Apart from the obvious outrage at the insulting cartoons, there are three likely strands to the violent demonstrations that we have witnessed all over Pakistan these past few days.
The Religious Parties
Using the pretext of anti-cartoon agitation the political parties from the religious right are attempting to harness public support and galvanize opinion against Musharraf and his military regime.
Their primary goal: 3 March 2006, the expected date of George W. Bush's planned visit to Pakistan.
With all the TV channels focused on rampaging mobs openly abusing Musharraf by calling him degrading names, the military regime’s standing in the public eye has been considerably damaged.
The Regime and its agencies
In recent years the military regime has often and quietly spurred on our ‘bearded’ elements to demonstrate and vent their rage in the streets. The idea behind this design is to demonstrate to the West that without the presence of Musharraf and his Khakis the country would rapidly descend to a state of mouth-frothing fundamentalism.
As I stated in a previous Blog:
In 2005 Musharraf's regime banned the protest rallies of journalists, feminists and members of the Pakistan People's Party, while it allowed the Mullahs to hold anti-American "million man marches" throughout the country. Bankrolling these groups serves the useful purpose of making the army internationally preferable by contrast.Le Sans-Culottes
Our so-called post-9/11 economic turnaround has come at a tremendous cost to the lower income groups. While the GDP has improved, the Consumer price Index has soared, making many basic essentials frustratingly expensive for increasing millions. While the money-making Elites have made fortunes in the property and the share market, many more millions of Pakistanis have sunk below the absolute poverty line.
While the rich party (and immunize their guilty consciences by giving trifles to Eidi and other charities), the people are hurting. Forgetting the unfortunate unemployed for a moment, even many of the urban employed can no longer afford to feed their families adequately. Alarm bells should be ringing in Islamabad - but they aren't.
As BBC noted:
This wanton destruction can be read as a warning sign of the growing sense of alienation and depravation felt by the urban poor.
Most of the public and private property attacked by the rioters cannot even remotely be linked to the cartoons.
The buildings burned in Lahore and Peshawar included cinemas, a theatre, banks, mobile phone outlets, fast food restaurants, the Punjab assembly building, petrol stations, music and video shops.
The violence unleashed in Lahore, the heartland of our Establishment, has rocked the regime. A sheepish Pervaiz Elahi admitted that official permission had been given to the demonstrators to take a rally out on the Mall because of its ‘noble cause’. The Musharraf regime undoubtedly now regrets the passive support it originally provided to the demonstrators (serves them bloody right for once again trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds).
In your Blogger’s opinion the Musharraf regime has been badly mauled by these street demonstrations.
Discredited in the public eye Musharraf may be, but the history of the Khaki republic of Pakistan clearly reveals to us that military dictators only topple when they are knifed in the back by their own uniformed 'supporters'.
There is no real sign of that yet.