There are many who believe that an official agency helped create the Lal Masjid crisis and there are others who maintain that while the military regime had no hand in its creation, it took deliberate advantage of the turmoil and allowed it, by calculated inaction, to deteriorate unnecessarily.
The purpose behind the action or inaction on part of the regime is purported to be twofold:
- To distract the public from the ongoing CJ crisis
- To use this display of ‘the spreading virus of Talibanisation’ to wring international support for a beleaguered establishment.
Here is a take on the situation by an American who is well-acquainted with Pakistan and its political foibles.
William Milam is a former US ambassador to Pakistan and here is a relevant excerpt from his op-ed in the Daily Times today:
Did someone or several someones in the government look the other way and do nothing while these clerics and their adherents went about setting up their own state in the capital?
But even the dumbest conspirators couldn’t be that dumb, could they? If someone in power allowed (or encouraged) the events that led to the confrontation with the Lal Masjid clerics in order to inspire belief in the president’s indispensability, they sure got it wrong. What they inspired instead is a widespread impression of impotence, fecklessness, or worse, Islamist fifth columns inside the government. The real question seems to be, with bulwarks against extremists like this, what’s left for Pakistan anyway but Islamist extremism.
This will accelerate the rate of change of perceptions about President Musharraf abroad, and domestically too. Here is the perception scorecard of the past few months: the president wishes for as much influence in Waziristan as the British had, but is able only to adopt one-half of the British policy—the money part. The British had a hammer they could use judiciously and carefully; he doesn’t. Without that hammer he is a one-handed adversary. He can get some things done such as getting the Al Qaeda foreigners pushed out, or killed. But it does not seem that he can stop the Taliban forays into Afghanistan to fight (and kill) US and NATO troops. Nor is he able (willing?) to disrupt Taliban actions by finding its leaders in Balochistan. And lately, when all this indecision and failure of nerve is in the international and domestic spotlight, his government has also seemed paralysed by the challenge from Lal Masjid. The issue of the chief justice, though seemingly quiescent in the past few days, has not gone away either
In other words, the vacillation and confusion in the face of the Lal Masjid defiance has only exacerbated the image of weakness, temerity and blunder that has developed over the past few months. This is exactly the opposite of what a conspiracy to make him look good would have wished for. And it is exactly the opposite of the image that President Musharraf has always seemed to want for himself.
Is the regime culpable? Most likely. Your Blogger is convinced that the word military intelligence is an oxymoron.
These people may be good at short term tactics, but as far as longer term stuff goes their track record is disastrous. Think about 1965, think about 1971, think about Kargil; the list goes on.
M B Naqvi in today’s News reminds us of two haunting and very recent instances:
A typical example is the way he treated Nawab Akbar Bugti. Bugti may be dead and his home destroyed, but politically it was the regime that was defeated. Bugti has become the Baloch nationalists' icon who will go on inspiring an insurgency for God knows how long. Musharraf gave Baloch nationalists a hero instead of negotiating over the Baloch grievances and accepting some of their demands while assuring them an honourable share in decision-making.
The way the chief justice of Pakistan was arrested and manhandled is another instance. Musharraf needlessly brought on this continuing and evolving crisis which he could have done without. Now, the whole legal fraternity -- important opinion makers -- is up in arms.