ALL OF WHICH REMAIN 
FROZEN IN AN APPELLATE COURT.  TO DATE, HOWEVER, IT 
HAS ALSO AVOIDED ANY ATTEMPT TO REIN IN THE SHARIAT 
COURT. 
 
15.  MOST DISTURBING TO OBSERVERS, BUT SO FAR 
UNDERPLAYED BY THE GOP, IS THE SHARIAT COURT'S 
CHALLENGE TO PAKISTAN'S CURRENT PARLIAMENTARY 
DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM.  TECHNICALLY, THE COURT IS 
CONSTITUTIONALLY BANNED FROM TOUCHING CONSTITUTIONAL 
ISSUES AND COURT OFFICIALS ASSURE US THEY HAVE NO 
INTENTION TO DO SO UNLESS AUTHORIZED BY THE 
LEGISLATURE.  THE SHARIAT COURT'S ASSERTIONS IN 
RECENT RULINGS, HOWEVER, THAT MAN-MADE DOCUMENTS OR 
HUMANLY-ELECTED PARLIAMENTS MUST BE SUBORDINATE TO 
ISLAMIC LAW--AS INTERPRETED BY THE SHARIAT COURT-- 
IMPLY JUST SUCH A WEAKENING OF THE CONSTITUTION'S 
INVIOLABILITY.  DURING A RECENT ISLAMABAD SEMINAR ON 
ISLAMIZATION, RETIRED LAHORE HIGH COURT JUDGE JAVED 
IQBAL DEFINED THE BASIC QUESTION AS ONE OF POWER. 
"WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO REPRESENT THE WILL OF THE 
PEOPLE, THEIR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES OR JUDGES 
APPOINTED BY THE PRESIDENT?"  IN IQBAL'S VIEW, 
PAKISTAN NOW HAS TWO INCOMPATIBLE SYSTEMS IN 
OPERATION, ONE DEMOCRATIC AND ONE THEOCRATIC, 
NEITHER ONE OF WHICH CAN WORK UNTIL THE GOP CHOOSES 
BETWEEN THEM. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
16.  THE PRIMARY DANGER THAT THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT 
REPRESENTS TO PAKISTAN IS THAT THEIR ACTIVITIES FUEL 
THE FRAGMENTATION OF PAKISTANI SOCIETY.  THE TIES 
THAT BIND TOGETHER PAKISTAN'S MANY ETHNIC AND 
RELIGIOUS GROUPS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN STRAINED TO SOME 
DEGREE.  TOGETHER WITH MILITANT ETHNIC NATIONALIST 
GROUPS, THE ISLAMIST PARTIES FURTHER SPLINTER 
SOCIETY BY FEEDING THE PERCEPTION WITHIN EACH 
COMMUNITY THAT IT IS UNDER SEIGE.  BATTLES BETWEEN 
SECTARIAN GROUPS ARE THE MOST GRAPHIC RESULT. 
EQUALLY, THE ISLAMISTS POSE A DIRECT THREAT TO 
PAKISTAN'S LONG-TERM INTERESTS, AS FEAR OF PROVOKING 
THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT HAS CONSTRAINED THE THE GOP'S 
ABILITY TO ADDRESS KEY ISSUES -- WHETHER DOMESTIC, 
SUCH AS EDUCATION AND BIRTH CONTROL, OR FOREIGN, 
SUCH AS AFGHANISTAN AND KASHMIR. 
 
17.  WE DO NOT BELIEVE, HOWEVER, THAT PAKISTAN IS 
HEADED FOR EITHER AN IRANIAN-STYLE ISLAMIC 
REVOLUTION OR AN ALGERIAN-STYLE ISLAMIST VICTORY AT 
THE POLLS.  THE ISLAMIST MOVEMENT IS TOO FRAGMENTED, 
IDEOSYNCRATIC,  AND--WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE 
HIGHLY CENTRALIZED JAMAAT-I-ISLAMI--FAR TOO 
DISORGANIZED TO FORM A BROAD-BASED NATIONAL 
MOVEMENT.  NO GROUP HAS YET DEMONSTRATED WIDESPREAD 
PUBLIC SUPPORT AND THE POLITICO-RELIGIOUS LEADERS 
THEMSELVES ARE POPULARLY VIEWED AS POWER-HUNGRY, 
CORRUPT, AND PREOCCUPIED WITH THE PUNITIVE ASPECTS 
OF ISLAM.  EXCEPT FOR A SLIGHT BOOST IN NATIONAL 
ASSEMBLY SEATS IN 1990 DUE TO THE JAMAAT-I-ISLAMI'S 
MEMBERSHIP IN THE WINNING IJI COALITION, THE 
ISLAMISTS' SHARE OF THE POPULAR VOTE HAS DECLINED 
WITH EVERY NATIONAL ELECTION SINCE THE CREATION OF 
PAKISTAN. 
 
18.  THEIR LACK OF POPULAR SUPPORT AND ELECTORAL 
STRENGTH WILL KEEP THE ISLAMISTS FROM POSING A 
DIRECT POLITICAL THREAT TO THE CURRENT GOVERNMENT. 
THE SYMBOLIC AND EMOTIONAL VALUE OF THE "ISLAMIC" 
CALL, HOWEVER, AND THE COMMITMENT OF THE ISLAMISTS' 
MORE MILITANT SUPPORTERS, MAKES THEM A POTENTIAL 
SOURCE OF TROUBLE.  IN SUM, WE ANTICIPATE A 
CONTINUING STRUGGLE BETWEEN MODERNISTS AND ISLAMISTS 
TO DETERMINE THE SHAPE OF PAKISTANI SOCIETY IN THE 
MONTHS AHEAD.  THE GOVERNMENT MEANWHILE WALKS A FINE 
LINE, WORRIED ABOUT THE RELGIOUS RIGHT'S ABILITY TO 
TO CREATE PROBLEMS IN THE STREETS, BUT EQUALLY AWARE 
OF THE THREAT TO THE NATION'S SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC 
DEVELOPMENT IF THE ISLAMISTS ADVANCE THEIR AGENDA 
UNCHECKED. 
 
19.  THIS REPORT IS SUBMITTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE 
MISSION REPORTING PLAN. 
 
 
PLATT 

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