Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Amazons of Islamabad

Your Blogger deliberately has avoided commenting on Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa issue until now.


He has had a sneaking suspicion all the while that this ruckus had been intentionally created to divert public attention from the Chief Justice debacle, as well as use this ‘manifestation’ of ‘the spreading virus of Talibanisation’ to wring international support for a beleaguered regime.

So rather than be accused of spreading ‘conspiracy theories’ it seemed preferable to stay mum. But now as I find a chorus of other voices harbouring similar suspicions, it is time to take a look at what has taken place.

Today’s News sums up the state of affairs in a nutshell:

[Islamabad] is being seized bit by bit by two brothers, Maulana Abdul Aziz and Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi who between them manage the Lal Masjid, the Jamia Faridia (the male madressah) and Jamia Hafsa (the female madressah). It has been reported, but not yet confirmed, that Faridia and Hafsa between them have about 10,000 resident pupils, 2,500 males and 7,500 females. The male pupil hides his identity behind a black mask that covers his head and face which looks quite ominous. The female pupils are clad in black and armed with stout bamboo sticks. They present a formidable and awesome picture. It is nearly impossible to determine the gender of the person clad from head to toe in black burqa. They are tall, hardly anyone less than 5 feet 9 inches which is well above average height of Pakistani females.

Here are the views of four diverse columnists:

Abbas Rashid commented in today’s Daily Times:

It is possible that the Musharraf government is allowing the standoff to prolong in order to distract public attention from the issue of the suspension of the chief justice. He could also be making the point with his increasingly restive allies in the West that they would be better off supporting him in his efforts to roll back the resurgent talibanisation — dramatically manifest as a clear and present danger in the very heart of the capital — rather than becoming too concerned about the essentials of democracy in Pakistan.

Such tactics would certainly be par for the course. The role of disaffected former intelligence officials can also not be discounted. But, in any case this would not be the first time that Musharraf has backed away from taking a stand when it comes to religio-political forces, regardless of the consistent tone and tenor of his liberal rhetoric.

In the same newspaper Brigadier (retd.) Shaukat Qadir is even more forthright.He also informs us that Jamia Hafsa/Lal Masjid was (and quite likely still is) funded by the Islamabad Regime:

While falling prey to ‘conspiracy theories’ is not commendable, there is little doubt that occasionally there is substance to such theories. Let’s consider this case.

Jamia Hafsa was begun with government funding and continued to receive substantial government funding for many years. Whether it still does is not known. The opposition has already alleged that the government has created this situation to divert attention from the chief-justice crisis. Even the MMA has collectively condemned each act of the students of Jamia Hafsa and Lal Masjid and disclaimed responsibility for their acts.

In the background, General Pervez Musharraf is not only faced with the judicial crisis he has created, but is being pressured by the United States on the necessity to hold free and fair elections (US congressmen have gone from Pakistan straight to London to meet with Nawaz Sharif. They were already in contact with Benazir Bhutto, with whom a government deal appears to be in the offing).

It is difficult to see why the government, which can easily pull the curtain on this drama, has refused to do so thus far. Why would Musharraf, who proudly portrays himself as Pakistan’s strongman, allow this episode to drag itself unnecessarily in Islamabad when he has not been averse to using force in the tribal areas, in Balochistan and in Karachi?

Is it possible that he has deliberately permitted the situation to go this far, in the hope that it will reinforce the view that he is indispensable if Pakistan has to have a moderate future? This may or may not be true. But if it is, then all one can say is that if he has, then he has descended to depths hitherto unprecedented. His legacy will be worse than his predecessor, Zia-ul Haq’s.

In the Gulf News Husain Haqqani had this to say:

There are four possible explanations for the deteriorating situation in Pakistan. The first, given by Pakistani officials, is that religious extremism has deep roots in Pakistan and would take many years and a lot more US dollars to root out.

The second, offered by American officials (notably outgoing US ambassador Ryan Crocker) claims that the Pakistani government does not have the capacity to control the Taliban and their sympathisers in all parts of the country.

The third, somewhat harsh, view is that Pakistan's military-intelligence-bureaucratic complex is deliberately encouraging extremism in an effort to extort more international support, manage domestic crises and to persist with their decades old dreams of expanding influence in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

The free rein for Jamia Hafsa's vigilantes, for example, serves the regime's purpose by taking attention away from the crisis generated by Musharraf's suspension of the Sup-reme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Choudhary.

The fourth explanation is a hybrid of the second and the third. Pakistan's rulers, it suggests, give priority to regime survival above long-term national strength. As long as Pakistan's ruling elite presents itself as being between a rock and a hard place, the world will continue to bail it out. After all, no one wants a nuclear-armed state to fall under the control of the Taliban.

The official Pakistani explanation does not hold much water. If the aim of Musharraf's policies is to weaken deep-rooted Islamist extremist groups then why are these groups gaining in strength instead of losing ground?

In principle it seems reasonable that the Pakistani state should avoid using extreme force against its own citizens. But such qualms have never held back the Pakistani state from killing Bengalis in erstwhile East Pakistan or Baloch and Sindhi dissidents.

As for the American account of "limited capacity" of the Pakistani state, that is only partly true. Had Benazir Bhutto or Asif Ali Zardari been the ones hiding in Waziristan, instead of Afghan Taliban and Al Qaida figures, I am quite certain that the Pakistani state would have found the means to deal with any armed supporters they might have had.

That leaves us with the harsh view that the generals like the chaos generated by Islamists and the explanation based on the Musharraf regime's wrong priorities.

There is enough evidence to demonstrate past collaboration between the Pakistan military-intelligence apparatus and extremist Islamists to make the cynics seem plausible. On the other hand, if instead of being used as personal security guards for an unpopular ruler or rent-a-crowd tools at Musharraf's rallies, Pakistan's security forces were properly deployed they could, at least, protect Pakistan's federal capital from Talibanisation.

The survival of Pakistan depends upon eliminating extremists. But the Pakistani establishment's erroneous view that its survival in power is synonymous with Pakistan's survival is pushing the country further to the brink. Regime survival requires manipulation or calibration of the extremists. Pakistan's survival necessitates their containment or elimination.

Then there is a furious Raoof Hasan in today’s Nation who blames the regime directly for the ‘Lal masjid’ mess and lambastes Musharraf, Shaukat Aziz et al and calls them ‘a bunch of half-wits’.

It is when a coterie of self-seeking and self-aggrandising individuals take positions, or indulge in acts, in contravention of the basic provisions of law, that the edifice of the state is rendered insecure before immoral, illegal and untenable assaults. The history of Pakistan is replete with instances graphically illustrative of this malaise. The frequent nightly assaults by tin-pot generals to usurp power from democratically elected governments have provided a classic, unstoppable phenomenon that has repeatedly played with the fate of the state. When that happens, it follows logically that ‘law’ has been replaced with a lack of it, and ascendancy to positions of importance is through non-conformance to the basic tenets of law as against conformance. It also follows that the writ of the state does not emanate from abiding by the book of law, but from the whims and fancies of an individual who, through an unconstitutional, illegal and immoral act, has grabbed for himself the position to be the sole arbiter of the fate of the state and its people. These assaults, repeatedly ‘legalised’ by the use of the notorious ‘Doctrine of Necessity’, have resulted in indescribable tragedies for Pakistan and its people.

The total disappearance of the ‘writ’ of the state emanates from this basic reality: the absence of a lawful and institutionalised mode of governance and its replacement with ‘writ’ being dispensed by a self-anointed individual who, in the first place, is there through an act violative of the relevant provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan. The book is clear and candid about how to deal with such individuals.

Additionally, in the absence of government in accordance with the provisions of law, the likelihood of smaller groups of vested interests within the establishment exerting to ‘destabilise’ the government to meet their own nefarious ends, enhances immensely. The prospect that the establishment is currently riddled with machinations of such vested interests is, therefore, not beyond the realm of possibility, even probability.

Consequently, the charade being enacted at the Lal Masjid and the government’s total inaction and impotence in the face of this unprecedented provocation is understandable. As a matter of fact, those who still dream of any remedial measures in this regard may, as well, stop doing so. This is the fate that we have to resign to in the face of continuing nightly assaults on the state by a bunch of half-wits touting as rulers. If ever lawful authority of the state is to be restored, these usurpers will have to be shown the door, for good!


the olive ream said...

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it is the talibanization of Pakistan!

But what about the CJ issue debacle?

No! look over there at all those burqa clad female sharia supporters and those large group of bearded jihadists! How bloody frightening is that?

Yes, but what about the removal of the CJ and the resulting....

Oh, just STFU!

Anonymous said...

What is rather puzzling is that the scores of young women and men holding seige need a steady supply of food and water to be able to sustain their seige for the many weeks as they have done. To end the seige first stop the food and water from being taken in. How is it that they get these supplies without any hindrance while the authorities plead their inability to end the situation?

Onlooker said...

You have raised an extremely valid point that to my knowledge no one has picked up, which is how were these hundreds of members of this 'seige mafia' fed.

Logically, it becomes obvious that 'The Establishment' did not stand in the way.

We can all draw our own conclusions from that,

However, full credit to you for pointing an obvious that escaped most/all of us!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Your blog gave me an opportunity to voice what had been puzzling me for days.

The Jamia Hafsa women appear to be just pawns of more cynical behind-the-scenes manipulators but as an Indian, I am agnostic on this issue. Nothing personal at all but IMHO, Pakistani 'civil society' sorely needs to experience directly the religious extremist medicine which their state has been unrepentantly forcing down the rest of the region's throats for at least two decades. Just hope no one innocent gets hurt though, whether these women or others.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe Pakistan will fall to so called "Islamists" and the majority of so called "Islamists" are far from radical.

What we need to be wary of is the fact that "secular fascists" like Musharraf, Bhutto and Sharif coming back to power.

To bad the West can't seem to see this at all.

To the Indian fellow; who shot Ghandhi? Who tore down the Babri Masjid? Who has killed many many muslims and christians in India? Who has threatened and killed people for trying to convert in India?

Take your time and get back to me okay?


libertarian said...

anonymous(2): seems anonymous(1) is just a messenger. Your frustration might be more useful if directed at the establishment in Islamabad.

Anonymous said...

Pakistan scarcely has a monopoly on extremism in South Asia or even the world. We are all the same human species after all, prone to misusing anything and everything in our quest for power.

The point is that if radical Islam has been the chosen instrument of state policy of Pakistan in Afghanistan, Kashmir, even Bangladesh then why the horror now if radical Islam is an instrument of politics at home? The state is having trouble extricating itself from its radical Islamic allies' domestic agendas because the arguments used to justify the Pakistani state's interventions via radical Islam abroad, are being applied by its allies at home too.

It is my sincere hope that no one innocent gets hurt but as I said imHo such a confrontation is overdue, whether that is what this episode is or not.

Anonymous said...

Focus guys focus - all these red herrings whether the Jamia Hafza situation or the Mush/BB SO CALLED secret negotiations - to make her look greedy for a obvious - are all meant to get us to lose focus on the CJ situation. I totally agree with Onlloker on that. So lets stop fighting with Indians now....Or is that another red herring? Conspiracy theory or reality - the sad state of the Paki mind after so much deceit,

Anonymous said...

It has nothing to do with the fact that the fellow was Indian. To me its just that people seem to equate "religious extremism"(with Islam). We all knew when he stated that he was talking about Islam and muslmis in general.

He didn't care to mention the Tamil Tigers, the IRA, ETA, or even the state sponsors of terrorism like US, Israel, Egypt, North Korea, India etc....(so many to choose from and from every part of the world).

And I thought it wrong when he stated that we deserve the "religious extremist medicine" that Pakistan is experiencing from a fanatical fringe. So is he saying then that the US deserved what happened on Sept.11? After all without them the Taliban and Bin Laden would never have happened.

The real war being waged around the world is about securing limited resources and securing strategic postions around the globe. The war on terrorism/Islam is being used by the West to secure its objectives. And those who claim to be representing Islam are using religion to further their agenda or blindly letting themselves be manipulated by greater powers.

You can look up briefings from the NSA, US Military, the various security agencies of the US or even the many foreign policy tanks in Washingtion....the War on terror is aimed at ONLY so called "islamic terrorists" their are not going after ETA, IRA, or any other violent terror group.

And just for the record I would rather have Musharraf lead the nation then BB or NS. I was happy to see the CJ trying to help the common man and do the right thing. But i am jaded and cynical enough to realize that if he gained power and became president or prime minister he would eventually let himself become corrupted and annoint himself as Pakistan's next indispensible messiah.


Anonymous said...


5.Maulana Mohammad Abdul Aziz is a Deobandi cleric, who was not very well-known in Pakistan. Nobody had heard of him outside Pakistan. He is the head of the Lal Mosque in Islamabad, where many of the civilian bureaucrats and military officers of the Pakistani capital used to go for the prayers.

6. Since seizing power in October,1999, Musharraf and the ISI were using him to discredit Ms. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Ministers, and other political opponents. Since last year, he has gone out of control. He has assumed the leadership of the pro-Taliban elements in the non-tribal areas of Pakistan and has started a jihad against Musharraf for his co-operation with the US.

7. The Lal Masjid has two madrasas (religious schools) attached to it---one for boys and the other for girls. The madrasa for girls is called Jamia Hafsa. Many of the madrasa students are the children of the pro-Taliban tribals of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). They project themselves as the future wives and mothers of suicide bombers. The daughters of many persons of Pakistani origin from the UK and the US are also studying there.

7.Since January this year, the madrasa students----boys and girls, the girls of Jamia Hafsa more ferociously than the boys--- have been on the warpath against Musharraf. The trouble started initially when the ISI ordered the Islamabad municipal authorities to demolish some mosques, which were located on routes generally used by Musharraf while moving between Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The Government claimed that these mosques were demolished because they were unauthorised constructions. The real reason was that the ISI feared that the terrorists targeting Musharraf could use these mosques as a hide-out.

8. In protest against the demolition, the girls occupied a nearby library for children. The boys joined the protest. Rattled by this, the Government accepted their demand to have the demolished mosques re-constructed at its expense. The girls have refused to vacate the library till the re-construction is complete.

9.Maulana Abdul Aziz and his brother Abdul Rashid Ghazi, another cleric, have taken over the leadership of the anti-Musharraf agitation of the madrasa students. From inside the sanctuary of the Lal Masjid, they have been issuing statements praising Osama bin Laden and Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Taliban, and calling for a ban on TV, for the destruction of all video shops and arrest of prostitutes. They attacked police vehicles deployed outside the mosque and took away their communication sets. They are now using these sets to communicate with the pro-Al Qaeda and pro-Taliban elements in the FATA. They managed to get hold of FM radio equipment from the FATA and started using them to make anti-Musharraf, pro-bin Laden and pro-Omar broadcasts to the residents of the capital. They have started their own web site for disseminating their propaganda.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, Anonymous AAS: After seeing what is happening AGAIN in Afghanistan and now in Pakistan you honestly think Mush is a better choice? And, honestly think that the Islamist/fundamentalists and their doings are really just part of a Western plot to decieve the world???? Well..good for you then. My heart breaks for my country of birth. It is so obvious to me that you and many others have no idea what our founding fathers dreamt of. I am no great believer in Benazir or Nawaz or Qazi etc But, the only known way for democracy and therefore a tolerant civil society to grow is under a democratic umbrella. Brush up on your Jinnah readings my chap. MAHI

Anonymous said...

To Mahi: Of course right now Musharraf is better than BB and NS. They have had their chance...more than once to do something for the country and neither have really done much.

When you look at Musharraf and compare his civilian counterparts...they're no big difference. All lose themselves to the lures of power. BB and NS have done the same things that Musharraf is accused of doing so now. Whether it be corruption, election rigging, cronyism, torture, and having subverted the sovereignty of Pakistan in favor of the West and US.

The only way i see Pakistan emerging from this present crisis is a mass uprising and the demand for democracy from every section...and it is CRITICAL to not let the same clowns in power again...we have to choose a moderate and honest person.

Mind you Musharraf's takeover was welcomed by most of the country. And for a time he was doing positive things for the nation....but September 11 changed that. Yes, he is a dictator but lets not forget he had some hard choices to make. Join the US or, "be bombed back to the stoneage". Or do you think that was a conspiracy made up by him? The US do something wrong? That must be a mistake right? Being sarcastic here.

And now he is doing everything in terms of managing the west and keep is hold on to power because he thinks he can only save Pakistan.

How can democracy thrive when the masses are not educated? Many are forced to vote for a particular candidate because a feudal/military/coroporate elite tells them to do so. For Christ's sake why should Bhutto become prime minister again? Do you even know that she had herself elected chairmain of the PPP for life? Does that sound like someone who should be elected? Someone who has democractic leanings?

As far as i am concerned about Jinnah is that he is dead and has just been used as a figure to stoke nationalism or be used as a symbol of every group in the country to further their agenda. If Jinnah could have shaped the nation his way he would have made Pakistan a secular nation like the US or UK but he was smart enough to know that the people would never just give up Islam and therefore he called for an "Islamic Republic". What i would love for pakistan to be is a moderate Islamic Republic: Freedom of Press, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Assembly and honest state institutions and accountability. Empowerment of women inside and outside of the home.

I don't want Pakistan to be another Turkey, America or Uk. I don't want to see drinking, drugs(like marijuana legalized in much of Europe) and i don't want strip clubs or prostitution legalized.

As for you thinking that I am some conspiracy theorist well what can i do t change the mind of someone who can't seem to see the big picture?

I recommend the following:

Oxford Research Group: They just published a report explaining how the war on terror is for the most part a sham and is distracting from true crisises like global warming, militarization of nations, conflicts over resources etc...

Read Susan Sontag's essay on Sept. 11...this was written just before she died.

I would also brush up on Edward Said. Read his article called,"the Essential Terrorist" which was published in 1986.

Also, checkout the site for the New American Century: They basically breakdown how they want to secure resources around the world to ensure America's power continues.

If you still don't see the bigger picture...what can i say chap you are exactly the type of person who can only grasp at straws and at nothing else.


Anonymous said...

I feel your pain - you would like an idealized Pakistan with no drink, drugs or legitimately elected politicians. Good luck to you...I believe in a Pakistan where people have choices and are respected on every level....
Here is my post from the other section...
Dear AAS,
Amir Taheri, for those of us who read books is the author several authoratative books. His column is run all over the world ( and yes the NY Post is one outlet) but the others are not tabloids. Those who only blog occasionally and that to anonymously should learn not to be dismissive about people like Benazir Bhutto and Mr. Taheri - people who have accomplished something in life - whether we agree with them or not. That is called civilzed behavior. MAHI

HonestDesi said...

Like many other conspiracy theorists and permanent complainers in Pakistan, AAS clearly has no idea of how the western world works.

He cites Oxford Research Group, Susan Sontag and the New American Century as parts of some complex plot. These are voices within American society, some strong, some weak. The point is, a society that thinks and allows diversity of thought picks out the best ideas that are useful for it. No wonder they dominate the world.

What do folks like AAS (and the Taliban they semi-admire) do? They shut down ijtihad, seek conformity and vent their anger on blogs in the language of the gora they hate.

Here is what I suggest: Let AAS and others of his ilk start their own think tank to match the New American Century Guys --the New Islamic Century or whatever they want to call it. Stop shouting at people in uncivilized tones, voicing self righteous anger. Instead, read (Iqra --the first revelation to the Prophet), think and create the institutions for progress. And then talk about the big picture once you know something about the big picture. Repeating prejudices is hardly the recipe for change.

Whether you like it not, democracy is the most important institution for progress. There is a reason why all the nations that are progressing are democratic and the ones stuck in a rut are not.

Sometimes democracy's results will not be good in the short term but it is the only long run strategy that will work.

Thhese Jihadis and taliban will bring nothing but ruin on our people and nation, as if the ruin we already have is not enough.

HonestDesi said...

One more point: I am sick and tired of the "Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have had their chance" line.

A chance is a full term. Neither was allowed that by our glorious army and intelligence wallahs who never fail to conquer Pakistan over and over again.

They have their flaws but the people should vote them out for those flaws. A usurper General has no right to do that.

Also, there is something strange about people who hate an elected pro-US leader (BB) but love an unelected American stooge. If the big picture required Musharraf to save Pakistan from being bombed back into the stone age by the Yanks, why don't you credit BB for trying to do the same?

AAS said...

To MAHI and Honest Desi: I am not sure if you guys are really reading what i have been saying.

Neither of you seemed to have noticed that i called for: Freedom of Press, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Assembly and honest state institutions and accountability. Empowerment of women inside and outside of the home. How is this anything close or similar to the "Taliban".

MAHI i consider the above my idealized Pakistan...yet you just focused on the fact that i don't want drink, drugs and prostitution legalized. But then again so called liberals like yourselves are stupid enough to equate democracy with sex drugs and rock an roll.

Both of you are hypocritical blaming me for trying to use different sources to help rationalize my views. That in itself is part of the "market of ideas" the basis for all democracy. You both use western chating online and writing in ENGLISH. If you fools are not so enamoured and influenced by the "Gora West" why did you not respond in Urdu or other local language?

To Honest Desi: I don't like Musharraf but to have Bhutto and NS back....will accomplish what? All three are the same type of bloodsucking monsters. Once Sharif and Bhutto return what do you think they are going to do? They are going to continue to brutalize and rape Pakistan.

And i am sick and tired of saying this but only way for Pakistan to be democractic is for the masses to rise up and elect honest politicians...not more of the same. And to weed out the corrupt elites from power.

To Honest Desi: For the love of Christ don't assume so many things about me. Most of your assumptions are way off. The Prophet(PBUH) is indeed a great person but please don't tell me to read up on him. Instead of telling me to build institiutions maybe you should first look at yourself. We all should do that. I don't think i would be wrong in interepreting that Islam forbids Alcohol. Sex(Islam encourages sex as being healthy and good incontext of marriage) outside of marriage is wrong. Taking drugs and alcohol and drugs is forbidden because one can easily lose control of ones senses. And obviously i don't have to explain why prostitution is wrong.

I believe in moderation. I like the East and West. I just don't like the extremes from either.

And it is no conspiracy that many nations are using the war on terrorism to achieve strategic objectives related to dwindling resources. Do yo think the American public would have agreed to the war on Iraq if the goverment said we need we are going to steal it from Iraq????

And have you wondered why the oil supply still flows out of Iraq and to the world market when almost every other part of Iraq is in shambles?????

I hope you read my post for real this time.

MAHI said...

Dear aas:

I rest my case - so much anger cannot be good for you. I appreciate that you have a point of view but your dismissal of Mr. Jinnah etc show me that you do have a far more conservative and Islamic Pakistan in mind than the one I seek: a secular Pakistan where all citizens are equal. HonestDesi has made some very good points and on his points I put this argument to rest. These scary ninja's in Islamabad have me running towards anyone else but Mush........MAHI

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