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To what extent have the colonial legacies and formative years shaped the contemporary Pakistan and its challenges with Islamic Extremism?

Despite being only 65 years old Pakistan has undergone a difficult progression and suffered many setbacks. From political instability to repeated martial regimes the people of Pakistan have witnessed an endless array of changes and upheavals, all played out in front of a growing global audience. Its relationship with extremism is a well documented one and an area that forces the country into the spotlight on a regular basis. It is this troubled association with extremist behaviour that has paved the way for this research. The aim has been to ascertain what role the legacy of colonial domination and the initial years of construction have had on contemporary Pakistan’s fight with extremist behaviour. It is asserted that the actions and policies instigated under British rule coupled with the subsequent division of India have played a dominant role in the struggles that Pakistan has faced and its escalating relationship with Islamic extremism.

The majority of the research in this field looks at more modern historical components as causes and cites the late 1970’s as the turning point for Islamic extremism within Pakistan; others focus on the wider implications of British rule such as economic turmoil and financial instability yet little attention is given to the possible relationship between British rule and extremist behaviour. This Paper asserts that it was the policies and actions of the British colonial administration at the time that directly underpinned the struggles faced by Pakistan post partition and that the roots of present day Islamic extremism can be traced back to the events surrounding colonial rule.

This Paper concludes that it is impossible for colonial leadership not to have impacted the future of Pakistan given the policies they devised and the documented response of the indigenous people. However, what this research also identifies is the simplicity of such conclusions and that it is imperative that the influence of colonial rule be examined alongside various other elements that could and did influence contemporary Pakistan. Whilst colonial rule is an active part of the conclusions drawn in this piece various other factors have come to light in dissecting Pakistan’s relationship with extremism. Islam itself has been analysed and closely researched and the way in which it has been utilised as a tool for political development is a fundamental element in answering the core question within this research.

Author: Stacey Bridge

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