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Waseem Shehzad

Three times in the last 50 years – in 1960, 1971 and 1980 –  the Turkish military has seized power from civilian governments whose policies they deemed unacceptable.  In 1997, Turkey suffered a “soft coup”, when the military forced prime minister Necmeddin Erbakan out of power for being too Islamic.  

A similar intervention seems closer than ever as this issue of Crescent goes to press, after the military reacted angrily to the prospect of Turkey’s foreign minister, Abdullah Gul (pic), becoming president. Gul is a member of the ruling AK party, which is accused of being Islamist.  Apparently more objectionable than Gul’s politics, however, is the fact that his wife, Hayrunissa Gul, wears the hijab, like the majority of Turkish women.  However, Turkey’s secular establishment, led by the army, is firmly anti-hijab; the wearing of hijab is banned in universities and government offices, and the prospective first lady herself led an appeal against the hijab ban to the European Court.

As a result, the voting for the presidency in Parliament has been boycotted by opposition groups (the Turkish president is elected by members of parliament, not by the populace as a whole.)  Nonetheless, in the first round of voting on April 28, Gul won 357 votes, just 10 short of the two-thirds majority required to win the vote.  Two further rounds of voting are due; in the third, a simple majority will be enough. However, it is uncertain whether the military or their political allies, particularly the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), will allow this process to continue.

The establishment’s fear of the hijab was made clear by outgoing president Ahmet Necdet Sezer, whose term ends on May 16.  In a speech at Turkey’s War Academies on April 13, he lashed out against too much religious influence “in the private and social life of the people.”  He warned: “For the first time, the pillars of the secular republic are being openly questioned,” since its establishment by Mustafa Kemal 84 years ago.  

Such sweeping statements reflect the secularists’ lack of confidence despite decades of forcing secularism upon the 70 million Muslim Turks.  Following Sezer’s “warning”, 300,000 Turks, most of them university students chanting anti-government slogans and waving Turkish flags, assembled outside the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal in Ankara on April 14 to denounce the alleged threat to secularism.  Students were bussed in from all over the country on orders of the military, the real power- wielder in Turkey.  An odd assortment of retired generals, led by Eruy Gur, who insist on proclaiming their continued relevance despite having outlived their usefulness, led the march and ranted about the danger posed by Islamic fundamentalists.  If the people of Turkey refuse to become secular, this can hardly be blamed on the ruling party, which has been forced to make painful compromises to accommodate the secular ideologues.  But these are not enough for the fanatics, as is shown by Sezer’s reference to too much religious influence in people’s “private and social life.”

Even the conservative British weekly Economist (no friend of Muslims) was forced to concede (April 19) that “contrary to claims by the hotchpotch of retired generals, nationalists and anti-European Union activists who organised the rally on April 14, many attendees seemed less concerned by Mr Erdogan’s supposedly Islamist agenda than by a general malaise over their future.  This reflects several things: worries over globalisation, violence in neighbouring Iraq, renewed Kurdish separatism, a feeling of being slighted by the EU.  Many are also disgruntled by the rampant corruption of some AK officials that Mr Erdogan has failed to curb.”

Mustafa Akyol of the Turkish Daily News pointed out in his column on April 17 that it is not the state’s business to regulate people’s private or personal lives.  In a similar column earlier (February 7) Akyol had said that “the principle of secularism as explained in Article 24 of the Turkish Constitution decrees among other things that ‘religion or religious feelings’ can’t be used ‘for even partially basing the fundamental, social, economic, political and legal order of the state’.”  He pointed out that the constitution refers to the order of state, not to society or individual life.  However, secular fanatics like Sezer believe it is the state’s business to impose their ideology on others.  As a former judge, Sezer has had a chequered history in the service of secularism, but he has been around far too long even for his own good.  He not only preaches secularism as a principle that should guide human life, he also rewards ideologues who serve this “secularizing mission.” Last year, he gave the annual Atatürk Award to Muazzez  lmiye Çig, a controversial historian.  Sezer was so impressed by this 97-year-old woman’s insulting depiction of Judaism, Christianity and Islam as offshoots of ancient Sumerian sex cults that he considered it worthy of official recognition.  In a few weeks he will be history, but he refuses to depart quietly or with dignity.

The Turkish people are concerned with far more basic issues (employment, inflation, housing, education) than about such nebulous concepts as secularism being in danger.  This is an issue constantly played up by the military: promoters of Kemalism who continue to monopolise a disproportionate portion of state resources, depriving people of their basic needs.  Officially unemployment stands at 11 percent, but most commentators believe it is much higher; 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and most people cannot afford to eat meat.  Petrol prices, at more than US$2 per litre, are among the highest in the world.  The 800,000-strong military, meanwhile, consumes 40 percent of the state’s $115 billion annual budget directly, with numerous perks creamed from other sources.  Even with such large consumption of the state’s resources, it has little to show by way of achievements.  It fusses continuously about imaginary threats from such diverse sources as Russia, Armenia, Iran, the Kurds and Greece, and about Turkey’s being unwelcome in Europe, but is unwilling to show what role it has played in addressing any of these problems.

The European Union, for instance, has cited too much military interference in state affairs as one of the stumbling blocks of Turkey’s EU membership; lack of respect for human rights is another.  These realities are undeniable, yet they are excuses because Ankara has been given a long list of other demands, at the root of which lies Turkey’s Islamic identity.  In moments of candor some Europeans have admitted that Europe as a “Christian” continent cannot accept a Muslim Turkey.  Even so the military, notorious for its abuses of human rights, refuses to back off or mind its own business.  The military chief, general Yasar Buyukanit, referring to Erdogan’s Islamic leanings, said “As a citizen and as a member of the armed forces, we hope that someone who is loyal to the principles of the republic –not just in words but in essence– is elected president.” This was also a veiled attack on Erdogan’s hijab-wearing wife.  After Buyukanit’s statement, a member of the opposition People’s Republican Party rose in the National Assembly to ask why Emine Erdogan continued to wear the hijab!  This criticism will now no doubt also spread to Gul’s wife.

Erdogan has stabilised Turkey’s economy considerably, but major problems persist.  Unproductive state enterprises have been put on the block and exports have increased to more than $73 billion annually.  Imports, however, continue to rise and are well over $102 billion, creating a trade deficit and taking the country’s external debt to $170 billion.  Although the country has reserves of $52 billion (a respectable sum), its agriculture-based economy, which accounts for 36 percent of earnings, is vulnerable.  Industrial production accounts for 22.8 percent, while the service sector brings in another 41.2 percent with tourism playing a large part.  The Turkish lira was so low in value compared to the dollar ($1 equaled 1.3 million liras) that people found it difficult to write cheques.  The government revalued the lira by slashing six zeroes from it.  The new currency, however, has made little difference:  people’s earnings remain low; most workers earn less than $450 a month. Junior university professors, for instance, earn between $800 and $1,000 per month, amounts so low that few can make ends meet.

Despite such problems, the direct result of too much spending on the military, and of the secularists’ stubbornness, there is not even a hint that they are prepared to provide space for a civil society to operate on its own preferences.  The secular ideologues insist on forcing a reluctant people to march to their beat but have no idea how to address the country’s economic or social problems.  It is these contradictions that have turned a country of otherwise hardworking people into a marginal adjunct of Europe instead of a vibrant and leading part of the heartlands of the Muslim world.


If a country’s architecture can be taken as indicating its status in the world, that of Istanbul reflects fairly accurately both Turkey’s past and its present. While the grandeur of its historic buildings are vivid reminders of past glories, the blandness of its contemporary buildings–concrete and glass boxes–reflects the disrupting influence and ultimate vacuousness of its Westernization.

Less than a century ago Istanbul was the capital of a world power that had ruled a vast empire for nearly four centuries, since the capture of the Byzantine capital Constantinople by Sultan Mehmet II (1432-1481CE), better known as Sultan Fatih, in 1453.  Renamed Istanbul, and symbolically bridging the gap between Europe and Asia, the city became the capital of a new empire that carried Islam deep into Europe, and ruled Muslim societies in three continents.  Today, the city boasts some of the greatest monuments of Islamic architecture. The Blue Mosque, commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I and designed by Sedefkar Ahmet Agha, one of the most brilliant students of the great architect Mirmar Sinan, and built between 1609-1616, stands majestically opposite the Aya Sofia and Topkapi museums, flanked by the Marmara Sea to the south and the Golden Horn to the east. Topkapi–meaning the cannon gate–was built by Sultan Mehmet II in 1467 and served as the official residence and court of the sultans until 1839, when Sultan Abdulmecit I moved to the new palace of Dolmabahace on the Bosphorus Sea. It was later converted into a museum, which now houses several relics of the noble Prophet, upon whom be peace, including the original letter he sent to the Roman governor of Egypt, Muqaiqoos, one of his swords, and a sword that he gave to Khalid ibn Walid (ra), the companion famed as a brilliant general who led the early Muslims to many victories.

Istanbul’s other great monument is the Eyup Sultan Mosque, named after the companion Ayub Ansari (ra), in whose house the noble Prophet (saw) initially resided in Madinah after his migration from Makkah, until a modest house was built for him. Ayub Ansari (ra) is buried in a compound alongside the mosque. His grave is carefully preserved and visitors can view it through an outer railing. Worshippers and visitors throng the mosque at all times of the day and night, but the most moving scenes are witnessed during fajr (morning) and isha (night) salats. One cannot help but contrast the respect shown by the Turks to the memory of Ayub Ansari (ra) with the vandalism of historic sites in the Hijaz by the Saudis. Jannatul Maula in Makkah, Jannatul Baqi in Madinah and the cemetery of the shuhada’ at Uhud are all in a sorry state. The Prophet’s first wife Khadijah (ra) is buried in Jannatul Maula, but it suffers from neglect; it is virtually impossible to locate the grave of this illustrious mother of the believers, the first person to accept Islam. Jannatul Baqi, where numerous companions of the Prophet (saw) and members of his family are buried, has suffered even more. On the spurious pretext of the risk of shirk, the Saudis have destroyed almost all the Islamic historical sites of Makkah and Madinah, while carefully preserving relics of their own sorry history, such as the tip of the spear that was lodged in the door of the Mismak fortress when Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, founder of the Saudi dynasty struck it.  After their conquest of the Hijaz in 1924, the Saudis embarked upon wholesale destruction of historic buildings and monuments.  In the name of development, concrete monstrosities now tower above even the Ka’aba, and the Masjid al-Haram is surrounded by hotels and shopping malls apparently modelled on New York or Los Angeles.  McDonalds and Pizza Hut stores, and other symbols of Western consumerism, stand in stark contrast to the spirituality of the Haram. Traffic congestion and noise add to the distractions from the spiritual journey that pilgrims aspire to while circumambulating the Ka‘aba or running between the hills of Safa’ and Marwa.

By contrast, the Turks should be proud that the Ottomans went to extraordinary lengths to preserve Islamic monuments, especially those relating to the time of the Prophet (saw) and his companions (ra), when they ruled the Haramain.  But like the Saudis, Turkey’s secular rulers are today determined to destroy their own Islamic heritage in the name of modernization and  progress. The establishment in Turkey suffers from a severe crisis of identity: it wants to abandon its glorious past in order to adopt the West’s lifestyle and habits. It is one of the few countries in the world where hijab is officially banned in government offices and universities. Even the Islam-hating West does not go to such extremes. Bizarrely, the wife of the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is barred from attending state functions at the presidential palace because she chooses to wear hijab, while Turkish law prohibits hijab at official events.

What Turkey’s generals fail to understand is that when Turkey held the banner of Islam, it was the leader of the Muslim world; by adopting secularism and imitating the West, it has become the sick man of Europe, facing an uncertain future. But the fact that the vast majority of Turkish women continue to wear hijab reflects a commitment to Islam among  ordinary Turks that decades of aggressive secularism have failed to obliterate. This commitment holds out the hope that Istanbul might yet again emerge as a centre of Islamic civilization and power, and a source of inspiration for all Muslims, insha’Allah.

The July elections in Turkey have clearly demonstrated once again, Turkey’s sham political system which many western politicians and commentators continually promote as the ideal model for the Muslim world. The crisis in Turkey concerning the presidency and the role of Islam in politics represents the trend in the Muslim world as a whole. Some feel that the vociferous opposition expressed in the streets of Ankara, and in the military headquarters last May, seems to indicate that Mustafa Kemal’s secular legacy is safe for the time being. However, the real story is of a country in transition, slowly being transformed as part of a wider dynamic across the Muslim world.

The cause of this crisis was the decision of the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) to put forward Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and then the foreign minister Abdullah Gul, as candidates for the post of president. The presidential office is the apex of the staunchly secular political system established by Mustafa Kemal in the aftermath of World War I. Turkey had been the seat of the Caliphate until Kemal banished the Ottoman Caliph and his relatives in 1924. Hence, there are unique sensitivities towards any hint of the return of Islamic politics. Due to this legacy, the green-tinged secularism of the AKP, who invoke religion less frequently than the Christian Democrats in Germany, is treated as the spearhead of an Islamic challenge to the Kemalist system. In a country where the majority of women wear the Islamic headscarf, the greatest indication of the ‘Islamist menace’ is the fact that Gul’s wife, Hayrünnisa Özyurt also wears the hijab.

The major demonstrations on April 14th and 29th drew crowds of three hundred thousand and then up to a million. Such numbers are usually associated with widespread mobilisation of the masses, when a regime is on its last legs. In recent times we have seen similar numbers in the ‘colour’ revolutions of Eastern Europe. In Turkey’s case however the dynamics of these demonstrations of ‘people power’ are vastly different. Rather than representing the coalescence of the masses facing down the state, the demonstrators had the full backing of the establishment. One of the main organisations behind the protests was the Ataturk Thought Association (ADD), which is closely linked to the army.

Sener Eruygur, president of the ADD, is the former head of the country’s paramilitary forces. He has been linked in recent months to a plan, allegedly formed by senior officers to launch a coup against the AKP government. Due to the international climate, it is clear that the Turkish military cannot overthrow the government without serious diplomatic consequences. However media-friendly rallies mask the mobilisation of elite power with an acceptable veneer of popular outrage.

In reality, the opposition to the AKP candidacy is much more about fear than anger. Sadly, it is a fear of the majority of the Turkish people and their Islamic sentiments that is motivating this opposition. As one protestor remarked of the religious Muslims moving into her wealthy area of Istanbul “They have started to look down on us…they are trying to be part of the ruling class.” It seems strange to such protestors that people who do not meet their standards of civilisation and refinement should have, in their view the temerity to influence political life in their country, just because they represent the sentiment of the majority.

In recent years, the largely ceremonial post of president has become akin to a gatekeeper engaged in a secular crusade, rejecting appointments to academic and civil service posts if the candidates are “excessively” religious. As the Islamic identity of Turkey’s people has become more pronounced, the state has become more active in vetoing such appointments; hundreds of officers are removed from the armed forces each year and particular attention is devoted to the upper echelons of the judiciary and central government.

The political crisis in Turkey is part of a broader picture being drawn out across the Islamic world. As the poll conducted by for the University of Maryland shows, a large majority of Muslims support the implementation of Shari’ah law within, and the unification of Muslim countries into one Caliphate. The elite in Turkey are facing a similar problem to their counterparts in other countries. Imbibing secular western values since their childhood, they are simply unable to relate to the values of the overwhelming majority of their countrymen. The predominant beliefs, values and traditions are so alien to them that they regard the broad mass of their population with a mix of fear and disgust. An inevitable result of this is that whenever the population have the chance to express their sentiments, the elite find themselves repelled by what they hear. Frustrated by their own illogical arguments and rejected by a Europe that has shown its anti Islamic credentials, the ruling elites lash out wildly at their own countrymen.

It is clear that liberal secularism increasingly shown as ineffective in western nations has no future in the Muslim world as the latter move towards an Islamic system more in tune with their religious beliefs, history and heritage. Within such a system, Muslims elect their ruler, there is accountability and the ability to criticise officials no matter their position, an independent judiciary, a rule of law, a strong obligation to eliminate poverty and the fruits of modern technology and science. In addition Islamic texts clearly reject eighteenth century western doctrines of liberal secularism (the detachment of religion from public legislation) or the privatisation of vital resources such as water and energy, as well as the failed laissez faire social model. Islam also comprehensively rejects the flawed basis of political unity being achieved through the destructive force of nationalism; an anachronistic throwback to the nineteenth century. As the Muslim world moves beyond the false bonds of race, the secular world retreats back to the dark ages of Westphalian nation state supremacy and patriotic concepts such as being proud to be Turkish.

Turkey was the capital of a superpower once, the centre of a flourishing civilisation with Islam at its centre. Today it begs European states such as Greece and Cyprus to pass it some crumbs from the ‘grown-ups’ table. No wonder an increasing number of people believe Kemalism belongs more to a museum than in a modern 21st century state.

Akmal Asghar
The Muslim world is suffering at the hands of a failing political architecture that continues to hold back the region. Few now doubt this, but while for the west talk of change has centred on promoting a model rooted in liberalism, political movements indigenous to the region increasingly assert a political model rooted in Islam - the Caliphate. Akmal Asghar introduces a discussion on the Caliphate and concepts that form a distinct political system.

"What we are fighting against is the prospect of a new evil empire". Joseph Lieberman's words hark back to Ronald Reagan's epic depiction of the Soviets, but the Senator's warning was of an emerging threat - an 'empire' he describes as: "a radical Islamic Caliphate which would suppress the freedom of its people and threaten the security of every other nation's citizens".1 The Caliphate is increasingly included in the lexicon of debating the future of the Islamic World. Its advocates take centre stage in Central Asia and increasingly assert themselves throughout the Muslim world, as Senator Lieberman warned in Iraq. Their activities may yet yield results: the CIA's National Intelligence Committee, for example, forecast that a Caliphate may be with us by the year 2020. Such a prospect requires serious and objective discussion rather than the dire and ill-informed judgements of some who dismiss its form of politics and condemn it outright as a new global enemy.

It would be unfair to present Senator Lieberman's protest as the benchmark for how the west regards the Caliphate. Few know what it is or regard it viable enough to consider seriously. For some it represents the resurrection of an Ottoman government; the last to lay claim to being a Caliphate and a state whose decay earned it the unenviable label: 'the Sick Man of Europe'. Therefore, the Caliphate lies beyond the consideration of most in the west; a political system belonging to a bygone age whose fate was sealed by the birth of Mustafa Kemal's Turkish Republic. It is not unusual - in fact quite common amongst some western schools of Middle-East commentary - to hear calls for its resurrection in the Muslim world interpreted as an attempt to relive a romantic imagination of some former glory, which is neither a serious nor workable political system in a world of space travel and virtual communication.

A discussion on the Caliphate must lie, however, in a broader context: there is a need for alternatives to the failing political leaderships in the Muslim world. Autocratic, authoritarian regimes litter the Muslim world and represent the single biggest obstacle to progress. Consent is notoriously absent from the processes that legitimated presidents, kings and premiers. Staged elections have never changed this fact, conducted as they are in a climate of fear and intimidation preventing public expression of any organised opposition. Ruling elites owe their status to acts of foreign installation and often represent striking departures from the demographics of the lands they govern. If it is an evil empire that we must fear, then surely this is it: entrenched primitive and thoroughly repressive political structures aggregated to represent one of the most poorly governed regions in the world. The UN's 2004 Arab Human Development Report (AHDR) makes similar observations. It refers to the failing political architecture in the Arab world, the crisis in governance, authoritarian and totalitarian government, the lack of transparency and accountability, repression, corruption, and a broad crisis of legitimacy that faces Arab governments. It concludes that in the three years of an annual AHDR, little has changed. But repressive governments have long characterised the region and significantly pre-date the report's findings.

It is in mapping a way out of this malaise that alternatives need consideration. For the authors of the AHDR, the template for change is the western model: democracy, liberty, and the institutions and assumptions that underpin the western liberal political philosophy are its benchmarks for reforming Arab governments. The report boldly equates the crisis in the Middle East to a democracy deficit and commentators widely acknowledge that the report has moved to suggest the 'universal' desirability of democracy, most resolutely in its 2004 report. Rumblings from Washington over the report's publication - because of its recommendation of indigenous, home-grown democracy over promotion by foreign donors, a subtle snipe at the US invasion of Iraq - may have threatened US funding for the UN's Human Development Programme, but that should not delude one into thinking it recommended something other than democracy; the argument raged over how not what. And in the now tiresome routine of Islamicising foreign notions to give them legitimacy amongst Muslim populations, the report provides a cultural context to its recommendations by drawing on notable names from Islamic history to argue that key aspects of the west's liberal political philosophy have an Islamic precedent. Such claims to universality are open to a number of significant criticisms - some of which have been presented in previous editions of New Civilisation. But the wider debate demonstrates that while there is growing appreciation of the plight of Muslims living under repressive regimes, a change in the political landscape of the Muslim is talked of occurring in one of two ways: the emergence of a Caliphate following the success of indigenous political movements, considered an unwelcome prospect by many western governments, or some form of liberal democracy, possibly with a cultural adjustment.

The current consideration of the Caliphate as an alternative political model to western liberalism, however, suffers in too many ways, and is compounded by errors in western discourse on Islam in general and Islamic political thinking in particular. 'Orientalist' writers who draw on sociologist Max Weber's reading of Islam, for example, regard it as a pre-modern political system that collapsed because of the challenges of modernity. Such essayists consider it a closed system, total in nature; unable to address Europe's innovations in industry and political thought, and that it is the principle impediment to progress unless Islam is able to reform; a primitive political system whose literature on government is concerned only with the piety of ruler and subject.2 Apart from their particular critique of Islam, these - among many other - western writings are premised on the belief that the liberal political model is built on a series of values deemed universal, and currently provides the most economically efficient and ethically desirable form of governance.3 This assumption, however, creates the problematic framework in which the Caliphate is studied because the approach typically follows the route of comparison, one that takes as its norm the western state and its form of politics, and measures against provisions in the liberal political model.

Where such comparisons fall short is the failure to acknowledge that the Islamic political system has its own independent configuration and a distinct constellation of political principles and ideas. While overlooking this distinct and different configuration of politics, comparisons that impose one system as the norm act only to highlight differences between the two systems without, importantly, questioning the original configurations of both. In this case, it merely highlights the lack of liberal ideas in Islamic politics - which says no more than that they are different - but does not question whether liberalism should be taken as the norm; the approach is relative and offers no universal merit to the discourse. Measuring through a filtered prism obscures an objective picture of the Islamic political system and misconstrues a thoroughly distinct assemblage of political ideas. The Islamic political system must be understood according to its original texts and meanings, not in relation to the western state.4

Leaving aside ruling elites, who seek only to entrench their positions, the oft discussed lack of appetite for democracy in the Muslim world is no surprise. Increasing demands amongst Muslims populations for the rule of law, transparent, accountable and representative government, and an independent and efficient judiciary do not de facto translate into a call for democracy. These provisions are not the monopoly of liberal political philosophy; the Islamic political system addresses each of these but through a model that understands society, the individual, the goal of government and the role of the state differently. The Islamic political system - rather than inherently deficient - is characterised by its own relationship between ruler and subject, authority and sovereignty, law, property and power.



 In May 2005, 7,000 Muslims were butchered in a genocide in Andijan in a concerted effort by the Karimov regime to exterminate Hizb ut-Tahrir members in Uzbekistan . In the main Andijan square in which 50,000 protestors had gathered, Karimov gave orders to Russian Special Forces to kill all demonstrators including the elderly, women and children. This was after his security forces agitated the masses to rise up against Karimov. The Uzbek authorities allowed little or no access to the city following the genocide for independent journalists to verify what really took place.

Two years later, the Uzbek regime has refused to have an independent inquiry into the Andijan massacre and Karimov continues to argue that the charges against the Uzbek government have been "fabricated". Despite this, even the US State Department's annual report on human rights was damning, citing such violations such as the torture of detainees by law-enforcement officers, the incarceration of regime critics and human rights activists in mental hospitals, the persecution of independent journalists and appalling prison conditions.

Remarkably, on May 14th 2007 the EU will hold discussions on the lifting of targeted EU sanctions that were placed on Uzbekistan following the Andijan massacre. Sanctions were imposed because of the Uzbek government's continued refusal to allow an independent international inquiry into the massacre, which was requested first by UN human rights commissioner Louise Arbour and then by the US Government. Germany , which currently holds the EU presidency, appears to be pushing for awkward concerns to be quietly dropped from the agenda in pursuit of a "new EU strategy for engaging with Central Asia ".

Dr Imran Waheed, media representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, said, "The ongoing repression of political dissent in Uzbekistan has continued unabated since the Andijan massacre under the guise of 'fighting terrorism' with the support of western governments. The move amongst some EU nations to relax sanctions on the brutal Uzbek regime is sheer hypocrisy - these governments support unelected dictators who boil their people alive while preaching freedom, democracy and the rule of law. It is no surprise that Germany is Uzbekistan's cheerleader at the EU -its military base in Termez is obviously more important than the lives of innocents in Uzbekistan."

"The truth is that leaders of Western governments have no moral authority to stop Karimov's brutality - after all they have been relying on 'intelligence' obtained under torture in Uzbek prisons and have been outsourcing torture to the tyrants of the Muslim world."

Many believe Justice Chaudry is being punished for refusing to toe the official line. (IOL photo)

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan is politically boiling over the ouster of Chief Judge Iftikhar Chaudry, with court activities nationwide brought to a halt Monday, March 12, after lawyers boycotted court proceedings in protest.

"We do not accept the autocratic and unconstitutional judgment of General (Pervez) Musharaff," Munir A. Malik, President of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), told

"He is acting like a monarch."

General Musharraf had dismissed Chief Justice Chaudry and appointed Justice Javed Iqbal as acting Chief Justice.

The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) is going to try the ousted chief justice on the charges of misconduct and misuse of authority.

The government claims that Chaudry has been made "non-functional" till the judgment of the SJC.

He has been placed under undeclared house arrest, and his passport as well as that of his family members have been seized by authorities, Chaudry's relative told IOL.

"Justice Iftikhar Chaudry is still the chief justice of the Supreme Court. We do not accept any acting chief justice," Malik said.

He asserted that lawyers would boycott the proceedings of the SJC.

The lawyers' associations have announced a three-day strike throughout the country against dismissal of the chief justice.

"This is a callous conspiracy of the highest order against superior judiciary," insisted Malik.



Angry lawyers burn Musharraf's portrait during a demonstration.

The SCBA president accused Musharraf of punishing the chief justice for refusing to toe the official line.

"This is not the issue of misconduct or corruption," Malik asserted.

"General Musharraf has taken this step because Justice Chaudry had refused to bow to his dictatorship, and took suo-moto notices against government's wrong doings, especially in case of missing people," he added.

Yaseen Azad, a senior lawyer, said the ouster was a message to other judges that if they did not act in line with the wishes of the rulers, they would have to face the same consequences.

He insisted that the formation of SJC was unconstitutional, and the lawyers' community didn't accept that.

"Lawyers are trying to save the country, and our movement will continue till the ouster of military regime," Azad vowed defiantly.

Political and legal observers believe the dismissal of the chief justice has nothing to do with corruption or misconduct charges.

"The corrupt and weak judges always suit the military rulers. If Justice Chaudry had been a corrupt judge, he would have been the favorite of military rulers," cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan told reporters.

Justice Chaudry has several important judgments to his credit.

The most significant judgments, which contested the government's claims regarding transparency and human rights, were the privatization of the Pakistan Steel Mills and the case of "missing" persons.

In Steel Mills privatization case last year, Justice Chaudry had held that the entire transaction was the "outcome of a process reflecting serious violation of law and gross irregularities" in which various aspects of profitability and assets of the state-owned enterprise were totally ignored.

The day before his removal, the chief justice had heard the case of "forced disappearances" and he had expressed strong disappointment over the government's failure to locate the whereabouts of people who vanished because of their suspected links with Al-Qaeda or other militant organizations.

During his 21-month tenure as chief justice, Justice Chaudry initiated scores of suo- motu actions, many against government officials, especially the police and the bureaucracy.

"The country's military and civil bureaucracy was not happy with the chief justice as he challenged its power for the first time in the history of Pakistan," Khan said.

"He was actively pursuing the case of missing people, and forced the government to locate them. The intelligence agencies were even not happy with him."

Trying Musharraf

Many believe that Musharraf was be the one tried for what he has done to the Asian Muslim country.

"If judges are not angels, then army generals are not angels too. If judges can be tried for misconduct and corruption, then General Musharraf and his company should be tried first because they have violated the constitution by dismissing an elected government," said Malik.

Musharraf assumed power after a military coup in which the government of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted on October 12, 1999.

Azad, a senior lawyer, said he was in favor of judges' accountability, but the way, the chief justice had been treated was totally "wrong" and "dubious".

"The time has come when the army must take a decision whether it will trample upon the sanctity of the nation and the constitution or court martial General Musharraf who has continuously been violating the constitution," he told IOL.

"General Musharraf in real terms has enforced martial law in the country by dismissing the chief justice," he added.



Chaudry's relatives say the government is pressing him to resign voluntarily  

The government defended the move, terming the lawyers' movement "unconstitutional" and "politically-motivated".

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said that action against Justice Chaudry had been taken in accordance with the law and the constitution.

He said the issue is now up to the Supreme Judicial Council in light of provision 209 of the Constitution.

"Every violator of the law of the land in any other field will face the same treatment," Aziz told reporters.

Federal Minister for Information Muhammad Ali Durrani warned the lawyers not to become part of the opposition.

"They should not act like political workers. This is purely a constitutional issue, and they should wait for the SJC's judgment," he told IOL.

Durrani warned that if lawyers tried to take the law in their hands, they would be treated accordingly.

"The government is not afraid of any protest movement. Lawyers are trying to convert a constitutional matter into a political issue," he maintained.


A relative of dismissed chief justice claim that he was being pressurized by the government to resign, otherwise he would have to face the SJC.

"The government is putting pressure on him to resign from his post," Aamir Rana, a nephew of Justice Chaudhry, told IOL.

"Authorities concerned are demanding resignation from my uncle. They are also harassing us, and some people in plain cloths raided my house to arrest me, but I wasn't there," he said.

Rana said the movement of the chief justice had been restricted to his official residence in Islamabad.

"No close relatives are allowed to meet him," he said, adding that all telephones of the official residence had been disconnected.

Rana said Musharraf asked Justice Chaudry not to pass remarks against the government during the hearing of different cases.

According to him, Justice Chaudry was facing a lot of pressure from the government to dismiss cases of missing persons.

Government sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IOL that some serving supreme court judges and two senior federal ministers were trying to persuade the chief justice to resign voluntarily to save the country from the imminent constitutional crisis.

Pakistan's veteran politician Asghar Khan, the first non-government person to meet the chief justice since Friday, told IOL that Chaudry was not ready to resign, and was determined to face the allegations leveled against him.

"He told me that he wants an open trial on the allegations against him so that the people of Pakistan know what is reality," he said.

According to Khan, Chaudry rejected the allegations against him and said he had done nothing wrong.

Chaudry told him he had been held incommunicado and was not allowed to see his lawyers.

"His all telephones and TV cable have been disconnected. Even, he is not being provided with newspapers."



"It's a political issue, a political fight ... we have to intensify street protests," Ahmed said.

ISLAMABAD — Several judges resigned on Monday, March 19, in a new show of solidarity with the chief justice whose ouster by President Prevez Musharraf has triggered a constitutional crisis, while an adamant Islamabad warned the international community to keep its distance.

"I have talked to Justice Jawad Khawaja who confirmed he has resigned," Munir Malik, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, told Agence France Presse (AFP).

The Lahore High Court Judge's decision came to protest the removal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry and the government's mishandling of the furor.

"Justice Khawaja told me that he resigned over police excesses including tear gas shelling inside the High Court building and baton charge of lawyers," Malik said.

Musharraf suspended the chief justice on March 9 and referred him to a judicial panel on charges of misconduct and abuse of power.

Observers believe the military ruler, who assumed power in bloodless coup in 1999, is trying to intimidate the strong-willed judge to pave the way for his re-election by parliament later this year.

Under an agreement reached in 2004, Musharraf should have chosen between the two posts of president and chief-of-staff by the end of that year.

He has not since then.

Many also believe independent-minded Chaudry was being punished for refusing to toe the official line on several issues including the disappearances of hundreds of Pakistanis accused of terror links as well as high-profile corruption cases.

Resignation Wave

Separately, the advocate general of southern Sindh province, Anwar Mansoor, confirmed the resignations of two judges in the southern city of Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, and another in the town of Pannu Aqil.

"My conscience does not allow me to continue as a judicial officer," one of the judges, Ashraf Yar Khan, an assistant sessions judge in Karachi, said in a statement.

"Two more judges resigned later" in Karachi, a court official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

A civil judge in the central Pakistani city of Bahawalpur resigned last week while a public prosecutor told reporters that he was also quitting.

The wave of resignations came as judicial workers paralyzed court proceedings across the country for the ninth day.

Thousands of lawyers and politicians vowed nonstop rallies and hunger strikes to mark the swell of anger toward Musharraf.

"It's a political issue, a political fight ... we have to intensify street protests," said Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the president of Pakistan's main alliance of religious parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).

"This struggle can take us to our destination," he added.

Ahmed was briefly arrested during Friday's massive protests when riot police fired tear gas and arrested dozens of Pakistanis.

"We will have second and even third lines of leadership to lead the rallies if our leaders are arrested," Shahid Shamsi, a MMA spokesman, told AFP.

Keep Away  


"We do not expect comments from the international community about that," Aslam said. (Reuters)

The defiant Islamabad government warned the international community not to interfere in the controversy.

"There have been comments by media of course and also by some human rights organizations and bodies. What I would say is that this is a matter which is sub judice," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam.

"I cannot comment on that and we will not like others to comment on it."

The United States, a major ally of Musharraf, has criticized Chaudry's ouster and called for cool heads to prevail.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the judicial crisis was a "matter of deep concern" that should be settled "in a way that is completely transparent and in accordance with Pakistan's laws."

The New York-based Human Rights Watch and several rights bodies have also spoken out against the use of excessive force to cow the media and the protestors.

A group of prominent British lawyers, including Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife Cherie, also voiced concern over Musharraf's decision.

The foreign minister spokeswoman insisted the standoff was an internal affair.

"We do not expect comments from the international community about that."




Chaudhry makes his way to address Lahore Bar Council in Lahore. (Reuters)

ISLAMABAD — Receiving a hero's welcome from locals, activists and lawyers, Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry drove Saturday, May 5, from Islamabad to Lahore to drum up support in his legal battle against President Pervez Musharraf's attempt to sack him.

"The people of Punjab have given their judgment. They are with the chief justice and the judiciary," Chaudhry Aitizaz Ahsan, one of the Chief Justice's defense team, told over the phone from Lahore.

Ahsan, who is a Member of Parliament for Benazir Bhutto-led Pakistan peoples Party (PPP), said today's mass rallies in support of Chaudhry served as a public referendum on sitting Musharraf.

"Not only Punjab, but the whole nation backs the Chief Justice. He is fighting for the supremacy and freedom of the judiciary," Ahsan added.

"The government’s all desperate and coercive attempts have failed to undermine our movement, which will continue till the freedom of judiciary."

Chanting "Go Musharraf Go", "army rule unacceptable", and "long live democratic Pakistan", Chaudhry's supporters from Islamabad and Jehlum to Gujrat and Lahore cheered the country's top judge and showered his convoy with flowers.

Musharraf's decision to sack Chaudhry sparked uproar from opposition parties, who called it an attempt to intimidate the judiciary, and prompted an inquiry by a five-judge panel.

Rallies have been held regularly, and lawyers have boycotted court hearings to demand his reinstatement.

The Supreme Judicial Council, which is hearing Chaudhry's case, adjourned proceedings on Thursday until May 9 after lawyers concluded arguments about the validity and composition of the council.

Chaudhry has also filed a separate constitutional petition at the Supreme Court challenging Musharraf's action against him. The court is to take up the petition on Monday, May 7.

Massive Arrests


Pakistanis went out in droves to cheer Chaudhry's convoy. (Reuters)  

The supporters, estimated in thousands, defied stern warnings by police over the past few days against taking part in pro-Chaudhry rallies.

Police sources told IOL on condition of anonymity that around 3,000 lawyers and political activists were arrested in all over Punjab during last two days.

"We don’t know about the motive behind his arrest. The government has provided us the lists of the people who should be arrested," one police officer said.

Besides Lahore, most of the arrests were made in Gujranwala, Gujrat and other districts.

The detainees included the workers of Pakistan Peoples Party, Muttehida Majlis-e-Amal, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, and Pakistan Muslim League (N).

Heavy contingents of law enforcement agencies blocked several roads and service lanes in Jehlum, Lala Moosa, Muridkay, Kharian, Gujrat and other towns of the eastern Punjab province to prevent lawyers, activists and locals from venturing out.

Around 7,000 policemen and security officials have been deployed for the rally which organizers said are the biggest since Musharraf sacked Chaudhry on March 9.

Tariq Chaudhry, a senior journalist who was part of the Chief Justice’s convoy, said thousands of citizens could not reach rally venues due to extensive police barricades.

"Locals told us that they were threatened and prevented from welcoming the Chief Justice," he told IOL.

He said shopkeepers were asked by police to pull their shutters down on the arrival of chief justice in their respective cities.

"The police warned them if they do not pull their shutters down, they will be fined," the journalist added.

He said police were in vain trying their best to keep as many as they can from the rallies.

"The government seems to be desperate. Whenever the chief justice’s convoy left a city, the police systematically blocked 100-150 vehicles in the tail and cut them from the convoy," he said.

"However, the vigorous and motivated lawyers and political workers have almost foiled the government’s attempts by adopting alternative measures," he noted.

"I was surprised to see that at various places, even school children were present to welcome the chief justice," Tariq said.

No Politics

Lawyers and activists dismissed charges that their pro-judge campaigns were politically motivated.

"There is no political motive behind this movement. This is purely for the freedom of judiciary. The chief justice has never spoken even a single word about politics or against the presidential reference," said Ahsan.

"People of Pakistan do not trust General Musharraf. He never fulfils his promises. He had promised  the nation that he would shed his military uniform by the end of 2004, but he never did that," he added.

Justice Nasira Iqbal saw eye-to-eye with Ahsan.

"Our aim is to restore the writ of constitution and democratic norms in the country. We have nothing to do with politics," Nasira, daughter-in-law of Pakistan’s legend poet Muhammad Iqbal, said.



"Rule of law and supremacy of the constitution is inevitable for a civilized society," Chaudhry said. (Reuters)

LAHORE — Pakistan's suspended top judge insisted on Sunday, May 6, that dictatorship states that ignored the rule of law and basic rights have no place in today's world, drawing immediate rebuke from the red-faced Musharraf regime.

"Nations and states which are based on dictatorship instead of the supremacy of the constitution, the rule of law and protection of basic rights get destroyed," Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry told thousands of cheering supporters, reported Reuters.

"The idea of dictatorship and collective responsibility are over," an exhausted-looking Chaudhry said in a broadcast live on private television from the compound of the Lahore High Court.

"They are chapters from the past and those nations which don't learn lessons from the past and repeat those mistakes, they have to pay a price," he told thousands of lawyers, 17 of Punjab province's 23 judges and opposition activists.

Chaudhry arrived in the city of Lahore on Sunday after tens of thousands of supporters turned out to greet him as he traveled by road from Islamabad.

With well-wishers throwing rose petals and clambering over Chaudhry's four-wheel-drive car throughout his journey from the capital, the trip which usually takes four hours lasted more than 20.

President Prevez Musharraf suspended the top judge on March 9 on charges of corruption and misconduct but the legal community and opposition saw the move as an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

Protest rallies have since been held regularly.

Constitutional Supremacy


Supporters gathered around Chaudhry's vehicle in Lahore. (Reuters)

The suspended top judge urged people to struggle for supremacy of constitution.

"It is the responsibility of the courts to defend human rights of the people and protect the constitution," he said.

"The motive of your struggle is supremacy of the constitution and rule of law and God will definitely give us success in this struggle," he told his audience, many of whom had camped out overnight waiting for his arrival.

"Rule of law and supremacy of the constitution is inevitable for a civilized society and the nations who do not believe in it cannot survive and face a collapse."

The authorities' heavy-handed ways and Chaudhry's refusal to resign transformed him into a cause celebre.

The crisis has blown up into the most serious challenge to Musharraf's authority since the army chief seized power in 1999.

"Tens of thousands people came for his reception, this is a referendum against Musharraf," Chaudhry's counsel Aitzaz Ahsan said.

"This reception is historic and it will be remembered in the country for many years."

Fakhr Imam, a former National Assembly speaker and a leader of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's party, agreed.

"I haven't seen anything like this since 1986 when Benazir returned," he said referring to the crowds that turned out when Bhutto returned from exile seven years after the military executed her father, former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Lahore is capital of Punjab, the country's richest and most populous province and a traditional establishment stronghold.

The city is considered Pakistan's political nerve centre and Chaudhry's tumultuous reception will be seen as a clear sign to authorities that their efforts to contain the crisis were failing, observers said.


The Musharraf regime accused Chaudhry's supporters of politicizing a judicial matter.

"This is clear that this campaign has become political," said Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi.

He announced that the ruling party would respond with a "much bigger rally" on May 12.

The same message was made a day earlier by President Musharraf himself.

"I warn the lawyers that they will not succeed in their designs," he said.

"I ask the lawyers to shun politics."

Since the start of the standoff, lawyers organized massive rallies nationwide against Musharraf's decision.

They have also boycotted court hearings to demand the reinstatement of the suspended top judge.

Opponents say Musharraf wants to weaken the courts and make it easier for him to stay on as army chief past this year's deadline set by the constitution.

The president also intends to seek re-election by the outgoing parliament for another five years ahead of national polls due late this year or early next -- a move that could spark other legal challenges.


"Musharraf thinks he is indispensable for the country, and Pakistan cannot be run without him," Fahim told IOL.

ISLAMABAD — A passionate speech delivered by President Prevez Musharraf on Saturday, May 12, from behind bullet-proof dais reveals a nervous and starry-eyed ruler, analysts and opposition parties have said.

"He is an unrealistic person, who doesn't know where to go now," Makhdoom Amin Fahim, chairman of the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), an 18-party conglomeration, told

"He should realize the ground realities, and act accordingly otherwise it will not go in his own favor."

Addressing a big rally in Islamabad from behind a highly-guarded, bullet-proof dais, Musharraf declared that the overwhelming majority in the country was with him.

"Do not challenge us. We are not cowards like you, we have the power of the people," said Musharraf wearing traditional Pakistani dress.

"He has appeared to be a nervous man," said Syed Munnawer Hassan, Secretary General of Pakistan's largest Islamic party, Jammat-e-Islami.

"He is just trying to hide his weakness."

Syed Mamnoon Hussein, a former Governor of Sindh province and senior vice-president of Pakistan Muslim League (N), agrees.

"Whatever he said (in his speech) doesn't suit him. He is threatening the political forces that he will crush them," he said, referring to Musharraf's statement that he will crush his opponents.

"He has realized the fact that he is loosing the ground that is why he is acting like a nervous person."

The speech coincided with the killing of at least 40 people and the injury of over 200 in clashes between the ruling Muttehida Quami Movement (MQM)'s supporters and opposition activists in the commercial hub of Karachi.

The armed workers of the ruling party blocked all the city roads with the help of law enforcing agencies to foil the opposition parties' rallies to welcome suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Chaudry was virtually detained by the authorities inside Quaid-I-Azam i International Airport for eight hours, and was not allowed to address a ceremony organized by the lawyers to commemorate the golden jubilee of the Sindh High Court.

Musharraf suspended the top judge on March 9 on charges of misconduct and corruption, sparking a wave of protests that have increasingly focused on his eight-year military rule.



"Do not challenge us. We are not cowards like you, we have the power of the people," Musharraf said.

Experts and opposition leaders said Musharraf was day-dreaming about his popularity.

"The vested-interest elements around him have been misleading him that he is very popular among the masses," said Fahim, who is also the vice chairman of former Benazir Bhutto-led Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

He cited as a case in point a slogan raised at the meeting that "Pakistan is not acceptable without Musharraf."

"Musharraf thinks he is indispensable for the country, and Pakistan cannot be run without him.

"But of course, he is not," said the opposition leader.

"If the people of Pakistan are with him, then why did he addressed the rally (from) behind the bullet-proof dais," asked Hassan, the leader of Jammat-e-Islami party.

"Is he scared of the people who according to his clam love him?"

The speech, according to Musharraf's critics, also demonstrate his strong-man discourse.

"He has given a clear message through his speech that he is the only might in this country," said Fahim.

"He even doesn't recognize those who have been backing him for last over seven years."

The Jammat-e-Islami leader agreed.

"This was not the speech of a ruler who loves his people. It was the speech of a dictator who suppresses his own people," he argued.

Shamim-ur-Rehman, a senior political analyst, said Musharraf considers himself and Pakistan the same thing.

"General Musharraf thinks that he and Pakistan are essential for each other. He thinks he can't be defeated and he has been saying this for quite some time," he added.

"In my opinion, he is getting weak, and when someone gets weak, he boasts like that," said the expert.

"His speech shows that he is a fascist and he is patronizing the fascist groups in the society," Shamim said, referring to Saturday's gun battles in Karachi involving the ruling party workers.

He disputes Musharraf's claim that he is the most popular figure among the Pakistani masses.

"The army could be with him, but he doesn't have any popular following. As far as the people are concerned, he has no mandate."

Shamim also criticized Musharraf for delivering a speech to thousands of his own party's supporters from behind bullet-proof dais.

"He is so popular as he can't even address the people without bullet proof dais and jacket.

"This is the time for the military to think whether it is alongside or against the people of Pakistan.

"Unless the military interventions are stopped, our society cannot assume democratic proportions," said Shamim.

General Musharraf assumed power on October 12, 1999, in a bloodless military coup and dismissed the government of the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Sharif was handed down life imprisonment by an anti-terrorist court in a hijacking case. He was exiled to Saudi Arabia in 2001 under an agreement brokered by the Saudi authorities.

"My advise to him is to voluntarily step down, because the game is now over for him," said the former governor of Sindh province.

"A dictator can't suppress the masses for a long period."




Chaudhry's case was seen as the biggest challenge to Musharraf's eight-year rule.

ISLAMABAD — In a major blow to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday, July 20, reinstated chief judge Iftikhar Chaudhry and quashed misconduct charges against him.

"The reference has been set aside and the chief justice has been reinstated," said Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday at the conclusion of the two-month-old case, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The suspension of the judge was unanimously set aside as being illegal, noted Ramday.

He added that the misconduct and abuse of power allegations were also dismissed by a 10-3 verdict.

"As a further consequence the petitioner, the chief justice of Pakistan, shall be deemed to be holding the said office and shall always be deemed to have been so holding the same," the judge concluded.

Independent-minded Chaudhry was suspended by Musharraf last March on charges of misconduct and misuse of authority.

Chaudhry's supporters say Musharraf suspended the top judge for fears he would obstruct his plans to get re-elected by current assemblies before they are dissolved for a general election at the end of the year.

Musharraf said he accepted the court ruling.

"The president has said the judgment of the Supreme Court will be honored, respected, and adhered to," Musharraf's spokesman Major General Rashid Qureshi told AFP.

The Pakistani government also accepted the verdict.

"I have always maintained that the decision by the honorable court must be accepted by all sections of the people including the government itself," Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said in a statement.

He, however, said that it was "not the time to claim victory or defeat".

"Go Musharraf"

Friday's court ruling sparked cheers and celebrations among thousands of Chaudhry's supporters.

"This is a new dawn for Pakistan," Munir Malik, one of Chaudhry's lawyers and the president of Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association, told AFP.

"This supreme court has vision and courage. The basis of a free and independent judiciary has now been founded in Pakistan," he added as the attorneys gathering outside the court chanted "Go Musharraf, Go!"

"Pervez Musharraf should resign because the charges were illegal and have been declared null and void by the highest legal authority in the country," said Ali Ahmad Kurd, a senior lawyer for Chaudhry.

"The doors of this building are from now onward closed to the generals and now no general will force martial law, and today a new Pakistan has emerged from this court decision," Kurd said.

Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and retains the dual position of army chief and president.

Musharraf's action against Chaudhry sparked what quickly became the biggest challenge to his eight-year rule, with mass pro-democracy protests and political violence in Karachi that left more than 40 dead.

"We salute the whole of the nation for this victory for the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the supremacy of the constitution," said Lahore High Court Bar president Ahsan Bhoon.


As the political trouble sparked by the sacking of Pakistan’s chief justice in March shows no sign of abating, DR PERWEZ SHAFI of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT) tries to understand it using a model of political behaviour proposed by the late Dr Kalim Siddiqui.

How is one to explain the current fight between army chief and president General Parvez Musharraf and Mohammad Iftikhar Chaudhry, the chief justice of the Supreme Court within the nation-state system?  Both have served the system well, along with serving foreign masters throughout their lives.  Both have risen from the bottom to the top of their respective institutions; both cooperated until now.  Does it matter who is right or wrong, who the oppressor is and who the “victim”?  In such a scenario how is the fight actually fought and what outcomes can be expected?  There are various theories and explanations, but one offered by the late Dr Kalim Siddiqui is by far the best and accurately describes the fight.

The late Dr Kalim Siddiqui – an intellectual giant, an institution-builder, and an activist until  the very end of his life – wrote a penetrating analysis of Pakistani politics in 1984, “Islamic Revolution: The only possible future for Pakistan”.  In it, he conclusively demonstrated that all political changes within the ruling elite are a result of factional in-fighting only to maintain the status quo.  Since the beginning, events have been shaping and moving in that direction as explained by Dr Siddiqui, and unfolding events have been following that pattern.

The Pakistani model

Dr Kalim’s model describing the political model of a nation-state of Pakistan which highlighted three underlying factors -- social discontent with the present exploitative and oppressive system, foreign domination, and the deep political and religious consciousness of the masses -- which combine to bring about cosmetic changes in the system designed to maintain the status quo.  He characterised the results as “flash in the pan” agitative politics:

They [the three factors listed above] may even be exploited and misused by other powerful elements to bring about minor upheavals and revolts against competing factions within the exploitative system.  In Pakistan Ayub Khan called his 1958 military coup a ‘revolution’, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto used a similar technique to whip up hatred against the military rulers.  Shaikh Mujibur Rehman used precisely this technique, first used by the Muslim League, to secure the support of the Muslim masses in East Pakistan, leading eventually to the breakup of Pakistan and the emergence of Bangladesh.  The Pakistan National Alliance (the PNA) did just this against Bhutto, during 1976-77.  This ‘flash in the pan’ type of agitative politics leaves the society weaker, more exhausted, morally more corrupt, and more open to even greater external domination and for the emergence of even more tyrannical domestic rulers.

Like any neo-colonial nation-state, the entire political history of Pakistan revolves around a ruling elite trying to monopolise all political power.  The components of the ruling elite normally work cooperatively to exploit, loot and plunder society’s resources for their personal benefits, maintain their class monopoly on power, and to perpetuate the status quo.  The ruling elite consists of military, politicians, bureaucrats and judiciary, but among these groups by far the most powerful is the military.  The bureaucracy and the judiciary are distant junior partners who have accepted their subservience to the military and have repeatedly condoned its privileged position in the hierarchy of power.  

Though the elite’s components rule and hold onto power cooperatively, sometimes differences among them turn into an open fight.  When in-fighting reaches such a level, each party tries to improve its personal political standing in the hierarchy of power by destabilising and eliminating the others.  In their in-fighting, the dominating elite with much higher institutional power seeks foreign support to hang on to power, while the one that can claim to be a “victim” compared to the other has the opportunity to enlist and organise public support.  At that stage the slogans, symbols and outcomes of a popular agitation are couched in terms of what benefits the people, hiding the actual goals of the fight.  By bringing the people in, the elite also releases their pent-up energy of social discontent.  The crisis, if co-optation and coercion fails, is resolved when an elite gives up the competition, accepting defeat; the status quo is maintained, perhaps slightly modified, while the people get nothing.  Because of this cheating the people are naturally more frustrated, despondent and demoralised, and under more foreign influence.  In extreme cases of in-fighting the country is weakened and sometimes suffers irreparable damage.

The accuracy of the model

Since the so-called ‘independence’ of Pakistan, the history of its political crises conforms almost exactly to Dr Kalim Siddiqui’s model of factional in-fighting and agitative “flash-in-the-pan”-type politics: no real change occurs in the ‘system’ and the status quo is maintained.  In the 1960s, President General Ayub Khan and his foreign minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, both came up through the ‘system’ and served each other.  But eventually in-fighting led President General Ayub to seek US support, while Bhutto sought the support of the people.  Bhutto was temporarily defeated and jailed; later on President Ayub handed power to another military General Yahya Khan.  Within a year the fight among Yahya, Bhutto and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, a popular politician from East Pakistan, led to the break-up of the country with the connivance of Indian.

The dismemberment of the country discredited the military; Bhutto assumed power at the beginning of the 1970s and ruled with an iron hand for seven years.  In early 1977, after Bhutto was re-elected, the opposition cried foul.  This time Bhutto was trapped; he could neither seek US support (because the US wanted to destabilise him anyway for starting and remaining defiant about the country’s nuclear programme), nor could he seek popular support because the US and the combined opposition (in the form of Pakistan National Alliance) captured and capitalised on their discontent.  Eventually the people’s sacrifices were wasted: the military took advantage of the situation and overthrew Bhutto.

In the 1990s, during the era of so-called democracy, when the military were sent back to the barracks after the fiery crash of General Ziaul Haq when he was no longer needed because the Afghan jihad was over, the prime ministers were removed constitutionally every 2 to 3 years, as they quarrelled got with civilian presidents in an effort to acquire more political power.  The current fight between Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and President General Pervez Musharraf is not unprecedented: in 1998 prime minister Nawaz Sharif, a businessman groomed in the 1980s by the army and security agencies, got into a fight with Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, and his party goons stormed the Supreme Court building.  Chief Justice Shah was eventually dismissed, leaving the judiciary even more demoralised and more open to political interference.  

In late 1999, the simmering fight between President General Musharraf and PM Nawaz Sharif came in the open after the Kargil fiasco, where Musharraf sent his forces deep inside Kargil in Indian-held Kashmir against Indian forces, mainly to destabilise Nawaz and his policies and to disrupt the budding India-Pakistan relations.  The army chief’s position is paramount in the Muslim nation-state system.  After minor fights with Chief Justice Shah and others, Nawaz was emboldened to such an extent that he planned to get rid of Musharraf.  But Musharraf had already planned his counter-attack.  Finally when Nawaz acted and deposed Musharraf as army chief, the army counter-attacked, overthrew him and installed Musharraf in power.  

Since then Musharraf has not had any serious challenges to his rule.  He also got a compliant and subservient judiciary, whose twelve judges not only validated and blessed his military takeover in May 2000 (including currently ‘suspended’ Justice Chaudhry), under the “doctrine of necessity”, but also gave him unprecedented power to amend the constitution as he pleases.  All the judges of the Supreme Court were amply rewarded for serving the system: in 2002 six of the twelve were retired and given further perks and benefits as well as cushy jobs.  The rest, including Justice Chaudhry, were given three-year extensions and pay-rises of 30 percent.  They are also entitled to residence, all utility bills, officially-maintained car, cook, driver and a guard at his residence, all paid for by the government.  After retirement they will continue to receive a significant portion of this package.

In June 2005 Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was made chief justice by Musharraf, superseding other senior judges and violating the rule made in the late 1990s, according to which the seniormost judge of the Supreme Court becomes chief justice.  Neither Chaudhry nor Musharraf had any qualms about violating the seniority rules and usurping the rights of other judges.  Justice Falak Sher, and others whose rights were violated, are expected to wait for their turn, otherwise their jobs, perks and benefits might be jeopardy.  Justice Sher excused himself, pleading a conflict of interest, from the full court bench hearing 23 petitions challenging the president’s reference to the Supreme Judicial Council.

Like ordinary human beings, the Supreme Court judges are falling over each other to become the permanent or acting chief justice.  Independence of the judiciary and rule of law does not come about due to defiance of one or two judges unless the concepts are institutionalised and part of the judiciary’s legal, cultural and political training.  Any lawyers’ movement for independence of the judiciary and rule of law can be easily derailed if other judges are waiting eagerly in line to fill the position as soon as the top man is removed.  In this elite fight, without taking any position in favour of or against Justice Chaudhry or army’s chief General Musharraf, Pakistanis should strive for the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law as a principled position and a high moral ground.

However, after serving a corrupt system all their lives, all of a sudden any isolated emphasis on these moral and legal values rings hollow and seems to be used only for popular consumption, to get the people’s support.  These crises, as pointed out earlier, also act as a “safety valve” for the pent-up energy of social discontent

According to Dr Kalim’s model, however, more important than the events of elite in-fighting are the damaging effects of “pressure cooker” politics have left on society.  He mentioned five particular debilitating effects:

1. The disintegration of society

Pakistan has suffered the disintegration of its society into much smaller units on the basis of different kinds of local identity.  It is generally accepted that nationalism is kufr, but it appears that Pakistan is also fractured by similar un-Islamic forces such as sectarianism, tribalism, and ethnicity.  The extremism exhibited by secular and religious groups operating on these bases seems to have no limits.  

The Ayub-Bhutto fight in the late 1960s led to a complete breakdown of the consensus among components of the ruling classes, which led not only the break-up of the country but left more than 100,000 soldiers as prisoners of war.  The social-psychological shock to the society was devastating.

In the early 1980s General Zia al-Haq, in order to strengthen his own rule, clearly appeared to follow the colonial policy of “divide and rule”.  In his zeal to ‘Islamise’, the government imposed zakah but exempted  Shi‘ahs from it, thereby encouraging the emergence of militant and extremist wings of both communities that are responsible for much of the violence in the country.  General Zia killed two birds with one stone: he  pretended to be enforcing Islam and expected people to support him on that basis; yet he was able to create division, hatred and violence in society where there had been little or none before.

In an oppressive system in which every group has grievances it is very easy to incite and exploit resentments.  General Zia took advantage of the muhajirs (emigrants from India at the time of partition from India, and their descendants) and their feeling of being an exploited community, supported their ethnic nationalism in Karachi and the formation of the MQM (Muhajir Qaumi Movement), which then turned on other communities to wrest their ‘rights’ from them.  He used the  muhajirs’ hatred to cut down and debase Jama‘at-e Islami and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).  The cycle of violence started then has repeated intermittently, but the issues have not been resolved.  Similarly the people of Malakand, who rose in a jihad against the nation-state with the slogan “Shari’at or Shahadat” in November 1994, were brutally crushed by the military.  The uprising put all the religious political parties in the country on the spot, but no party took any action except to pay lip-service.

During the 1990s, Nawaz Sherif attacked the Supreme Court.  Attempts to buy out or dislodge judges were made openly, further damaging the standing of the Court.  Then in the Nawaz-Musharraf fight about blame for the Kargil debacle people lost most of what little confidence they had left in the government.  The continuing effort by General Musharraf to forcibly keep Nawaz and Benazir Bhutto in exile prevents further popular participation, leading to even more discontent.  Thus division amon...

It was business as usual for Egypt’s security forces last month, as Egyptians hoping to run in the Shura (Consultative) elections on June 11 began to present their candidacy papers.  As soon as registration opened for the mid-term elections, to choose half of the members of the upper house of Egypt’s parliament, three leaders of the Ikhwan  al-Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood) were reportedly arrested in Alexandria for being “in possession of leaflets aiming at inciting public opinion.” Scores of other Ikhwan activists were arrested in the following days on a variety of charges that included holding “secret organisational meetings.”  For the Ikhwan, the arrests were just another episode in the group’s continued confrontation with the repressive apparatuses of the state.  In the last few months, hundreds of Ikhwan members and supporters have been arrested in connection with their political activities.

The arrests coincided with a court ruling on May 14 to uphold a decision by president Mubarak to try 40 members of the Ikhwan in a military court.  Supreme Administrative Court judge ‘Issam Abd al-Aziz reversed a ruling in a lower court that declared the president’s decision invalid.  An earlier court order for the release of this batch of detained Ikhwan members, who were arrested in December, had been issued in January, but was annulled a few days later by Mubarak, who ordered their trial before a military court instead.  Several judges in civilian courts had also thrown out the charges against the defendants on the grounds of lack of evidence.  The trial of the men, who are charged with money-laundering as well as financing and membership of a banned organisation, will resume on June 3.

One of the defendants is the Ikhwan’s chief strategist and financier, Khayrat al-Shater, whose assets, together with those of other businessmen who have links to the movement, were frozen in February in an attempt by the government to cripple the Ikhwan financially.  The government’s practice of trying civilians before military tribunals, which usually issue swift and harsh verdicts, has been condemned by human-rights activists both inside Egypt and abroad.  An emergency law that has been in place since 1981 gives the president the authority to refer civilian detainees to military courts, prohibits gatherings of more than five individuals, and allows the prosecution of defendants on such ambiguous grounds as “besmirching the country’s image”.  Last month, constitutional amendments were introduced that reinforce the president’s authority to try civilians in military courts.

The use of arbitrary arrest to pre-determine election results is an established strategy in Egypt.  In 1995 the government arrested scores of senior Ikhwan members before parliamentary elections and referred them to military courts, which meted out prison terms of up to five years for non-violent offences.  In 2005, thousands of Ikhwan members were arrested when the group put up its candidates as independents in an effort to evade the government’s ban on its political activity.  On polling days, riot police deployed in constituencies where the Ikhwan had candidates sealed off polling stations, attacked voters with clubs, and sometimes even with live ammunition, in an attempt to limit access to polling stations.

So far, some 400 Ikhwan leaders and activists have been arrested in the crackdown that began last December, after a military-like parade held by masked members of the group’s student branch on the campus of al-Azhar University.  The parade brought about an avalanche of government accusations that the movement was forming a militia that provides youths with combat-training, knives and chains, with the ultimate aim of toppling the regime.  The Ikhwan denies forming a militia.  Even Ikhwan MPs were not immune from the ongoing wave of detentions: on April 29 Sabri Amer and Rajab Abu Zeid were arrested in the northern Nile Delta province of al-Mannoufiyyah; they were released the next day.

The Ikhwan, which was established in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, a Sufi schoolteacher in the city of Isma’iliyyah, advocates the re-establishment of the Islamic caliphate.  Imam Banna was influenced by Muslim reformist thinkers such as Muhammad ‘Abduh and Rashid Rida, who tried to revitalise and restore Islamic civilisation.  Despite its original commitment to non-violence, the group set up a secret paramilitary organisation in the 1940s known as al-Jihaz al-Khas (“special apparatus”), which was suspected of a wave of assassinations and bombings.  The government responded in 1948 by banning the group.  In 1949 Banna was assassinated, apparently in response to the killing of prime minister Mahmud Fahmi Nuqrashi by members of the Special Apparatus in December 1948.  But the Ikhwan continued to operate as a semi-secret organisation until it was banned in 1954, when the government of Gamal Abd al-Nasser accused it of an assassination attempt on him while he was speaking in Alexandria.  The Ikhwan denied involvement in the attempt on Nasser’s life and accused the government of staging the whole incident in order to use it as a pretext to crush the movement.

One of the main lessons learnt by the Ikhwan during the Nasser’s repression, in which thousands of its members were systematically tortured and jailed, was to put the preservation of the group above risking an all-out confrontation with the government.  This, in addition to the strict limitations in the Shari‘ah on the use of violence in Muslim society, articulated by traditional Sunni jurists, explains why the Ikhwan’s core has not taken part in political violence in Egypt for more than half a century.  Forced to go underground during Nasser’s repression, the Ikhwan re-emerged on the political scene during the rule of Anwar al-Sadat, Nasser’s successor.  In his drive to curb the influence of Egyptian Nasserites and leftists, Sadat began a rapprochement with the Ikhwan, releasing prisoners and promising to implement the Shari‘ah.  This gave the Ikhwan an opportunity to operate within the system under the slogan “Islam is the solution” (al-Islam huwa al-hal).  The group has since become Egypt’s strongest and most vibrant opposition movement; it now has now some 7,000 chapters around the country, complete with a network of mosques and charitable organisations, which operate educational institutions, provide medical services, and distribute various forms of aid to the poor.

In the past few years, the Ikhwan has jumped on the democracy bandwagon, adopting a discourse which places the issue of ‘freedom’ at the top of the group’s agenda and taking steps to position the Ikhwan as a mainstream reform force.  In its participation in civil society, the Ikhwan has been careful to conduct itself in a way that promotes an impression of being after pluralism rather than dominance.  For instance, in recent elections for the boards of the lawyers’ and doctors’ syndicates, the Ikhwan fielded fewer candidates than it could have done, thus allowing more space for representation from both pro-government and secular opposition groups.  Ikhwan representatives in the syndicates seem to be helping to reduce mismanagement and improve performances.

The Ikhwan has also tried to cooperate with other opposition groups to coordinate strategy and organise street demonstrations and other activities.  In the legislative elections last November and December, the Ikhwan ran only 130 candidates to enable other opposition parties to put up candidates.

The Ikhwan’s disciplined presence in parliament has improved attendance at parliamentary sessions and meetings of legislative committees.  Absenteeism, which was a chronic problem because of the disinclination of delegates of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) to attend late-night meetings, has declined since the Ikhwan got 20 percent of parliament’s 454 seats in the last elections.  Because votes can be held regardless of the number of MPs in attendance at these sessions, the punctuality of the Ikhwan’s MPs in attending all sessions has  forced the NDP MPs to attend to prevent the Ikhwan from steering parliamentary proceedings towards its own agenda.  Nevertheless, the Ikhwan’s performance in parliament is hobbled by the fact that the NDP holds a two-thirds of the seats in the house – a majority vote that enables the NDP to pass any bills and constitutional changes it desires.  Shorn of meaningful legislative weight, the Ikhwan’s bloc finds itself confined mainly to using the parliament as a forum for debate on government policies.  It also showers parliamentary committees with requests for information that can embarrass the government, as it did in January, when it demanded a report on torture from the parliamentary defence committee and presented the ministry of the interior with a questionnaire on the status of 30,000 detainees.

But the Ikhwan’s participation in the political process has provoked the ire of fringe extremist elements who believe in the futility of political participation.  For instance, on January 6, al-Qa‘ida no. 2, Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahiri, issued a video message in which he criticised the Ikhwan for its participation in “the political game that America is playing in Egypt, through presidential and parliamentary elections, to exploit the masses and their love for Islam.”  Disenchantment with the Ikhwan’s commitment to non-violence has often led to the formation of more radical groups by disgruntled breakaway members, as in the case of offshoot organisations such as the al-Jama‘ah al-Islamiyyah (“the Islamic group”) and al-Takfir wal-Hijrah (“excommunication and migration”).

Participation in the political process has brought to the fore a web of complexities surrounding the Ikhwan’s status as a political party.  The Brotherhood’s obsession with circumventing the government’s ban on religion-based political parties has fuelled internal debate on whether the group should adopt tactics similar to those of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Reform Party in order to be able to operate legally.  Among the proposals currently under discussion is the establishment of a political party with a non-religious platform, while maintaining the Ikhwan as a religious organisation.  There is an inescapable element of neutralisation in this process of soul-searching.  One can only hope that it does not result in a radical change of mind or a drastic change of heart.


"The winds of change in the Middle East will not bear fruit in the absence of addressing its conflicts and tensions," Mubarak said. (Reuters)

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, May 21, 2006 ( & News Agencies) – Opening the World Economic Forum (WEF) in this Red Sea resort on Saturday, May 20, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak argued that rushing reforms in the region could lead to "chaos" while his premier bluntly said the government would not allow the Muslim Brotherhood to form parliamentary blocs in the future.

"The winds of change in the Middle East will not bear fruit in the absence of addressing its conflicts and tensions," Mubarak told the prestigious economic gathering, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

He listed the "stalemate in the peace process, the situation in Iraq, the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program, the situation in Darfur and the tension between Syria and Lebanon" as pressing issues that must be addressed first to stabilize the region.

Mubarak called for the "pursuit of reform that emanated from within the region, reform based on a gradual prudent approach that ensures its sustainability."

The Egyptian leader, in office since 1981, argued that the hastening of the process could lead to "chaos and the demise of the process itself."

Reform in the Middle East is one of the main themes of the forum as host Egypt continues to draw fire for its repressive treatment of pro-democracy protestors and crackdown on political opponents.

The annual forum is being held this year in Sharm el-Sheikh under watertight security, only a month after the Sinai peninsula was hit by a spate of bombings, which killed 20 people, including foreign tourists, and wounded around 90.

Dozens of checkpoints were installed along the main roads of the Red Sea vacation spot, while security men lined the streets.

A total three-day ban on water sports has been imposed along the shores of the town, which is heavily frequented by European tourists, while plain-clothes policemen shooed away motorists parking in suspicious spots.

Among the highest-profile participants are US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who has been involved in intensive consultations in the region.

Other prominent guests include Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, as well as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a string of ministers from the region.

The Iranian president and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya were conspicuous by their absence.

No to Brotherhood

Nazif said the government would not allow the Muslim Brotherhood to form parliamentary blocs in the future.

In a rare explicit diatribe, Egyptian Premier Ahmed Nazif said the government wants to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest opposition group with 80 seats in the legislature, from forming a parliamentary bloc in future elections.

"Islamists who say they belong to illegal organization have been able to go into parliament and act in a format that would make them seem like a political party... We need to think clearly about how to prevent this from happening," he told Reuters in an interview.

The Brotherhood won a fifth of the seats in the parliament last November and December, putting the ruling party on the defensive.

Its members stood as independents in the election because the government does not recognize the Brotherhood and has refused to let the group form a political party, on the grounds that it would be based on religion.

Nazif said the government could not take way the right of individual citizens from running for parliament but members of the Brotherhood were different.

"We have a secret organization represented in parliament. They are not individuals," he said.

In recent weeks Egyptian police have taken a much tougher approach to pro-reform protests.

Plainclothes security men have beaten, kicked and clubbed people demonstrating peacefully in support of judges demanding independence from the executive and who blew the whistle on parliamentary election fraud.

Nazif dismissed multiple eyewitness accounts of attacks on protesters and said only "thugs" would take to the streets.

"Why blame the police? I am frankly fed up by the fact that people are blaming those who are trying to keep the peace against the people who are trying to break the peace."

"Front Line"

Khadiga sat between Gamal and Abul Gheit in the front row.

The most eye-catching aspect of the WEF opening was the seating of the fiancée of Mubarak's son Gamal, who made her first appearance at a big public event, Reuters reported.

Khadiga el-Gammal sat between Gamal and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit in the front row.

Key government ministers, including Investments Minister Mahmoud Mohei El-Dine, sat in the second and third rows.

Khadiga, who is about 20 years younger than her 42-year-old fiancé, had evaded public attention since her March engagement and Egyptian papers have published only one photograph of her.

But after Mubarak's opening address, she chatted casually with press photographers.

If Gamal succeeds his father as the political opposition and analysts expect, she would become Egypt's first lady -- a prominent role under both Mubarak and his predecessor late President Anwar Sadat.

Gamal, the head of the ruling National Democratic Party's Policies Department, met briefly last week with US President George. W. Bush while at the White House for meetings with top officials.

He met with Bush's National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley as well as Vice President Dick Cheney.

Egypt is one of the United States' closest friends and the most populous nation in the Arab world.


"Arab regimes are not particularly willing to institute reforms because they don't want to give up power," said Hiltermann

AMMAN — Arab regimes are blocking reforms out of fear that gradual steps could eventually see them lose their tightened grip on power, analysts agreed, criticizing apathetic Arab people.
"Arab regimes are not particularly willing to institute reforms because they don't want to give up power," Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"They are afraid that if they give up a little they will have to give up everything," he said.

Opening the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday, May 20, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak argued that rushing reforms in the region could lead to "chaos".

Reform has been one of the main themes in the Arab world and the Middle East since the US launched its so-called Broader Middle East and North Africa initiative at a G8 summit in 2004.

Since then, Arabs and foreign officials have met to promote reform in the Arab world. Little, if any, has emerged.

Foreign ministers of Arab countries and the world eight industrialized countries are scheduled to meet in Jordan Thursday, November 30, to discuss means of promoting the US-sponsored reform initiative.

Some 56 countries and organizations are to take part in the third annual Forum for the Future on the shores of the Dead Sea. The two previous meetings were held in Morocco and Bahrain.

Prominent among attendees are US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.

Participants in the two-day forum will discuss a flurry of issues including political pluralism, good governance, corruption, judicial independence and freedom of the media.

Peoples Blamed

Fares Braizat of the Centre of Strategic Studies of the University of Jordan blamed the Arab people for the slow pace of reforms.

He said Arabs, though hungry for reform, are not pressing their governments enough for change.

"Opinion polls across several Arab countries show a great deal of support for democracy," he said.

"When asked their political preference, an overwhelming majority of people choose the democratic system," added the veteran pollster.

But it stops there, Braizat insists, because "Arab states are the largest employers in their respective societies" and large majorities depend on them for jobs, subsidies and business contracts.

The expert pressed for a real action to bring "badly-needed democracy" to the Middle East, to foster social and political development and help serve as a tool to ease deadly conflicts across the region.

Dead Reform

Many observers believe that the US championed aid freeze imposed on the Palestinians after electing the resistance group Hamas to power nipped in the bud the reform drive in the region.

Western countries have clamped an economic siege on the Palestinians since Hamas came to power in March, gravely affecting livelihood in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Bush administration has admitted that its policies in the Mideast, including failure to make good on a promise to help set up an independent Palestinian state, have provoked Arab skepticism on reform.

"We are not ignoring Arab public opinion," a senior US State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters in Amman.

Arab activists meeting in Jordan ahead of Thursday's forum have called for international efforts to resolve regional conflicts before seeking to promote the US-sponsored reforms.

The US official said that Washington was seeking solutions for the Middle East conflicts.

"It would be wrong to believe that the US is sitting back, positively contributing to the problems in the region without seeking to address them."

He recognized that reform cannot be imposed on the region but insisted that the G8 countries have a "responsibility to nudge governments" into making progress.

"This is an effort that requires all of us -- the G8, governments in the region and people in the region -- to be rowing our boats all in the same direction."


"This (Mideast conflicts) should not be used as a pretext to stop reform," said Bakhit

SHUNEH, JORDAN — Foreign ministers from the G8 industrialized nations, Arab, European and Muslim countries on Friday, December 1, opened a conference on the shores of the Dead Sea to promote reforms in the region.
Jordanian Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit told the Forum for the Future that political reform and the involvement of civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the political process were "basic requirements" for economic development and tackling the Middle East's problems, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"I should like to renew our call on all to embark on a concentrated effort to address the existing tensions in our region and to resolve the age-old conflicts which have prevented it from reaching its full potential," he said.

Failing to find "rapid and fair solutions (to Mideast conflicts) casts a shadow on many initiatives and ambitious priorities for our people and slows down reform efforts" Bakhit said.

"This should not be used as a pretext to stop reform, although the absence of a fair and comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict weakens moderate forces and reinforces those who stipulate violence, extremism and hatred".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Jordanian counterpart Abdel Ilah Khatib -- the conference co-hosts -- also spoke of the need to address the Israeli-Palestinian crisis as key to improving regional stability.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attended the Forum along with and British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.

Jordan has invited 56 countries and organizations to attend the third annual forum, after Morocco and Bahrain, since Washington launched the controversial Broader Middle East and North Africa initiative at a G8 summit in 2004.

The focus of this year's forum is on issues of political freedom and good governance as well as economic and educational empowerment in the broader Middle East, from North Africa to Pakistan.

Arab activists meeting ahead of the forum have called on world leaders to take urgent measures to resolve regional conflicts before pushing ahead with reforms amid concern that Arab regimes still lack the will for change.

Ahead of the forum Rice met foreign ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, Egypt and Jordan for talks on moves required to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the situations in Iraq and Lebanon.


Rice (3rdL) meets with Arab Foreign Ministers on the eve of the Forum.

Britain's Beckett told the meeting that regional partnerships and the education of the area's youth were key to tackling global problems like chronic underdevelopment, climate change and terrorism.

"If we, through out partnership, fail to meet the aspirations of our people, then the only winners will be the tiny minority, the extremists, who want to see us split apart," she said.

Non-governmental organizations and civil society groups were giving presentations to the gathered ministers at the start of each meeting, officials said.

Barry Lowenkron, the US assistant secretary of state for democracy promotion, said a sign of the progress made in the region since the first forum was held in 2004 is that at that meeting only five NGOs were invited to speak, while more than 50 were involved on Friday.

"That to me is the real story of the forum," he said.

Lowenkron said a second fund of around 90 million dollars was being developed to support small business ventures.

Last year's forum set up a 67-million-dollar-fund, called the Foundation for the Future, to provide grants to NGOs in the region -- a controversial scheme in many countries which frequently view such organizations with suspicion due to their activism on issues like human rights and corruption.


A survey showed that more than 80 percent of the Jordanians fear criticizing the government publicly.

CAIRO, November 15, 2005 ( – An octopus-like arm of Arab regimes, secret security emerges as a major hindrance for reform in the Middle East, a leading US newspaper reported on Tuesday, November 15.

In the Middle East people live "under the fist of the mukhabarat," Jordanian Sameer Al-Qudah, 35, who works as a supervisor of construction projects, told The New York Times, using the Arabic word for intelligence services.

"We are hungry for freedoms like the right to express ourselves," said Qudah.

Qudah, who recited poems depicting Arab rulers as pirates and highwaymen, wondered "why does this part of the world lack any kind of democratic practices?"

In Jordan and across the region, the paper says, intelligence agencies interfere with everything in public life there, even appointment of every university professor, ambassador and important editor.

Those seeking democratic reform in the Middle East say the central role of each country's secret police force is one of the biggest impediments.

"In the decades since World War II, as military leaders and monarchs smothered democratic life, the security agencies have become a law unto themselves," the paper said.

Hands-on Experience

Omnipresent secret police exist in every Arab country and Mukhabarat is among the first Arabic words expatriates learn, particularly reporters, the Times said.

A New York Times reporter has a hands-on experience in the murky world.

"Once in late 2001, I was loitering outside the Cairo headquarters of the secret police, an unfamiliar building, and was detained. My Egyptian assistant and I were ushered into the office of a polite major, whose walls were hung with roughly 10 diplomas from the FBI, including one for interrogation," he said.

"After a brief, friendly conversation about my impressions of Egypt, we were released. But in the years since, whenever I was involved in any reporting in Egypt that state security considered dubious, the major would call to inquire."

Maj. Gen. Rouhi Hikmet Rasheed, a 33-year army veteran and former top military dentist, ran for Parliament in 2003 on a platform calling for a constitutional monarchy in Jordan.

According to the paper, his campaign drew the attention of the intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Saad Kheir, who warned him to withdraw from the race.

"He told me that if I meant we should have a monarch like Britain's, this is not in the best interests of the country."

Rasheed, 62 and now an MP, said he was shocked when he was warned that his children might be affected by his decisions.

"'You are a son of the regime, we trust you, but if your sons want to work in Jordan in the future, it might affect them,' "he recalled the warning.


Many activists deem progress impossible unless the influence of the mukhabarat is curbed.

In a recent poll by the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, more than 80 percent of the respondents said they feared criticizing the government publicly.

More than three quarters said they feared taking part in any political activity.

"The issue of security has become a nightmare," Labib Kamhawi, a businessman active in human rights, said, contending that Jordan had failed to find the balance between democracy and security.

"If you give a speech against the policy of the government, this is a threat to security. If you demonstrate against this or that, it is a threat to security. It hits on all aspects of life and it is a severe hindrance to any change."

One man wrote a line from the Constitution stating that that personal freedom is protected.

Another wrote, "Love is immeasurable." A third scrawled, "Life comes first." A fourth wrote an Arab proverb about the absence of choice.

Three days later, the phone rang. The secret police summoned him and ultimately ordered him to paint over the graffiti because it might be "misinterpreted." (Click to read the article in full).

Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi

My dear brothers in Islam, and I address also that small group in the military who have been seduced and misled into atheism and easy promotion, for even that small dissident rump I know still has a profound loyalty to the nation of Pakistan.

All that is happening now I told you would happen. I warned you. Now you must face up to this. It was a diagnosis and you rejected the medicine, and now the patient is in a critical condition. I told you the dictator Musharraf was a kemalist, and the role of the kemalist was never to turn the guns on the enemy, but to turn them on his own people if they defy the dictatorship. It has happened. There are two civilised and learned bodies within the State of Pakistan. This fundamentally stupid and brutal man has now actively made war on both these groups.

It is clear that Pakistani society can no longer function now that it has lost the judiciary and the ‘ulema. Unless we are to see this great Muslim nation plunge into that most hateful of conditions, a civil war, military intervention is absolutely necessary. Make no mistake. I do not mean further war between the army and the people. This crime has already been committed, and the damage – the lack of trust between army and people – can only be recovered by one thing. You know what that one thing is. That one thing is the removal of an unacceptable dictator at war with his own people and their religion.

The quite disgraceful signals of approval from the Washington regime are surely the final confirmation of what an evil action was perpetrated at the mosque. Moral approval from the man who ordered Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo is a terrible insult, and furthermore, the American people should beware. A regime that accepts that a country abroad can make war on its own people sooner or later will activate it inside its own frontiers.

The removal of the criminal dictator, after such a disastrous error, means it is advised not just to replace him with a uniquely military junta. Confidence in the people has to be restored. I recommend the following model as a means to restoring not only order but civil confidence. The officers removing the criminal author of the coup should immediately call upon the highest civilian talents as an Advisory Group who can steer the country back to legal government.

For example:

1. The deposed Chief Justice I. M. Chaudhry.

2. Maulana Sami’ul Haqq.

3. Imran Khan.

4. The deposed Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.

5. Retired General Hamid Gul.

These, or a similarly constituted small group, should reconstruct the social order so that Pakistan ceases to be a plaything of exterior imperialist forces, or a war zone for the suicidal extremist Arab movement outrageously killing under the banner of Islam.

The survival of Pakistan is in your hands. Your health and well-being is also in your hands, for there is no doubt that if Pakistan goes down, you will go down with it, and if you do not die in its anarchy you will survive in your ignominy. Rise before Fajr. Make two Raka’ats. An Istikhara. Then if you dare, do nothing!


Aamir Latif

"Down with the USA," "Down with Musharraf", and "Go Musharraf Go," are a few of the slogans chanted by the angry protestors in Karachi. (IOL Photo)

ISLAMABAD — Thousands of Pakistanis took to the streets Friday, July 13, nationwide to protest the bloody army raid on Pakistan's Red Mosque, calling for the "destruction" of President Pervez Musharraf.

"General Musharraf is responsible for the loss of hundreds of innocent lives, which could have been saved," Syed Munawwar Hasan, a central leader of six-party religious alliance Muttehida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), said while addressing hundreds of emotionally charged protestors in Karachi.

"Down with the USA," "Down with Musharraf", and "Go Musharraf Go," are a few of the slogans chanted by the angry protestors in Karachi.

Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Multan saw the biggest rallies.

In the northwestern town of Mansehra, some 1,200 madrassah students and activists also held protests.

Friday's mass rallies were called for by the MMA and Wifaq-ul-Madaris Al-Arabia, which governs some 10,000 madrassahs nationwide.

The two bodies also called for a three-day mourning against the Red Mosque operation.

A total-wheel jam strike was observed in the northern town of Gilgit, where infuriated protestors blocked Korakaram Highway, which links Pakistan with China for several hours.

Rock-throwing youths burnt tyres and effigies of Musharraf and US President George W. Bush, forcing security forces to fire in the air and hurl teargas canisters to disperse the angry crowd.

Army troops, who had left the volatile northern Waziristan area following a peace agreement with local tribesmen and Taliban last year, have cordoned off the

area again.

The local Taliban commander Abdullah Farhad has issued a warning to the army troops to leave the area by Monday, July 15; otherwise, the peace treaty will be null and void.

Over the past two days, angry Pakistanis also torched offices and vehicles of several foreign-based non governmental organizations (NGOs) in Mansehra, Batagram, Noshera, Mardan, and other Pushtun-dominated districts of north western frontier province.

The Red Cross and various other foreign NGOs have closed down their headquarters in restive towns and cities and moved their staff to the capital Islamabad for safety reasons.

Judicial Probe

Hasan called for a judicial inquiry led by a Supreme Court judge into the bloody raid.

"We don’t trust this government. This is the government of liars. Hundreds of students are still missing. We fear they all have been killed by security forces," he charged.

"The blood of innocents would cost heavily for the rulers," he vowed.

The government has said that 102 people were killed in the raid. However, independent sources put the figure at some 300 people, including children and women, who have reportedly been buried in the absence of their family members in different graveyards of Islamabad in the dark.

Some 73 bodies, most of them charred beyond recognition, were buried in a mass grave in Islamabad.

A majority of students killed in the operation, codenamed "Operation Silence," were Pushtuns, the majority population of NWFP and Afghanistan.

"Where are hundreds of women and children who according to the government, had been taken hostage and used as shield by militants inside Red Mosque?" Mumtaz Ahmad Tarar, a human rights activist, told

"It seems as if causalities are in hundreds, and the government is hiding the facts," he alleged.

Family members of the deceased have been running from pillar to post in a desperate bid to recognize their loved ones killed inside the mosque.

"Neither their names are in the list of detainees or deceased or injured? Where have they gone?" wondered Tarar.

"Today, the government has used a wrong way to kill the militants. Tomorrow, this wrong way could be used to kill the common people," he added.

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?
Rageh Omaar

Published 12 July 2007

The siege of the Red Mosque in Islamabad has come to a bloody end - but the struggle between the Pakistani state and the jihadists can now only escalate. Pakistan is facing one of the most serious political crises in its modern history. After eight days of tense military stand-off in the capital between the army and several hundred militant students from a religious seminary, the Pakistani capital awoke just after dawn on Tuesday to a series of thunderous explosions in the heart of the city. By late afternoon, columns of smoke and ash were hovering in the air and dozens of militants and government troops lay dead or wounded. Pictures of the battle were flashed around the world as Washington and London's critical ally in the war on terror saw its capital turned into a war zone, in scenes unimaginable in the 60 years since the creation of Pakistan.

In the past week a quiet, tree-lined district made up of large, comfortable family villas and private schools has been transformed into a battlefield. Tanks, armoured personnel carriers, hundreds of metres of barbed wire and thousands of Pakistani special forces and paramilitary units of the army have cordoned off the area. At the epicentre of this no-go zone, where a strict curfew has been imposed and the residents forced either to leave or remain indoors, is the so-called Red Mosque ("Lal Masjid") and the all-female madrasa attached to it, the Jamia Hafsa.

The Red Mosque is the oldest mosque in the city, and was established shortly after Pakistan's capital was moved from Karachi to the purpose-built city of Islamabad. Its founder was Maulana Abdullah Ghazi. He was renowned for his Friday sermons on the need for Muslims to wage jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. As such, he was patronised and favoured by Washington's chief ally and link to the Afghan mu jahedin, the military ruler General Zia ul-Haq. Like Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies, Maulana Abdullah did not dispense with his links with the militant Islamist groups and ideologies that grew up around the Afghan mujahedin after the Soviets were driven out. Clerics like him were funded, encouraged and often guided by the Pakistani military and in telligence agencies throughout the 1990s. Their links with jihadist groups through the mosques and religious seminaries they ran were essential to Pakistan's regional policy (whether in opposing India in Kashmir or maintaining influence in Afghanistan).

But the jihadist movement's increasing strength and influence steadily and inevitably outgrew the tight leash imposed on it by its creators and sponsors in the Pakistani state. The founding of al-Qaeda by Osama Bin Laden, himself an early Arab volunteer in the mujahedin war in Afghanistan, was just one example of this. In 1998, Maulana Abdullah met Bin Laden and promised the al-Qaeda leader to "continue his work inside Pakistan". Maulana Abdullah took his younger son along to the meeting with Bin Laden; that son, Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi, was the man leading the 200 or so militant students who have been holed up inside the Red Mosque, besieged by the Pakistani military in the heart of Islamabad. He was killed during the ensuing fighting.

The crisis over the Red Mosque began six months ago. Yet General Pervez Musharraf did nothing about it, to the consternation of Pakistan's middle class, which was growing ever more fearful of the madrasa's brazen confrontation with the Pakistani state and of its ambition, in the words of Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi, "to destroy the failed political system in Pakistan which has betrayed the majority of the country's poor and establish a sharia state instead".

What the militant students and leaders of the Red Mosque wanted to do was create a model for Pakistan's estimated 20,000 madrasas to follow. It was the simple but tested and highly effective Islamist model of setting up parallel social and welfare institutions, aimed at highlighting how the state had failed the majority of ordinary people. It has worked for Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon and many others.

The madrasas offer the millions of desperately impoverished rural families a chance to send their children to cities and towns, where they will be given an education and a place to live in what the families see as a morally and socially conservative environment. They will be fed regularly, thus reducing the pressure on what is already a subsistence existence. It is a role that the Pakistani state has struggled to match, with one of the lowest comparative expenditures on education in the world. The education that the madrasas offer is, of course, strictly religious, but the Red Mosque's ideological links with jihadist groups inevitably exposed the students to far more than just spiritual instruction. The militants of the Red Mosque extended their model beyond the walls of their madrasas and out on to the streets of Islamabad. The female members of the madrasas led vigilante operations. They kidnapped brothel owners, harassed sex industry workers, threatened music shops and even policemen. They did so aggressively, taunting the authorities to stop them.

Musharraf's failure

Fearful of a nationwide showdown with the thousands of madrasas and their militant students and leaders, and after decades in which the seminaries had been an effective tool for the Pakistani state in domestic and regional policy, President Musharraf's government failed to respond to such challenges to its authority.

While domestic considerations deterred him from confronting the students and leaders of the Red Mosque, international pressure from key allies was pushing him in the opposite direction. A turning point came when a group of Chinese women working at a massage parlour was held hostage by female students from the mosque. Beijing, with considerable commercial interests in Pakistan, was alarmed that its citizens could be taken off the streets of the Pakistani capital and paraded in front of the international media while the government did nothing. Beijing wanted to know if it had a stable ally in Pakistan. It was at this moment that Musharraf decided to take action and the confrontation with the militants at the Red Mosque started, at the beginning of the month.

Yet there is much more at stake in this crisis than the immediate battle. At its heart, it is about the Pakistani state cutting the cord and confronting the jihadist groups and ideologies it has given rise to. The prominent Pakistani journalist Zahid Hussain has described this as "a battle for the soul of Pakistan" - a struggle to establish what kind of country it wants to be, six decades after it was founded following the Partition of India.

None the less, the bloody end to the siege on 10 July will have a fearful and profound impact on Pakistan in the coming months. It will have made "martyrs" of the students and leaders killed in the operation and thereby ensured that Musharraf will become a mortal enemy for many militant madrasa leaders and their followers in the country.

How civilian politicians in Washington and Pakistan respond will be critical. Both have had their frustrations and differences with Musharraf and with Pakistan's armed forces. But Washington's and Pakistan's main civilian political parties are solidly behind him in Pakistan's emerging divide.

The violent end of the Red Mosque in Islamabad marks the beginning of a critical shift in the politics of Pakistan. The decades-long alliance between the Pakistani state and the jihadist movements that it supported has begun to be broken. It is a point from which it will be hard to return. It is indeed the start of the long battle for Pakistan's soul.

Ramtanu Maitra

Since July 11, when Pakistani security forces in Islamabad took back control of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) from Islamic fundamentalists, Pakistan and the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA) bordering Afghanistan have been rocked by explosions and killings by suicide bombers. The targets of the suicide bombers are the soldiers, Chinese workers, and white-skinned foreigners. However, most of the victims so far have been Pakistanis who are not in the military. In particular, a section of the FATA—the agencies (provinces) of South Waziristan, North Waziristan, and Bijaur—could be deathtraps in the coming days for the Pakistani military and foreigners alike.

Moreover, as the veteran Pakistani columnist M.B. Naqvi pointed out in the daily The News, before the raid on the Lal Masjid began, the mosque's leaders have links with the Pakistan Army. A wide swathe of intelligent opinion believes that they served Pakistan's intelligence services well during the 1980s jihad in Afghanistan, Naqvi said. As for America's covert war against the Soviets, carried on by paid mujahideen, the United States and its friends pumped in $40-50 billion in a decade in a socially backward and economically poor area. In addition, some European agents taught the natives the art of heroin production and marketing. The Americans, British, Germans, and of course, the Saudis and other conservative Arab regimes actively favored the reactionary Islamic extremism of largely, but not exclusively, Pushtun jihadists, Naqvi said. He also pointed out that "no outsider can know the precise limits of that collaboration by the Lal Masjid leadership with the army and possible other agencies."

President Pervez Musharraf, whose life is now in grave danger, is trying not to provoke the militants any further, but it would be a serious test for him to remain passive and not face the militants' violent challenge head-on. It would be difficult for him for two obvious reasons—the same reasons that led him to raid the Lal Masjid.

Two Pressure Sources

Musharraf is under extreme pressure from the United States and China to eliminate the jihadis. Washington, under the thumb of Vice President Dick Cheney and his bloodthirsty cabal, has been warning the Pakistani President to take on those in the FATA tribal areas and clear that area of jihadis, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. The proposal translates to asking Musharraf to declare war against Pakistan's citizens on behalf of U.S. and NATO forces. The reason Cheney is putting pressure on Musharraf is that the reading among that war-hungry circle, is that unless Pakistan clears itself of the "Islamic extremists," a victory in the "war on terror" in Afghanistan would be impossible. Time is running out on the Bush-Cheney Administration, and pressure for Cheney's ouster is growing within the United States. Musharraf, who has been fêted and honored by Washington since 9/11, must deliver that victory.

Now that the Red Mosque event has forced President Musharraf to take on the so-called Islamic extremists, by unleashing the Pakistani security forces on the Lal Masjid jihadis, and killing more than 100 of them, Washington has succeeded in virtually isolating Musharraf from a large portion of the population.

The Cheney cabal is also using other methods to exert pressure on Pakistan's President. Washington is demanding that when Musharraf's term comes to an end in October, he give up his uniform (as the Chief of Staff of the Army), or give up the Presidency. The U.S. Administration has coaxed Musharraf to allow the exiled former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, to become his Prime Minister, come October. This arrangement will have a significant amount of support within that segment of the Pakistani population which does not want military rule, and would like at least a democratic face, as a feel-good measure. There is, however, no doubt in most Pakistanis' minds, that the military is the only functional institution in that country, thanks to American efforts in the Cold War days, to systematically undermine Pakistan's democratic forces.

Chinese Concerns

The pressure from China is also significant. At least the timing of the raid on Lal Masjid was directed from Beijing. The Chinese have been particularly upset with Musharraf's handling of the jihadis, because they have targeted the Chinese, who are working on infrastructure development and other economic activities in Pakistan.

On July 19, suicide bombers hit a convoy of Chinese workers in southern Pakistan, and a police academy in the north, killing 51 people and injuring more than 54, as further violence swept across the country. The Chinese workers' convoy was passing through the main bazaar in Hub, a town in Baluchistan province, some 30 kilometers northwest of the port city of Karachi, when a moving car blew up next to a police vehicle, officials said. The suicide bomb did not kill any Chinese, but they were targets. The Chinese worked at a lead extraction plant in Dudhar in Baluchistan and were temporarily leaving the area for Karachi because of security concerns, police said.

In 2006, Chinese engineers were abducted in FATA under orders from Waziristan warlord Abdullah Mehsud. A number of Chinese engineers were killed in Baluchistan, and China has repeatedly pressured Musharraf to take action against the perpetrators. Musharraf has not done so, because of the dangers he foresaw, and which in fact, have developed since the Lal Masjid event. While the Pakistani President has confessed that the FATA seminaries have been sheltering Uighur terrorists from China's western province Xinjiang, opposition politicians in Pakistan heatedly deny that there are any foreigners in the tribal areas.

The Chinese Xinhua news agency reported as follows: "China on Tuesday [June 26, 2007] asked Pakistan to take further measures for the security of the Chinese people and businesses in the South Asian country. 'We hope Pakistan will look into the terrorist attacks aiming at Chinese people and organizations as soon as possible and severely punish the criminals,' the Chinese Minister of Public Security Zhou Yongkang told visiting Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao. Sherpao's visit came days after seven abducted Chinese—a couple and five of their women employees—were released in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Saturday night [June 23, 2007]...."

The Daily Times of Lahore wrote in an editorial: "During his visit to Beijing, Sherpao got an earful from the Chinese Minister of Public Security, Zhou Yongkang, who asked Pakistan for the umpteenth time to protect Chinese nationals working in Pakistan. The reference was to the assault and kidnapping of Chinese citizens in Islamabad by the Lal Masjid vigilantes. The Chinese Minister called the Lal Masjid 'mob terrorists' who targeted the Chinese, and asked Pakistan to punish the criminals. Mr Sherpao, who must have regretted being in Beijing, lamely rejoined that Pakistan would take more rigorous action to safeguard the security of Chinese people and organizations in Pakistan."

The China Daily reported on July 18: "China did not push Pakistan for operations against the Red Mosque, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Luo Zhaohui said. It is the consistent policy of China not to meddle in the domestic affairs of other countries, he told The News, a major Pakistani daily." At the same time, following the completion of the Lal Masjid raid, China and the United States were the first to thank and congratulate President Musharraf.

The reason that China is so concerned about the rise of the jihadis in Pakistan, is not only the presence of Uighur rebels there, but the threat they pose to China's plan to develop its western wing. To begin with, China has already invested significantly, and is keen to invest a whole lot more, to develop infrastructure within Pakistan for China's access to the Persian Gulf. It is for this reason, that China has helped Pakistan financially to build the Gwadar Port in the southwestern tip of Baluchistan, almost touching Iran.

In addition, China wants to connect the Central Asian nations—Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgystan—through highways and railroads (wherever physically possible), and make them strong partners in trade and commerce. That infrastructure would also allow these land-locked Central Asian nations an access to the Arabian Sea, and beyond. The rise and dominance of the jihadis in Pakistan would ruin China's future plans, and that bothers Beijing more than anything else.

What Cheney Wants

It is evident that the Chinese interest lies in a stable Pakistan which, then, can integrate into an area of economic activity, along with a part of Central Asia and western China, over time. The Cheney cabal's interest, however, is not Pakistan's stability per se, but to secure a victory in Afghanistan and gain a permanent footing in Central Asia. The Pakistani jihadis are enemies, not only because they harbor, shelter, and train anti-American Afghans, but also because they could be a threat to the United States' and NATO's supply of arms and other equipment to the 50,000 foreign troops battling the anti-U.S. insurgents in Afghanistan. Pakistan's Karachi Port is the major entry point for the arms and ammunition used by the foreign troops in Afghanistan.

With no time at hand to slowly cull the jihadis, the Cheney cabal has now begun to exert pressure on President Musharraf to either launch a full-fledged invasion, by Pakistani troops, of the tribal agencies, or allow the foreign troops to move in and eliminate the insurgents.

Either way, Pakistan's President faces a grave danger. This danger is that of the revival of the Greater Pakhtoonistan issues. It should be remembered that the FATA tribal population is Pushtun, and the bordering Afghan provinces are also land of the Afghan Pushtuns. Imperial Britain, defeated decisively in two Afghan wars, had drawn a line on the sand, called the Durand Line, in the latter part of the 19th Century. No Afghan king or any other leader has accepted the Durand Line as the demarcation between Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to the Pushtuns, the Pushtun land, or Greater Pakhtoonistan, extends to the River Indus, which separates Pakistan's Punjab and Sindh provinces from the Northwest Frontier Province, FATA, and Baluchistan, in the West.

In other words, any military incursion into FATA, by Pakistani or foreign troops, with the intent of annihilating the tribal insurgents, and their backers and sympathizers, could lead to a secessionist movement, shedding the blood of thousands. President Musharraf knows the danger, but the question remains: Having travelled this far with the Bush Administration in its "war on terror," and having weakened and isolated himself in the process, will he be able to avoid traversing this dreaded path?




The siege at the Lal Masjid in Islamabad, which ended with a massacre of its occupants on July 10-11, has been widely portrayed as part of a global war between pro-Western moderation and extremist terrorism.  Here, DR PERWEZ SHAFI of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT) locates it more accurately in the context of a different historical trajectory.

The crisis over the Lal Masjid, which ended with massive bloodshed when the Pakistani military invaded the complex with extreme force on July 10, massacring its occupants, did not come out of the blue.  It was, in fact, the culmination of months of increasing tension characterised by the government alternating between provoking and appeasing the leaders of the group, while milking the situation for a national and international audience.  The immediate and ferocious response to the massacre from religious extremists, in which they killed hundreds of security personnel and others in a series of attacks and human bombings, was equally predictable.  The background to the crisis, which may see the US intervening in Pakistan for its own nefarious designs, no doubt partly to distract domestic attention from its failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, need to be understood.

The Lal Masjid (the ‘red mosque’) and its adjacent women’s seminary, the Jamia Hafsah madrassah, were just one part of a larger and well-established group of Islamic institutions that have been active in Islamabad for many  years.  The six-month stand-off with the government began when other mosques run by the group in Islamabad were demolished by authorities in January, on the grounds that they had been built illegally on encroached land.  The organisation was led by two brothers, Maulana  Abdul Aziz and Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi, whose father, Maulana Abdullah, a fiery pro-jihad alim who was assassinated inside the mosque in 1998, had been allotted land for the Lal Masjid in the 1960s.  Once it was built it was run by the younger brother, Abdul Rasheed Ghazi.  The elder brother, Maulana Abdul Aziz, the more religious and scholarly of the two, ran a number of madrassahs, including Islamabad’s biggest, Jamia Fareedia madrassah, built in the 1980s on land provided by the late General Zia ul-Haq.  At any given time, the madrassah boasts over 7,000 students seeking higher degrees in Islamic education.  

The father and both sons had close links with the establishment and security agencies.  These links were further strengthened during the 1980s, the time of the CIA-sponsored jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, when CIA and Pakistani security agency Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI) wanted as many fighters as possible for use in the war.  These priorities changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union and ensuing civil war among the Afghan mujahideen.  But the jihadis continued their cooperation with ISI under state patronage on other projects, such as Kashmir.  Then in the mid-1990s the Taliban force was created by ISI and installed in power in Kabul, and the Lal Masjid leaders aligned themselves with it.  The changing relations between the group and the Pakistan government were closely linked to the changing relations between the Pakistani establishment and the Taliban after 9/11, when the US declared war on the Taliban and demanded the Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf reverse the country’s traditional support for the them.

It is clear that throughout the build-up to the Lal Masjid siege, the government’s stand was based on lies, deception, and use of every opportunity to scuttle any peaceful resolution; the application of force was illegal and disproportionate in an attempt to please the government’s foreign masters.  The fundamental issue between the government and the Lal Masjid administration, common in many developing countries, was of encroachment of adjacent vacant land.  The complex of which the Lal Masjid and the Jamia Hafsah madrassah were part included a large number of other mosques, some of which were as old as a hundred years.  As is common in Pakistan, some of these may well have been built without official authorisation.  In such a situation, the government usually forces the occupants of the land to “regularise” the situation (make it legal) by payment of a fee: a common procedure in all walks of life in Pakistan.  Why this was not done in this case is just the first of several questions that demand answers.

In January the government unilaterally decided to demolish five out of seven mosques, in order to curtail the religious and political power of the Lal Masjid administration.  Having done so, provoking considerable public anger, the military government switched their tactics to appeasement, promising to rebuild the demolished mosques at new locations.  Foundation stones for new mosques were laid with much fanfare by the minister of religious affairs Ejaz-ul-Haq, portrayed as being sympathetic towards the group, but the policy of appeasement had little substance.  Similarly, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the president of the ruling Muslim League supporting General Musharraf, negotiated a number of times with the administration of the Lal Masjid with open support from Musharraf, but those efforts were always sabotaged by the government though agreement always seemed to be imminent.  At the same time, the leaders of the Lal Masjid made increasingly unrealistic demands of the government, such as the immediate implementation of the Shari‘ah.  They also angered local people by taking the law into their own hands and attacking businesses that they accused of immoral activities, and establishing parallel shari‘ah courts when the government refused to implement the shari‘ah. The only significant effect of these actions was to provide justifications for the government’s attack on them.

Information that has emerged since the end of the siege reveals that even at the eleventh hour, the night of July 9-10, the leaders of the mosque complex had acceded to all of the government’s demands, through Shujaat Hussain and leaders of the Wafaqul Madaris (the federal association of all madrassahs), resulting in an agreement.  However, having extracted as many concessions as possible for six months, the government was determined to attack.  The result was that the government made additional demands that were not acceptable even to the mediators.  The government gave no time for the changed agreement to go back to the leaders of the Lal Masjid for discussion, and army commandos attacked the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsah at 5 a.m.  One wonders, if the negotiations had almost produced an agreement and were so close to resolving the dispute, why the army action was not delayed.  Why was army action held like a sword over the negotiators’ heads?

Then there is the question of disproportionate firepower used against the occupants of the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsah, when it was known that they were not ‘professional terrorists’ from within or outside the country.  The vast majority were simply students in the seminary for study and prayer, whose anger at the government prompted them to take a stand when the government provoked the crisis.  The government’s officials and security agencies had, of course, detailed knowledge of the situation, as they had been dealing with them since the 1970s; in fact had themselves promoted and encouraged the Lal Masjid leaders for many years.  Even if the occupants had refused every reasonable offer, the government could easily have used measures like cutting off electricity, water or gas to the complex, and preventing people from leaving or entering it.  Or they could have taken more proactive measures to force the occupants to come out, short of killing.  It seems that the military government promoted these religious leaders over the years specifically so they could one day be sacrificed to instill terror in anyone who might harbour hopes of challenging the government’s writ.

Such calculated duplicity would not be unprecedented.  Another operation of a similar kind took place in 2002 when General Musharraf needed crucial votes in the Parliament to become president.  A deal was made with the MQM, an ethnic political party from Karachi, whereby the  MQM (Haqiqi), an offshoot of MQM that had been set up and promoted by the security agencies some years earlier in an attempt to curb the power of MQM, was liquidated in return for MQM’s support for Musharraf.  The operation against MQM (Haqiqi) lasted all night; all its leaders were arrested, its headquarters was bulldozed, and numerous activists and supporters were jailed and tortured.  The next morning, the MQM obediently voted for Musharraf’s presidency in parliament.  This practice, of government and security agencies creating and promoting an organisation to be sacrificed at a convenient time in a better deal with someone else or with international masters, is not unusual.  The rank and file of these organisations generally have no idea about the secret relationship with the government, and even refuse to believe it when presented with evidence; they remain loyal to their leaders, and only find out their mistake when it is too late.  It is often such rank and file who pay the greatest price for their commitment.  The Lal Masjid leaders seem to have been no exception to this rule.

From President Musharraf down, every government official claimed that their main objective was to save the women and children “held hostage” inside the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsah.  In actual fact, the women and children inside were not hostages to start with; they were students who probably stayed there of their own misguided accord.  However, when the army commandos attacked the complex not a single soul was saved and taken alive; everyone was killed.  The purpose of the attack, ostensibly to save women and children, failed completely.

Because of the ruthlessness of the attack, everyone being killed without exception, it became a public relations nightmare for the government.  There could be no explanation for why the intelligence agencies and the government officials did not know how many persons were inside before attacking.  After the massacre, the government closed the Lal Masjid complex to everyone, including all the media, for two days, until the place was “sanitised”, as the government put it.  However, some people saw enough to realise that the army was putting two or three bodies in each body-bag.  Hundreds of people were buried in a mass grave while families to this day are searching for relatives and cannot get straight answers from government officials.  There is similarly no explanation of why the army attacked, when the issue was purely civil and bureaucratic, and there is no information available about under which law the army acted.  Who ordered the army to besiege and attack the complex is unclear.  Thus the government’s failure is multi-dimensional -- civil, bureaucratic, intelligence, dispute-resolution methodology, and the army’s failure to ‘save’ anyone.

The backlash, foreseen and warned of by a number of people beforehand, was no less ferocious  than the army’s operation.  Within a week a number of suicide-bombers struck military convoys at different places in the country and in various cities,  killing and injuring hundreds of security and army personnel.  They even attacked a mosque inside a military cantonment of Kohat.  This created terror among government officials and security and army personnel, to such an extent that the government of the North-Western Frontier Province allowed police to wear plain clothes to disguise themselves.  A number of police personnel applied for leave or transfer from dangerous areas.  

To fully understand why the government and the country’s religious leaders are behaving so ferociously towards each other, we need to understand their historical roots.  Both can trace their roots back to developments in the Indo-Pak subcontinent during the colonial period, and particularly the total  destruction of every element of Muslim power after the war of independence in 1857.  The pro-Western and military elite in Pakistan today are descendants of the ruling class cultivated by the British to form and operate an oppressive and exploitative state structure to rule on their behalf after they left.  The Muslim part of this ruling class was shaped by the ideas of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.  When the demoralised Muslims faced an apparently bleak future, Khan argued that they needed to adapt to the realities of the new situation and acquire Western-style education so they could serve under the British as they had served the previous ruler.  To achieve this, he established the Aligarh Muslim University with help from the British, promoting a “modernist” Islam that could exist within the colonial worldview.  The result was increased westernisation of Indian Muslims.  They produced in huge numbers civil servants, bureaucrats and army officers who were passive, secular, divorced from Islam, Qur’an, Sunnah and other sources, and cut off from Muslim history; they felt inferior to their white colonial masters, and were largely unaware of modern scientific advances.  Allama Mohammad Iqbal expressed reservations about the dysfunctional and disjointed people being produced by Aligarh Muslim University, which provided the leaders of the Muslim League, who later became the ruling elite of Pakistan.  Alongside this, the British also created an Indian military officer class, equally committed to the established colonial system.  Later on the Pakistan army also joined the party in expropriating resources and oppressing people.  Thus, continuing both the centuries-old tradition of Muslim malukiyyah, and under the British colonial influence, the secular post-colonial state actually developed as a brutal force for the suppression of people.

On the other hand, the puritanical conservatism represented by the Lal Masjid, meanwhile, can be traced back to the Dar al-Ulum at Deoband, UP, which was established in the 1860s by young ulama who had fled Delhi, previously the intellectual centre of Islam in India, when the city was destroyed in 1857.  Like Syed Ahmed Khan, the ulama of Deoband (and numerous similar institutions established at the same time, which did not develop the same standing) faced the challenge of responding to the utter destruction of their world.  Their response was to set aside the social and political elements of Islam – having no possible influence in those areas under British rule – and focus instead on personal piety and the minutiae of Islamic rituals, with a particular emphasis on cleansing Indian Islam of populist and folk practices that were regarded as having no roots in genuine Islamic teachings.  The Tablighi Jama‘at was established by a Deobandi alim, Maulana Ilyas, in the 1920s.  Because of their intellectualism, Deobandi ulama established contacts with ulama in other parts of the world, finding similar reformist thinkers everywhere.  In the 20th century, links developed with salafi and Wahhabi groups in the Arab world, and the emergence of jihadist thinking among Arab salafis was reflected in the thought of Deobandi and associated groups in the subcontinent, particularly in Pakistan with the massive interaction of Arab money and mujahideen to the country during the Afghan jihad in the 1980s.  The leaders of the Lal Masjid emerged to prominence during precisely this time, along with numerous similar groups and leaders who are active in Pakistan today.  The limitations of their understandings and methodologies were masked by the natural emphasis on jihad, the element most relevant at the time, and the only one that their Saudi and American sponsors were interested in.

From their origins in the late nineteenth century, these two trends of Muslim thought – the “modernists” represented by Aligarh and the “conservatives” represented by Deoband – have had diametrically opposed political outlooks and understandings.  The modernists were the driving force of the Pakistan movement; the Deobandi religious establishment, represented by the Jami‘at Ulama-e Hind, opposed it.  Since the establishment of Pakistan, the two have debated what it means that Pakistan is supposed to be an Islamic state, with the politicians arguing for a mildly Islamicised version of a secular nation-state (Muhammad Ali Jinnah having been a supporter of Mustafa Kemal’s secularism in Turkey), while the ulama (joined since 1941 by Maulana Maududi and the Jama‘at-e Islami) demanded a more explicitly and proactively Islamic polity, even though their understanding of what that would involve was vague at best.  

Thus in reaction to the oppressive state, and in response to the Afghan jihad against the Soviets, the Deobandi religious establishment was radicalised and then became extremist to achieve exclusively jihadi goals divorced from other Islamic goals, especially the unity of Ummah. Like the state, they also became closely associated with US interests.  Thus it is ironic and deeply painful that both the oppressive state and the religious extremists, fighting for power, are tools in the hands of the West, serving the same master.

Despite the connections established between the state and the Islamic movements, including the leaders of the Lal Masjid, during the Afghan jihad, it is basically the tension that is driving the confrontation between Musharraf and the Islamic groups today.  However useful the Lal Masjid maulanas may have been to the establishment in the past, they were probably identified long ago as easy targets to be sacrificed at a convenient time to earn the goodwill of the West.  So what appears to be a government appeasement policy for six months was actually giving the two brothers time and opportunity to make stupid mistakes.  Gradually they took the law into their own hands and challenged the government to declare the Shari‘ah, then defied the government by establishing a parallel Shari‘ah court system.  Their close contacts with the Taliban were exploited by the secular press and the government to create and exploit the gulf to the fullest extent.  For six months, by reacting to the government’s intimidation as the government desired, the two brothers fell into the government’s trap.  They were portrayed as obstinate, irrational, an extension of the influence of the Taliban and the militants in North and South Waziristan, and as challenging the writ and authority of the government.

While this crisis was brewing the government also used it for its own  propaganda.  The government tried to make itself seem more than reasonable; people criticised it for not taking action earlier.  The government wanted to terrorise people into submission, and deter them from thinking of challenging the state.  But most importantly for the government, it was earning the pleasure of the West by portraying this challenge as a threat to Musharraf’s rule.  Musharraf is trying to portray himself as the only person standing between the West and a flood of religious militants who want to end the West’s influence and control of Muslim lands.  He has ensured that the West will back his campaign to become president from the present assemblies in army chief’s uniform.  So he is pursuing his personal interest at the expense of the ‘national interest’.  Every military dictator of Pakistan has used the plea that the nation’s security can be secured only by his own presence at the helm of affairs.

The legal fraternity also rightly called the Lal Masjid crisis a diversion from the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who had been suspended and was on forced leave from March 9.  Others criticised the government for its failure to help flood victims in Sindh and Baluchistan.  Ultimately what seemed to be a sideshow or a diversion turned out to be a debacle and a tragedy which galvanised people once again.  History does not forgive those dictators who bloody their hands on their own people.  Yet despite all this, the episode may mark the beginning of Musharraf’s downfall. Interestingly, every dictator in Pakistan has lasted between eight and  11 years; Musharraf is about to complete his eighth year.

Any genuine Islamic movement, belonging to the pure and pristine Islam, is always grounded in a good understanding of the processes of history.  Hizbullah and Hamas are the best examples at present of movements grounded in Islam and history: so they are proactive, patient and not reactionary, and do not fall into traps set by others.  Even fidayeen attacks on Zionists are only used occasionally as a military tactic,  to achieve specific objectives.  Likewise the Islamic movement in Iran not only succeeded in establishing an Islamic State by Islamic Revolution, but has been able to withstand all intrigues, boycotts and sanctions, coercion and infiltration, but has never reacted in a way that plays into the enemies’ hands.  For all their commitment and sacrifices, the leaders of the Lal Masjid failed this simple test.  As a result, their impact is likely to be restricted to damaging the existing order in Pakistan, without contributing anything to the emergence of an Islamic alternative.

The proof of a course of action is in the outcome.  The Soviet Union collapsed not entirely due to the mujahideen’s struggle, though that contributed.  The main reason was that, like Uthmaniyah Empire, it collapsed under its own weight; the US  also spent billions to help the process along.  Today, the US’s international hegemonic order is threatened by the jihad of Islamic movements, including but not restricted to salafi groups that identify with al-Qa’ida.  But should such groups succeed, would Muslims be able to liberate themselves completely?  The answer at present is no; because they are not in a position to establish Islamic alternatives.  It is always easy to fight against and destroy an enemy, but much more difficult to build anything new.  A new civilisation requires its people to exercise reason and rationality, creativity and innovation, preference for substance over style, patience and tolerance of  other views, free from fear and coercion, and many other virtues. If these abilities and habits are not present in the mindset of any person or movement, building a new and just civilisation is next to impossible.

Hence one indication of whether or not a movement genuinely derives from Islam is the presence or absence of these qualities.  This is indicated by revolutionary intellectual content, resistance to Western domination and control of Muslim lands, ethical Islamic leadership, genuine and deep taqwa, and commitment to preserving and promoting the unity of the Ummah.  Unfortunately Pakistan’s people and their current leaders fall far short on all these and many other counts.


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