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Abdullah Malik,1137

There is absolutely no doubt that the Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharaf has secured an unprecedented place in history. Some would remember him as the West's accomplice in the War on Afghanistan, others would remember him for strengthening and promoting secular forces in Pakistan, still others would remember him as a leader who abandoned Pakistan's 60 year claim on Kashmir and who virtually rolled back Pakistan's nuclear program. But after Tuesday's massacre at Islamabad's Red Mosque Musharaf has joined the elite club of modern history's most ruthless dictators joining ranks with the likes of Islam Karimov, the butcher of Andijan and Ariel Sharon, the butcher of Beruit and would be remembered by all   in history as the butcher of the Red Mosque.

With orders of "shoot to kill" any media person found in the proximity of the Red Mosque, the Pakistan Forces stormed the compound of the Mosque and the Hafsa Seminary, pounding the mosque with heavy shelling, indiscriminately killing men, women and children. With journalists barred from hospitals as well, with Islamabad rocking with sounds of heavy explosions, the people of Islamabad, especially the residents of G-6 where the mosque and the seminary is situated, felt for the first time, the daily agony faced by the residents of Fallujah in Iraq and Ramallah in Palestine.

Shock and awe, is how one can describe the state of mind of the masses in Pakistan. They still cannot believe the hard truth that Musharaf could kill more than 1500 people in the heart of the country's federal capital and destroy the largest seminary in Pakistan just to save his neck. On the other hand a debate has gripped the media as to the real motives behind the operation, no one from the intelligentsia in Pakistan, is prepared to buy the innocent argument of "establishing the writ of the State" as a justification for the brutal butchery which took place at the Red Mosque.

From the very start of the Lal Masjid-Hafsa crisis, when the government provoked the Ghazi brothers by demolishing seven mosques in Islamabad to the bloodbath which the world witnessed on 10th July, the whole episode seems to be orchestred by Musharaf and his henchmen to achieve certain objectives.

Throughout the six months of the crisis, when the government intentionally kept a blind eye to the activities of the Lal Masjid students, a vicious media campaign was launched against the administration of the Red Mosque; through this campaign the media openly attacked the idea of political Islam and using the Lal Masjid issue the media and secular forces openly attacked and demonized Islamic laws and the call for implementation of shariah in Pakistan. Protests and rallies were organized by secular forces and human rights groups condemning the Lal Masjid administration and certain shariah practices. Through this vicious campaign, musharaf aimed at subduing and confusing the strengthening public opinion in Pakistan for the implementation of shariah law in the country. Moreover using the issue Musharaf has successfully attempted at dividing the Pakistani society in to "moderates" and "extremists" creating an intense intellectual clash between the two. "Moderates" are those people, who are opposed to the use of force for implementation of shariah but who are not necessarily opposed to the idea of shariah rule in the country. This group while condemning the use of force by the Lal Masjid Administration and not condemning the government's neo-colonial anti Islamic agenda has failed to realize that it is indirectly endorsing the government's anti-Islamic policies. The "Extremists" on the other hand are the ones who are shocked at the massacre of innocent Muslims and see it as an extension of the current regime's "fight against terror" which they perceive as a war on Islam.

Politically Musharaf has used the issue to dilute the pressure exerted on his regime by the secular forces and to thwart their efforts of building an anti-musharaf campaign. The Hafsa crisis was aggravated by the government at a time when the Supreme Court hearing the petition of Chief Justice of Pakistan challenging his suspension, dismissed as "scandalous" the documentary evidence which formed the basis of a reference against him. A move, which under normal circumstances would have been cashed on by the secular forces to further dent Musharaf's popularity.

The operation against the Hafsa crisis also came at a time when Musharaf's image as the West's stalwart in the region was being questioned in the Western power circles. The pat on the back from US President Bush, US deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, US under secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs Richard Boucher, British Premier Gordon Brown and Australian minister for foreign affairs Alexander Downer has surely enhanced Musharaf's popularity as the West's "go to boy". The achievement is significant in the backdrop of PPP's chairperson Benazir Bhutto's "appease the West campaign", which she has been running for quite some time now, to convince Western power brokers of her loyalty and commitment to secure Western interests in Pakistan.

In his address to the nation, while attempting to justify his murderous onslaught on the inhabitants of the Lal Masjid and Hafsa Seminary, Musharaf vowed to continue his policy of "crush the militants and extremists". Musharaf was very selective about the words he used, and categorized the "extremists" with the hardcore militants. In other words, Musharaf vowed to crush by force, not just those who are carrying out and helping the insurgency in Afghanistan against Western occupiers but also every group and individual who doesnot fulfill his definition of being "moderate". In other words Musharaf sent a strong message to Islamists in Pakistan that he will not tolerate political Islam and any dissenting voice would be crushed with brutal force and that the operation against Hafsa Seminary is an example of how he intends to deal with the Islamists. Through this, Musharaf wants to bully the Islamists and force them to go in the hiding or disassociate themselves from political Islam and the legitimate demand of implementation of Islamic laws in Pakistan. With the Islamists on the run or on the backfoot, no one would be able to respond to the vicious campaign launched by the Musharaf regime to malign Islam.

But perhaps the most dangerous of all the objectives which the Musharaf regime has aimed to achieve through the Lal Masjid Operation, is the American objective of weakening the State of Pakistan to make it vulnerable to foreign enemies. No one in his right mind would believe that Musharaf did not expect a strong backlash from militants in response to the massacre at the Lal Masjid. Infact troops had already been deployed in the Swat valley before the government went on with its plan in Islamabad. Knowing the mentality of the militants, Musharaf provoked them and invited them to an open battle plunging Pakistan in to civil strife and anarchy. Attacks on security personnel has become a daily routine since Musharaf's slaughter in Islamabad, causalities include foot soldiers, high ranking officials and civilians alike. Also the peace deal with the North Waziristan Militants has been scrapped. Using the opportunity, America has stepped up pressure on Musharaf to start a massive operation against "extremists and militants", with Defense Secretary Robert Gates going as far as linking the insurgency in Iraq to North Western Pakistan. Through this America aspires to weaken the strongest Muslim army in the world by plunging it in to a hell like situation similar to Iraq and Afghanistan where her own troops are getting a bashing they have never witnessed before. Also America aims to protect the neck of its soldiers in Afghanistan by the putting the neck of Pakistani troops on the line and shifting the War from Afghanistan in to Western Pakistan. The collateral damage and the spill out of the operation in the North Western Pakistan to the rest of Pakistan, would serve to create political, economic and social instability in Pakistan thus weakening it internally.

It is a hard time for the Ummah and Muslims in Pakistan. The exponential increase in instability in Pakistan has resulted in the escalated feelings of desperation and frustration in the masses. With a faction of the "popular" leadership siding with Musharaf, and the other staying numb, the tension and frustration in the Pakistani society is tangible. Could this be the turning point in Pakistan's history? Could this be the "wake up call", the thrust the Muslims of Pakistan needed, to enthusiastically join the global movement to reestablish the Islamic Caliphate? With chaos rampant in the country, with no hope from the tried and tested leadership, with Islamic sentiments and the desire to live according to Islam on the rise and with the ever mounting pile of problems, the patience of the Muslims of Pakistan is running out and the possibility of a radical restructuring of the Pakistani society via the Caliphate seems more closer than ever.


Abid Mustafa

The intensification of fighting between the students of Lal Masjid and the Pakistani army has left hundreds dead and many injured. This has prompted President Musharraf to issue the following provocative statement: “If they do not surrender so I am saying here today that they will be killed. They should not force us to use force. They should come out voluntarily; otherwise they will be killed…” Even before Musharraf’s ultimatum, his government was swift to attribute the entire blame for the current crisis on Abdul Rashid Ghazi—the principal of the seminary. However, a close examination of the events preceding the current standoff, suggests that the entire saga has been engineered by the Pakistani government.

For the past six months the Musharraf government has tolerated the behaviour of the students whenever they chose to challenge its writ. The accumulation of illegal arms, the abduction of Pakistani socialites and policemen, and the seizure of six Chinese women was met with muted criticism from government officials. Furthermore, these activities were not clandestine, and were planned and executed in full view of ISI’s headquarters located in close proximity to the confines of the Lal Masjid. The frequent visit of ISI officials and government representatives negates government claims that it was exploring an amicable outcome— especially when measured against the ferocity of the Pakistani government’s response to similar incidents in tribal agencies and elsewhere in Balochistan. So why has the Pakistani government waited so long to barricade the Masjid with military hardware fit for an overwhelming assault.

This question can only be answered in the broader context of the challenges facing Musharraf’s rule. At present the Musharraf government has had to contend with both the secular opposition and Islamic forces calling for his removal. The secular forces championed by the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) and Chief Justice Iftikhar have gained momentum and have frustrated America’s initiative to get Musharraf re-elected. To diffuse this threat, Musharraf under US auspices has held secret talks with certain leaders of the secular opposition and has deployed force against others. The deaths in Karachi are a manifestation of the latter approach. As far as negotiations are concerned, the US on Musharraf’s behalf is already engaged in advanced talks with Benazir Bhutto with aim to break the back of the secular opposition and secure a second presidential term for Musharraf. This also explains Bhutto’s recent ambiguous stance on the All Parties Conference (APC) in London, which she has shunned so far.

Whilst the Islamic opposition unhappy with Musharraf’s pro-American policies and his neo-liberal attitudes have taken upon themselves to oust him from power. Some have resorted to militancy and others have engaged in protests to vent their anger. But the wellspring of their resentment is fuelled by the religious seminaries which America has identified for secularisation or closure. Unlike the secular opposition—where America was keen to compromise and broker a deal— the Islamic forces in the eyes of American policy makers must be secularised at gun point, and any resistance must be crushed.  Hence the surrounding of Lal Masjid by the military in the absence of martial law, the humiliation of Abdul Aziz Ghazi on Pakistan television, the abrupt cancellation of talks, the media black out and the announcement of ‘surrender or die’ as a solution to the crisis is an ominous sign for the future of religious seminaries in Pakistan.

What is transpiring at Lal Masjid has all the hallmarks of becoming a template for Musharraf to deal with other religious schools and institutions— a recipe for civil war. Not to mention that the timing of the crisis suits Musharraf, as it deflects the public’s attention away from the secular opposition and the government’s disastrous response to the floods in Balochistan.

What is evident is that the utilisation of force by the government to deal with both secular and Islamic forces exposes the intellectual bankruptcy of Musharraf’s mantra of enlightened moderation. Instead of employing thoughts to battle the ideas of the opposition, Musharraf has resorted to force. The same method has been repeated by Musharraf’s allies—America, NATO and Israel— under the guise of ‘battle of hearts and minds’ and both have failed to crush the Islamic movements in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. So what chance does Musharraf have?

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GOVERNANCE IN THE MUSLIM WORLD - by moeenyaseen - 05-06-2007, 11:11 AM

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