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Vying for Allah's Vote: Understanding Islamic Parties, Political Violence, and Extremism in Pakistan

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What is driving political extremism in Pakistan? In early 2011, the prominent Pakistani politician Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by a member of his own security team for insulting Islam by expressing views in support of the rights of women and religious minorities. Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, was killed by gunfire and explosive devices as she left a campai What is driving political extremism in Pakistan? In early 2011, the prominent Pakistani politician Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by a member of his own security team for insulting Islam by expressing views in support of the rights of women and religious minorities. Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, was killed by gunfire and explosive devices as she left a campaign event in December 2007; strong evidence links members of extremist organizations to her slaying. These murders underscore the fact that religion, politics, and policy are inextricably linked in Pakistan. In this book, Haroon K. Ullah analyzes the origins, ideologies, bases of support, and electoral successes of the largest and most influential Islamic parties in Pakistan. Based on his extensive field work in Pakistan, he develops a new typology for understanding and comparing the discourses put forth by these parties in order to assess what drives them and what separates the moderate from the extreme. A better understanding of the range of parties is critical for knowing how the US and other Western nations can engage states where Islamic political parties hold both political and moral authority. Pakistan's current democratic transition will hinge on how well Islamic parties contribute to civilian rule, shun violence, and mobilize support for political reform. Ullah's political-party typology may also shed light on the politics of other majority-Muslim democracies, such as Egypt and Tunisia, where Islamist political parties have recently won elections.


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What is driving political extremism in Pakistan? In early 2011, the prominent Pakistani politician Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by a member of his own security team for insulting Islam by expressing views in support of the rights of women and religious minorities. Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, was killed by gunfire and explosive devices as she left a campai What is driving political extremism in Pakistan? In early 2011, the prominent Pakistani politician Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by a member of his own security team for insulting Islam by expressing views in support of the rights of women and religious minorities. Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, was killed by gunfire and explosive devices as she left a campaign event in December 2007; strong evidence links members of extremist organizations to her slaying. These murders underscore the fact that religion, politics, and policy are inextricably linked in Pakistan. In this book, Haroon K. Ullah analyzes the origins, ideologies, bases of support, and electoral successes of the largest and most influential Islamic parties in Pakistan. Based on his extensive field work in Pakistan, he develops a new typology for understanding and comparing the discourses put forth by these parties in order to assess what drives them and what separates the moderate from the extreme. A better understanding of the range of parties is critical for knowing how the US and other Western nations can engage states where Islamic political parties hold both political and moral authority. Pakistan's current democratic transition will hinge on how well Islamic parties contribute to civilian rule, shun violence, and mobilize support for political reform. Ullah's political-party typology may also shed light on the politics of other majority-Muslim democracies, such as Egypt and Tunisia, where Islamist political parties have recently won elections.

39 review for Vying for Allah's Vote: Understanding Islamic Parties, Political Violence, and Extremism in Pakistan

  1. 4 out of 5

    Colin

    I agree with the main analytical takeaways here (not all Islamic political parties are the same; most who take part in electoral processes are fundamentally pragmatic actors; parties take more or less “extreme” stances in response to their competition with other rival parties) and with the general policy prescriptions (US policymakers need to better understand and differentiate between and among Islamic / Islamist political actors, and should engage those with whom there is potential for strateg I agree with the main analytical takeaways here (not all Islamic political parties are the same; most who take part in electoral processes are fundamentally pragmatic actors; parties take more or less “extreme” stances in response to their competition with other rival parties) and with the general policy prescriptions (US policymakers need to better understand and differentiate between and among Islamic / Islamist political actors, and should engage those with whom there is potential for strategic cooperation). There is some good history of the JI and JUI in chapter 5, and analysis of how their hierarchical and decentralized structures inform their politics. I’ve already added a number of items from the bibliography to my reading list. That said, I found myself fighting against the analytical frameworks used to bring all this out. The book borrows a typology of political parties from Gunther and Diamond (which I think does not have very much explanatory analytical value) that lumps the PML(-N), JI, and JUI-F all together under the “confessional party” banner by virtue of the fact that they all claim some ideological inspiration from Islam through which to mobilize their supporters. Most of the book then attempts to disentangle itself from this starting point. “A party’s social affiliations determine which institutions it has access to, from which social groups it draws its leadership cadre, and how it conducts its recruitment efforts,” the book notes on page 47, and subsequent chapters clearly explain how the organizational structure of these groups, their understanding of their pragmatic interests, and the political system in which they operate ultimately shapes their behavior, not the aspirational Islamic content of their manifestos. But this is buried under the confessional party framework and a “sharia-secularism spectrum” that the author acknowledges all parties move back and forward on depending on their pragmatic political interests. The book has an interesting chapter (based on survey work) that explores the rationales by which voters support or do not support Islamic parties, but I don’t think this is linked quite enough into the strategic decision-making processes of the parties themselves. (A subsequent chapter discusses cases where parties took particular “extreme” stances, i.e. support for the anti-Ahmaddiya laws or cooperation with the Taliban, but many of these don’t seem to have been driven by voter preferences so much as other strategic concerns). The interpretation of party decision-making as being driven from the top-down by a desire to appeal to the median voter also runs somewhat counter to the conception of political parties as vehicles for local interest group coalitions who endorse representatives they trust to advance their interests (made in the book The Party Decides, which I read last December). This book sort of comes around to that case when it concludes that parties target and garner the support of different constituencies which do not always overlap with each other, though. I think the overall point here that Islamist groups who participate in politics may stake out both “moderate” and “extreme” positions depending on their need to position against rivals is useful. But I think so much of this also applies to most every party in Pakistan on many more dimensions than just the degree of Islam in public life. I kept wanting the author to make his points more generalizable: structure informs strategy informs behavior, within the constraints of an overall political system. (This also allows for generalization even more broadly to include the question of whether or not participate in electoral politics at all, or for an organization to advance its interests some other way.) Perhaps this is just me fighting for my own preferred interpretative framework over the book the author chose to write, and I do appreciate any work that actually focuses on Pakistani politics as a subject worth studying; in the end, mixed feelings on this one.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sikander

  3. 4 out of 5

    Saba Imtiaz

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shahbaz

  5. 4 out of 5

    Umer Zaman Khan

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carlos

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maryum Alam

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

  9. 4 out of 5

    Saad Cheema

  10. 4 out of 5

    Aleema Hunzai

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rizwan Raiyan

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shahbaz

  13. 4 out of 5

    Faisal

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alexis Noffke

  15. 5 out of 5

    Armand Cucciniello III

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tia

  17. 4 out of 5

    Georgetown University Press

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ahmed Khuzaie

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hendrik Lohuis

  20. 4 out of 5

    Malik Siraj Akbar

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lesley Hogan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shahid Raja

  23. 5 out of 5

    Haroon Ullah

  24. 5 out of 5

    Umair Khan

  25. 4 out of 5

    Wajahat

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cyd

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zain Khan

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rizwan

  29. 4 out of 5

    Adnan Zaman Salim

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amnah Amjad

  31. 4 out of 5

    Monika Sethuraman Reddy

  32. 5 out of 5

    Drkashif Hussain

  33. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

  34. 4 out of 5

    Hamza

  35. 4 out of 5

    Umair Jamal

  36. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

  37. 4 out of 5

    Abid Abbasi

  38. 4 out of 5

    Alex Linschoten

  39. 4 out of 5

    Bushra

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