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Pakistan: A History of Conflict

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Pakistan: A History of Conflict and its Impact on U.S. Policy

Dan Schnitzel


Strategically located and vital to the ongoing United States war against violent extremism, Pakistan is a country whose history is marked with conflict, distrust, and founded on the Islamic ideology that the U.S. is struggling to deal with on a global scale. While still a reasonably new country to the world, Pakistan's geographical location, advances in nuclear technology, and growing impact on Middle East relationships, has shoved this profoundly social and economically challenged nation into the forefront of world affairs. Additional concerns for the United States are Pakistan has a clouded relationship with China, their apparent harboring of high-level terrorists, their association with violent extremist organizations, the drastically underdeveloped economic infrastructure, and is constant troubles with political corruption and instability. To add to America's concern over Pakistan, Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 atrocities was just killed by American Special Operations Forces (SOF) in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011. If these issues were not enough, the U.S. is also concerned with the fact that Pakistan is the only Islamic nation with nuclear weapons, and the method to deliver them against other U.S. partners in the region. However, even with all of this, Pakistan remains the number one partner the U.S. has in its fight to defeat Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, and its extremist enemies in the region, and to a growing extent, around the globe.

Pakistan: A History of Conflict

Born out of the Indian Independence Act of 1947, and the withdrawal of British control over India, the newly independent Muslim state of Pakistan set off to rule itself without an established democratic government in place. Pakistan's history, like any other country, is an essential value if American's are to understand the young nation's foreign and military policies. From its onset, Pakistan has faced serious and repeated internal political and regional problems that have set the nation's social infrastructure development behind its rapidly growing military one. From the onset, the nation faced a standoff over constitutional ideologies between the Constituent Assembly and the Muslim League. The Muslim League created a strong orthodox Muslim opposition for the development of a democratic led government, and this opposition led to the assassination of the standing Prime Minister by an Afghan activists who was sympathetic towards the Muslim Leagues stance in 1951. However, after several years of squabbling and slow advancement, Pakistan developed its constitution in 1956. Pakistan became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, but troubles lay ahead with numerous military coups and reconciliations that threatened destabilization of the world's newest republic (Shah, 2011).

In the years that followed Pakistan saw an unsteady succession of elected governments and military coups. For example, Benazir Bhutto elected to prime minister twice, was ousted twice over economic concerns. She self-exiled herself over corruption allegations, and then upon her return in 2007 was ultimately assassinated. Nawaz Sharif was elected three times, but was ultimately ousted by Gen. Pervez Musharraf over concerns of corruption and violations of Pakistan's "code of conduct" in regards to military appointments. Gen. Mushaffaf's coup of Sharif brought back military rule to the struggling nation. Interestingly the Pakistani public, familiar with military rule throughout its young history, viewed the takeover as a positive step and hoped it would bring back desperately needed economic restoration. These types of coups have been a common episode throughout the short history of the Islamic Republic.

U.S. and Pakistan Relationships over the Years

Since Pakistan became a new nation, the United States has had a partnering relationship with the country. More resembling of a "love and hate" type of relationship, the connection between the U.S. and Pakistan has been bonded throughout the years in common interests. During the early years, Pakistan asked for military and financial assistance from the U.S. to help the young nation with internal security concerns. Pakistan based the importance of this new relationship on the proposal that the Soviet Union was a common enemy and that a strong, united, and secure Pakistan was in the best interest of both countries in order to preserve U.S. interest in the Middle East. However, it was apparent to the United States that Pakistan was using a relationship with the U.S. as a benefit in the conflict with India over the Kashmir region. This relationship mostly dissolved after the U.S. backed the India government during the 1960's. India was at odds with China, and Pakistan had turned to China for assistance during this time as well. This became a conflict of interest for the U.S. and was against the American anti-communism policy at the time, and America could no longer support a nation who was collaborating with a communist nation.

During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980's, the two nations allied again against the Soviets. The U.S. supported a Pakistan surrogate conflict against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and backed the Inter-Service Intelligence Agency (ISI) with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with efforts against Soviet helicopters. However, during this second alliance the U.S. did not address the social concerns, economic shortfalls, and the growing radical Islamic movement in Pakistan, but did focus its efforts and concerns towards the developing Pakistani nuclear program. Since this second relationship was solely based on the Soviet invasion, with their departure from Afghanistan and the end to conflict, so was the end of the U.S. relationship with Pakistan. Even though there were indications that the U.S. backed mujahedeen fighters were establishing a more radicalized ideal in the war struck nation. The U.S. government at the time did not see this as a concern towards American interests in the region, and felt as though the radical focus would be on the U.S.S.R. Additionally, to further strain relationships, this period was followed by a decade and



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