Madrassa near Peshawar, Capital of NWFP
Leader Tries to Convince Pentagon, NSC on Hardline Islamic Law
July 19: As the guest of a Christian organization which calls
itself “a Think Tank with Legs”, the Chief Minister
of Pakistan’s North-western Province, NWFP, Akram Khan Durrani,
has used the legs of the think tank to reach the Pentagon and
Washington’s thinking elite.
the Opposition religious coalition, Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA),
leader has been preaching the US decision-makers a word or two
about the controversial Hasba Act, the recently passed law which,
critics say, means Talibanization of Pakistan. It is being introduced
by the Provincial Government to appeal to its conservative constituency
in the backward province before the Local Government elections
later this month.
is the Law against which the Federal Government of General Pervez
Musharraf has petitioned the Supreme Court of Pakistan claiming
it was against the Constitution and should be declared null and
void. The MMA says it will contest forcibly in the SC.
I visited the Pentagon and gave them a copy of the Hasba Act,”
Durrani (above) told the South Asia Tribune on Saturday
night, explaining that it was not at all odd that he was trying
to convince Washington that the Act was not meant to Talibanize
the Pakistani society.
Durrani has been in Washington from July 9-19 as guest of Institute
for Global Engagement (IGE) which, according to its web site,
was “created to develop sustainable environments for religious
freedom worldwide, and to inspire and equip emerging leaders with
faith-based methodologies of engagement.”
Founded by Robert A. Seiple, the first-ever US Ambassador-at-Large
for International Religious Freedom, “IGE uniquely combines
strategic analysis with an operational component that seeks solutions
to complex political and religious problems in difficult parts
of the world.”
“In this age of widespread
religious conflict, pluralism, and change, finding such solutions
requires a deep understanding of geopolitical realities as well
as an approach that is "shrewd as snakes and innocent as
doves," the web site of IGE says.
To meet this challenge, IGE partners
with governments, religious organizations, scholars, practitioners,
and international advocacy groups to take on innovative projects
that strike at the root of religious intolerance and educate emerging
leaders to take religion seriously in their consideration of international
a "think tank with legs," or if you're feeling less
poetic, a "think-and-do-tank." What does that mean?
We recognize that thinking is simply our initial step. We're also
committed to praying and acting on the basis of our thought and
research,” the IGE web site explains.
Chief Minister Durrani has been in Washington with his three sons,
one Principal Officer and an Interpreter, all hosted by IGE for
11 days in the US capital and New York. “I had a wonderful
trip, my children also saw America and we had good meetings with
National Security Council and Pentagon officials. I gave every
one a copy of the Hasba Act,” Durrani told the South
The religious leader from the
radically Islamized province has been trying in all his meetings
to convince the Americans that his party was not as radical as
perceived and they could do business with the Americans on the
same terms as any one else.
But as a slip of his tongue in one of the TV interviews, Durrani
claimed that after he explained the provisions of the Hasba Act
to Pentagon officials, they almost approved it and gave a green
light to go ahead. But he quickly stopped making the remark to
other media channels and when he was specifically asked by South
Asia Tribune whether he was able to convince the Pentagon,
he was non-committal and said it was for Pentagon to give their
He was asked whether the Hasba Act, now in the Supreme Court of
Pakistan after it was challenged by the Federal Government as
violative of the Constitution, would still be pursued if the Court
ruled against the MMA, and whether MMA would accept the Court
decision, Durrani was a little uncomfortable answering the question
saying “Let us think positively as our legal brains have
studied the Act in detail and they can successfully argue that
it does not come into conflict with the Constitution.”
Durrani was, however, almost sure after his round of meetings
with think tanks and NSC/Pentagon officials in Washington that
his Government in NWFP would not be dismissed by General Musharraf
because of the Hasba Act.
“I did say that we will
wreak havoc if Governor’s Rule was imposed, but I am sure
that stage would never be reached as we have worked with the Center
on many sensitive issues in the past and reached a mutually acceptable
solution,” he said.
Durrani could not convincingly respond to the question that by
bringing up the Hasba issue at this stage, the Opposition MMA
had actually played into the hands of the Musharraf Government
and diverted the focus of national politics from the up-coming
unity talks and a possible alliance between the MMA, PPP and PML-N
on the more basic issue of getting rid of a military dictator.
“We are talking to the Opposition
parties for a joint struggle at the Federal level but provinces
can legislate and opposition to local laws does not mean we would
stop talking to each other at all levels,” he said.
Yet the fact is that MMA has hijacked
the national agenda by introducing and passing the Hasba Act in
a hurry which prompted other major parties including PPP to sharply
attack the MMA and condemn it. No one would have been happier
than General Musharraf with this political move.
MMA itself is almost in a win-win situation because if the Hasba
Act is enforced, they will have a new Islamic Police at their
command which can ultimately be used politically against the Center
and other political opponents.
the other hand, if the Act is not allowed by the Supreme Court
or if the NWFP Assembly is dismissed, MMA would emerge as “martyrs
of Islam” and would be able to recruit more supporters for
its hardline policies.