India and Pakistan present a paradox for students of post-colonial history: they have a common colonial heritage but have followed different political trajectories since gaining independence on 15 August 1947. India was constituted as a secular state, Pakistan as a state for Muslims. In India, politics have observed democratic norms and power is transferred through competitive elections. The great exception was a period of emergency rule under Indira Gandhi in 1975–7, but even that was ended by her rash decision to call a general election. Pakistan, for most of its existence, has been governed by authoritarian regimes in which the military have played a dominant role; on four occasions army commanders have overthrown civilian governments. The Indian civil authorities have kept the military in strict subordination; senior military officers have never held ministerial office in New Delhi. India championed non-alignment in the Cold War; Pakistan allied with the USA. Of course, these are bald statements which require immediate qualification: Pakistan’s founders were liberal secularists for whom Islam was a spiritual and moral framework, not a blueprint for modern jurisprudence. The Islamisation of the Penal Code, financial services and other civil society institutions was not attempted until the regime of General Zia ul-Haq (1977–88).
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