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The embryonic nation might have been given a name, but its identity was still uncertain 17 years later when the idea became reality. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Savile Row-suited lawyer who midwifed Pakistan into existence on Aug. 14, 1947, as leader of the Muslim League, was notoriously ambiguous about how he envisioned the country once it became an independent state. Both he and Iqbal, who were friends until the poet's death in 1938, had repeatedly stated their dream for a "modern, moderate and very enlightened Pakistan," says Sharifuddin Pirzada, Jinnah's personal secretary from 1941 to 1944. But mindful of the fragile and fractious consortium of supporters for the new nation, whose plans for independence from both India and Britain were only finalized on July 18, 1947, Jinnah rarely elaborated on his religious views. "He was a very liberal-minded Muslim," says Pirzada. "He rejected the idea that Pakistan would be ruled according to the righteous caliphs of Islam; he did not want a theocracy. At the same time he was very careful not to make a commitment one way or the other so that Muslims would not be alienated."
Both religious conservatives and secular liberals have appropriated Jinnah's words, actions and manners to prove their claims on Pakistan's identity. Clerics that once dismissed him as an infidel for his secular leanings before partition now embrace him for his borrowings from the Koran in his talks. Liberal newspaper editorials quote fragmented speeches to bolster claims that he was an avowed secularist. Jinnah's own wish was that the Pakistani people, as members of a new, modern and democratic nation, would decide the country's direction. "There is no contradiction," says Pirzada, who has watched the debate rage for 60 years. "An Islamic state can be a fully modern state, unless you say it should be ruled by a theocracy. Jinnah was against theocracy. That is what matters."
But rarely in Pakistan's history have its people lived Jinnah's vision. The nation was barely a decade old when President Iskander Ali Mirza declared martial law in an attempt to save his presidency from growing unpopularity. "That was the blackest day in our history," says Senator Khurshid Ahmad, the deputy chief of Pakistan's largest Islamist party. "Even our elected rulers became despots." Pakistan has been cursed ever since. Only twice in its 60-year history has Pakistan seen a peaceful, democratic transition of power. Pakistan considers itself a democracy, but its governments have rarely had a mandate from the people. With four disparate provinces, over a dozen languages and dialects, and powerful neighbors, leaders be they Presidents, Prime Ministers or army chiefs have been forced to knit the nation together with the only thing Pakistanis have in common: religion.
Following the 1971 civil war, when East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, broke away, the populist Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto embarked on a Muslim identity program to prevent the country from fracturing further. General Mohammed Zia ul-Haq continued the Islamization campaign when he overthrew Bhutto in 1977, hoping to garner favor with the religious parties, the only constituency available to a military dictator. He instituted Shari'a courts, made blasphemy illegal, and established laws that punished fornicators with lashes and held that rape victims could be convicted of adultery. When the Soviet Union invaded neighboring Afghanistan in December 1979, Pakistan was already poised for its own Islamic revolution.
Almost overnight, thousands of refugees poured over the border into Pakistan. Camps mushroomed, and so did madrasahs. Ostensibly created to educate the refugees, they provided the ideal recruiting ground for a new breed of soldier: mujahedin, or holy warriors, trained to vanquish the infidel invaders in America's proxy war with the Soviet Union. Thousands of Pakistanis joined fellow Muslims from across the world to fight the Soviets. As far away as Karachi, high-school kids started wearing "jihadi jackets," the pocketed vests popular with the mujahedin. Says Hamid Gul, then head of the Pakistan intelligence agency charged with arming and training the mujahedin: "In the 1980s, the world watched the people of Afghanistan stand up to tyranny, oppression and slavery. The spirit of jihad was rekindled, and it gave a new vision to the youth of Pakistan."
But jihad, as it is described in the Koran, does not end merely with political gain. It ends in a perfect Islamic state. The West's, and Pakistan's, cynical resurrection of something so profoundly powerful and complex unleashed a force whose roots can be found in al-Qaeda's rage, the Taliban's dream of an Islamic utopia in Afghanistan, and in the dozens of radical Islamic groups rapidly replicating themselves around the world today. "The promise of jihad was never fulfilled," says Gul. "Is it any wonder the fighting continues to this day?" Religion may have been used to unite Pakistan, but it is also tearing it apart.