Saudi Wahhabi Imperialism in Pakistan: History, Legacy, Contemporary Representations and Debates

David Waterman


Historically, Pakistan has nurtured an interpretation of Islam based on Sufi philosophy, which has a reputation of being more tolerant and open-minded.  Recent decades have, however, seen a rise in conservative Islam exported from Saudi Arabia; Sunni Wahhabism has become more common in Pakistan largely due to a socio-historical context which includes the 1970s oil crises, the 1979 Iranian revolution as well as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  Petrodollars have given the Saudi kingdom the necessary resources to finance Wahhabi imperialism, the Iranian revolution has politicized Shia Muslims (who are seen as a threat by the Sunni), and the Afghan war has resulted in the creation of militarized Islam, supported and funded by the USA and Saudi Arabia.  General Zia ul-Haq would then take power in Pakistan, and capitalize on Saudi support for the hardline Islamization of the country, a policy which has left a trail of sectarian Sunni / Shia violence in its wake. 


Saudi Arabia; Wahhabi; Sunni; Shia; Pakistan; Zia ul-Haq

Full Text:



Abir, M. Saudi Arabia: Government, Society, and the Gulf Crisis. London: Routledge, 1993.

Ali, M. General Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq’s Visit to Muslim Countries. Pakistan Horizon.

Vol. 30, No. 3/4 (1977): 103-107. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs.

[accessed 25 May 2013].

Allen, C. Wahhabism and the Origin of Fear. India Today. 31 July 2008. [accessed 10

February 2014].

A Sensible Call: Haj Sermon. Dawn. 16 October 2013. [accessed 17 October 2013].

Aslam, N. The Wasted Vigil. New York: Knopf, 2008.

Badruddin, A. A Muslim Majority Indus Valley Civilization? Dawn. 22 June 2012.

[accessed 4 April 2013].

Bobin, F. La rivalité sunnites-chiites au Pakistan, un des défis du future premier

ministre. Le Monde. 11 mai 2013, p. 4.

Gaborieau, M. Islam and Politics. A History of Pakistan and its Origins. Ed. Christophe

Jaffrelot. London: Anthem Press, 2004, pp. 237-251.

Hamid, M. Why Pakistan will Survive. Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State. Ed. Maleeha

Lodhi. London: Hurst & Company, 2011, pp. 35-43.

Hanif, M. A Case of Exploding Mangoes. London: Jonathan Cape, 2008.

Hegghammer, T. Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Hoodbhoy, P. Is Pakistan Emulating Saudi Arabia? Haq’s Musings [blog]

January 2009. [accessed 25 May 2013].

Iqbal, M. The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. Ed. M. Saeed Sheikh.

Intro. Javed Majeed. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013. Originally

published in 1930; 1989.

Jalal, A. The Past as Present. Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State. Ed. Maleeha Lodhi.

London: Hurst & Company, 2011, pp. 7-20.

Jinnah, M. A. Muhammad Ali Jinnah's first Presidential Address to the Constituent

Assembly of Pakistan, August 11, 1947. [accessed 10 November 2013].

Khan, N. Muslim Becoming: Aspiration and Skepticism in Pakistan. Durham and

London: Duke University Press, 2012.

Lacroix, S. Awakening Islam: The Politics of Religious Dissent in Contemporary

Saudi Arabia. Tr. George Holoch. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.

Luciani, G. Allocation vs. Production State: A Theoretical Framework. The Arab State.

Ed. Giacomo Luciani. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990, pp. 65-84.

Mohammad-Arif, A. The Diversity of Islam. A History of Pakistan and its Origins.

Ed. Christophe Jaffrelot. London: Anthem Press, 2004, pp. 223-236.

Naqvi, H. M. Home Boy. New York: Shaye Areheart Books, 2009.

Nyrop, R. Saudi Arabia: A Country Study. 4th Edition. Ed. Richard Nyrop. Washington,

DC: Foreign Area Studies, American University, 1984.

Pakistan Denies Reports Saudis Funded Nuclear Program. Dawn. 7 November 2013.

[accessed 8 November 2013].

Paracha, N. F. Smokers’ Corner: Petro Games. Dawn. 24 February 2013. [accessed 4 April


Qadeer, M. A. Pakistan: Social and Cultural Transformations in a Muslim Nation.

London and New York: Routledge, 2006.

Roy, O. Islam and Foreign Policy: Central Asia and the Arab-Persian World. A History of

Pakistan and its Origins. Ed. Christophe Jaffrelot. London: Anthem Press, 2004, pp.


Salami, I. Carnage of Shia Muslims in Pakistan. Press TV. 6 September 2012. [accessed 4

June 2013].

Shamsie, K. In the City by the Sea. London; New York: Bloomsbury, 1998.

Shamsie, K. Offence: The Muslim Case. Manifestos for the 21st Century. London; New

York; Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2009.

Shamsie, K. In Pakistan, there’s no Answer to Terror. 19 February 2013. [accessed 14

February 2014]. terror-murder-shias-baluchistan

Tharoor, I. WikiLeaks: The Saudis’ Close but Strained Ties with Pakistan. Time.

December 2010. [accessed 4 June 2013].,8599,2035347,00.html#ixzz17NnxjLVZ



  • There are currently no refbacks.

"Societal studies" ISSN online 2029-2244 / ISSN print 2029-2236