Leverage of Pakistan’s Strategic Culture

One must read the account of Professor Ijaz Khan Khattak download“Pakistan’s Strategic Culture and Foreign Policy Making” for understanding Pakistan’s strategic culture. The book has thoroughly explained the strategic culture and its impact on the regional politics especially the thesis put lights on Pakistan’s post 9/11 Afghan foreign policy. In the introduction of the account, he raised a very relevant question that “Whether Pakistan is an ally or foe in the ‘War against terrorism’. In the first chapter of the book, the writer starts his argument in a very theoretical framework in order to adjust and concise the complex nature of the topic.

To be honest, those want to understand Pakistan’s role in ‘War against Terrorism’ should read this book. It elucidates Pakistan’s foreign policy with the help of studying its Strategic Culture; the historical development of its security observations and why it considers religious extremists vital to achieve its foreign policy and its security goals. How much it has transformed, and how much it has not and why it is incapable to change. It also a possible track to an essential change that will help it becomes at peace with itself and its surroundings. To really understand Pakistan’s self-view and the world view based on it, this book offers an alternative non-centrist, democratic and Pashtun liberal perspective.

He put on the “culturist approach” to understand the deep entrenched historically military dominant role in the Pakistan foreign policy decision-making process. As he argued, in the first chapter of the book that “Rationality is relevant and what appears a rational choice in one culture may seem totally irrational in another. So, it is vital for the understanding of the behavior of particular state to understand its ‘Strategic Culture’.

The respected Professor Ijaz Khan Khattak very accurately analyzes the background of the strategic culture of the Pakistani state as he said in the preceding chapter of the book that “The Pakistani state has its own peculiar strategic culture developed and shaped by its history, religion, socio-economic conditions, geography, demographic composition and its international alignment with the West during cold war, giving Pakistani foreign policy a specific orientation and thus creating a response system’’. These are the different internal and external elements which contributed logically to form the present Garrison or Security state. Generally, in more concise theoretical terms, memory, domestic systemic inputs, and international inputs are the core elements to influence the foreign policy.

The theoretical framework is stirred by Karl Deutsch model on decision making where Ijaz Khan Khattak studies Memory of Historical Inputs, Inputs from the International System and Domestic System Inputs with reference to Pakistan. Much of the explanation on Pakistan’s policy response to certain grave issues (Afghanistan, Kashmir and Nuclear Programme) is explained in the first part.  The Second part, which covers the third and fourth chapter, describes Pakistan’s Afghan policy shift and the influence of this shift at the regional level. While the author in this part traces the basis for Pakistan’s policy shift, which, according to him, was an artifact of interaction between internal and external elements, he also claims that the policy shift allowed Pakistan to achieve a certain amount of diplomatic leverage at the regional level.

In a recent Pakistan’s confession when Sartaj Aziz’s remarks to a Washington policy audience where he accepted that the Taliban leadership and their families live in Pakistan and receive medical treatment. Clearly, Aziz announced and accepted that Pakistan has a leverage to bring Taliban to the negotiation table. The outburst of this leverage is not surprising for many Afghans. Because on the one hand, Pakistan as the “Fortress of Islam” and on the other side Pakistan has built a strong strategic culture for their so-called national security paradigm. This present eruption of the ‘Leverage on Taliban’ which Pakistan officially admitted is nothing but the advantage of “Pakistan Strategic Culture”.

As the writer of “Pakistan-The Garrison State”, Ishtiaq Ahmed also explain the strategic culture of the Pakistani state in relation to the ‘Afghan Jihad’. While explaining the reactionary role of this strategic culture, he said that “Pakistan’s national security paradigm had always been premised on the perceived threat from India; relations with Afghanistan-about the disputed Durand Line had also been a cause for worry all along.

He further quoted in the same paragraph; In June 1975, the Jamiat-E-Islami (the present day Hizb-e-Islami) attempted an overthrow of the government which was crushed by Daud government but resulted in many militants taking refuge in Pakistan. At that time, Z.A.Butto was in power in Pakistan. He ordered support for the insurgents. Already at that stage, the American CIA and Pakistan ISI had begun to connect in order to bolster a resistance to Daud regime. Thus, for the legendary Colonel Imam ( Sultan Amir Tarar) was sent to the United States in 1973 for training in insurgency warfare”.  These are the facts which construct the narrative discourse of the ‘Strategic Culture’ of the Pakistani state. Afghan officials must deal with Islamabad while understanding its strategic culture formation in a broader prism of history, culture and international inputs.

The concluding chapters of Ijaz Khan Khattak thesis forwarded a number of solutions and recommendations to change the strategic culture. He identifies three sources of inputs where change and reforms desirable and needed. He also explained that change scenario which will create a new welfare democratic culture within state and surroundings. To reverse the strategic culture, reforms in decision-making process, new look to the memory and ideology are required. He further goes on for reforms in education, empowering parliaments, due roles of the political parties and involving broader civil society in the decision-making process are the vital steps to be taken for the change in the strategic culture qualitatively. Pakistan is possible only when it accept its plural existence, identity and change the undemocratic strategic culture of the state where the question of ‘Leverage on Taliban’ will not take place.


The writer is a master degree holder in English literature, currently working as a sub-editor in the Afghan Tribune an analytical online English website.

He can be reached at sherjan0077@gmail.com

The Afghan Tribune | Sher Jan Takal | Published: March 15, 2016, 03:28 PM


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  • Mar 17, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    Sher Jan Takal wrote the review on a very important work produced by an Afghan intellectual Prof. Dr. Ijaz Khan. In his book “Pakistan’s Strategic Culture and Foreign Policy Making: A Study of Pakistan’s Post 9/11 Afghan Policy Change” masterfully elaborated Pakistan’s strategic interest in Afghanistan. It is highly recommended book for Afghanistan’s policy makers to read it for understanding Pakistan’s interest in Afghanistan. I also request Afghan Tribune management to contact Prof. Ijaz Khan for writing articles as it will help to Afghan officials and masses in understanding the dynamics of regional and international politics.

  • Mar 17, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Nice attempt.
    Also read Ayesha Jalal , Ian Talbot, Ayesha Siddiqa and Stephe P. Cohen to develop an indepth understanding of the issue under discussion.

  • Mar 17, 2016 at 1:24 am

    A great write up here on a very interesting and important topic. The complex relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan is something the Americans certainly didn’t understand when they began their war on Afghanistan in 2001. I’ll look forward to reading Professor Ijaz Khan Khattak’s book. Thanks Sher!

    Paul Gottinger
    Journalist | The News American

  • Mar 16, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Pakistan is not series bcz the does not want to see peace in afghanistan?

  • Mar 16, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    I read this comprehensive article. I become cruise to find the book. The current situation in our territory is very complicated. An analyst like Ijaz Khattak can exactly explain it. Pakhtuns belt is a battlefield since 9/11 and intelligence war is going on here between many agencies. So thank you Takal for your such valued article on a valuable book. I am compelled to read the book.

  • Mar 16, 2016 at 11:27 am

    Dear Takal! I read your article the book of Ijaz khattak, which i found readable book via your article it means that the said book is meaningful book for understanding the strategic policy for the war and terror and specially for the Pak Afghan strategic depth. keep it up thanks.

  • Mar 16, 2016 at 12:29 am

    Very mature and balanced analysis of the strategic culture of the garrison state of Pakistan. The paradigm of Pakistani foreign policy is dominated by the Khaki-establishment since many decades. Which have created more tensions at home and abroad to its neighbours. However, democracy has not been reinforced since its inception, because it has been run on the basis of islamic values as it was mentioned that this is an islamic state. The strategic culture has destroyed both Pakistan and Afghanistan since the so-called Afghan jihad. Many innocent pashtuns have been betrayed in the name of radical political islam.

  • Mar 15, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    Undoubtedly, Bhutto was a social-democrat and an Islamic socialist but pushed Afghanistan toward anarchy and barbarism and the had been done by Benazir Bhutto. So we should not get confuse with Pakistani democracy because Pakistani democracy leads us towards Islamism and terrorism. There should be a real democracy which means a leading road to social justice and freedom of speech not just like Pakistani establishment is running the print and electronic media.

    • Mar 16, 2016 at 9:03 am

      Our fight for a true progressive democratic revolution must be united, if we strong unite all the secular and leftist forces from both Afghanistan and Pakistan, whether from exile, minor to the banned opposition. We deeply agree that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto did an extremely unfortunate mess among the Pakistani reformist leftist political parties, by becoming too centrist during his premiership.. There would be a great idea by creating an regional conference amongst Central Asia and South Asia on meeting based on peaceful coexistence and reconciliation among the two countries by fighting against the preeminently dominant governing classes from the capitalist, bourgeois rightist, feudalist and tribal classes!! Like Ashraf Ghani and the very more of Nawaz Sharif!

  • Mar 15, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Great Sur Gul very balanced analysis of the security state and security culture of Pakistan, there seem to me a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy but it will take long time to be fruitful, Pakistani politician and civil society is in favor of building peaceful and friendly relation with all its neighbours especially Afghanistan, but military establishment is dictating foreign policy of the country. A mature foreign policy will need continuation of democracy in Pakistan, there is a vibrant and bold print and electronic media in Pakistan which criticise military role in Pakistan foreign policy, I think if democracy prevail in its true sense in Pakistan we can over come a lot of difficulties with neighbours