Pakistan’s Islamic identity

Although Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder and first leader, saw Pakistan as a Muslim homeland, his more socio-cultural understanding was not that of many other more “religiously-minded” leaders. Thus, while Pakistan adopted a Western political structure – as Ayub Khan, an early military ruler and modernist, learned when he had to back off his attempt to drop Pakistan’s title as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan – many Pakistanis took Pakistan’s Islamic identity quite literally and seriously. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a secular socialist, would himself turn to Islam after the Pakistan-Bangladesh civil war, in order to build bridges to Arab countries, counter the Jamaat-i-Islami and other religious parties, and reinforce his popular base. However, the appeal to Islam would prove to be a two-edged sword as the Bhutto appointed head of the Army, General Zia ul-Haq, would use Islam to legitimate his coup, the execution of Bhutto, and the “Islamization” of Pakistan. Ironically, years later, Nawaz Sharif would also play the religion card in his political struggles with Benazir Bhutto and the PPP.

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