National Geographic : 2007 Sep
"People look at Musharraf and they see a U.S. puppet who's willing to declare war on fellow Muslims to satisfy America." -Javed Ibrahim Paracha, former member of parliament Ruling the sky but not the ground, army troops pass over Miram Shah (right), capital of North Waziristan, near Afghanistan. Since 2003 Pakistan has lost hundreds of soldiers battling Pashtun tribes allied with Taliban and al Qaeda fighters along this border. ecstatic rituals of Barelvi Islam, a colorful blend of Indian Islamic practice and Sufism. For a Punjabi farmer whose crop has just come in, it has always been more satisfying to hang out at a Sufi shrine listening to qawwali music and watching dervishes whirl than reciting the Koran in a fundamentalist mosque. Most Pak istanis, though powerless to resist, were luke warm to Zia's Islamization program, as was much of the outside world. That all changed in December 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded neighboring Afghan istan, driving hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees-mainly conservative Pashtun tribes men-across the border into Pakistan. Within months Zia's Islamist dream got a huge boost: The United States and Saudi Arabia joined Pak istan in a covert alliance to supply arms, train ing, and billions of dollars to an anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan. The motto of Zia's army-Jihad in the Service of Allah-became a rallying cry for thousands of mujahideen train ing in camps funded by the CIA in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province. Over time, Zia's agenda, and that of the United States, became indistinguishable: If Zia wanted to Islamize Pakistan while mobilizing support for the anti Soviet jihad, all the more power to him. Besides, the fundamentalist madrassas of northwestern Pakistan made excellent recruiting centers for mujahideen-young fighters who saw the strug gle against the Soviets as a holy war. During the 1980s, as the mujahideen pre vailed against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the winds of extremism blowing from the north west began to chill all of Pakistan. Millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia flowed into the hard line Sunni madrassas clustered along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, which eventually 44 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * SEPTEMBER 2007 spread across Pakistan. Not all Pakistani madrassas today are fundamentalist or radical. Some are shoestring oper ations run by moderate clerics to meet the educational needs of the poor. But the majority -more than 60 percent-are affiliated with the fundamen talist Deobandi sect, an austere interpretation of Islam that calls for a rejection of moder nity and a return to the "pure," seventh-century Islam of the Prophet Muhammad. Politi cally savvy and extremely well funded, more than 10,000 of these schools operate across Pakistan today, compared with fewer than 1,000 before General Zia took power. Thousands more operate unofficially. By the time Zia died in a mysterious 1988 plane crash, the Islamization of Pakistan was well under way. The following year, the Soviet Union, preoccupied with its own implosion, pulled its demoralized troops from Afghanistan. The U.S. promptly declared victory and returned home, leaving the Afghan people to the chaotic rule of the mujahideen warlords. One crucial chap ter in the story of radical Islam's ascendancy had come to a close. The one we are still living had just begun. Osama bin Laden and other leaders of the Afghan jihad now moved freely in and out of northwestern Pakistan and its Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The madrassas swelled with the children of the Zia Generation. In the rugged mountainous land shared by Afghanistan and Pakistan, the seeds of the Taliban, and al Qaeda, had been sown.