Zahid Shahab Ahmed & Shahram Akbarzadeh
Zahid Shahab Ahmed & Shahram Akbarzadeh (2023): ‘Pakistan, Pan-Islamism, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’, Religions, Published online 21 February 2023.
Publication year: 2023

Pan-Islamism had resonated strongly with Muslim political leaders of the Indian sub-continent, including those inspired by Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī, credited with coining the term. These political leaders included prominent members of the All-India Muslim League, who were at the forefront of the Indian Muslims’ struggle for a separate homeland that led to the creation of Pakistan in 1947. It is therefore no surprise that Islam and pan-Islamism became key features of the new state of Pakistan; however, domestic and geopolitical realities demanded a different approach to addressing the country’s key national interests, i.e., security through economic development. This article analyzes Pakistan’s policy on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to understand how far Islamabad has advanced its national interests through the OIC. Based on the interviews of elites and key opinionmakers in Islamabad, this paper argues that pan-Islamist ideals in Pakistan’s foreign policy were confronted by reality soon after Pakistan’s creation. The geopolitical realities of India have kept security concerns paramount and all-consuming. Consequently, pan-Islamism has been pragmatically used by Pakistan, especially within the OIC, for not just ideological reasons but also for material and diplomatic gains.