religious zealots protest in Islamabad (Left, Below), jailed after
Musharraf crack down
at Crossroads Facing United Militants, Divided Leaders
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
July 24: Very much like in the post-September 11 days, Pakistan
is once again standing at a crossroad between the military and
the mosque following the bomb attacks in London on July 7.
a major difference now is that the US and the United Kingdom are
watching Pakistan's every action with unrelenting vigilance, which
could force President General Pervez Musharraf to take action
that will place him on a path of confrontation with various religious
and political elements in the country.
As an important ally in the US-led
"war on terror", and given that three of the four London
bombers are said to have visited Pakistan within in a year prior
to the attacks, Musharraf had to act, both quickly and firmly.
As a result, security forces have
detained about 300 suspected Islamist extremists in raids on religious
schools and other centers across the country.
Within Pakistan, though, this
has had an almost immediate and potentially dangerous effect:
there is a split within the corridors of power, and complete harmony
among the previously splintered underground militant organizations,
developed within days to fight back against government pressures.
Musharraf's televised address
to the nation on Thursday was in effect a public announcement
of a divorce between the military and the mosque. For the first
time, although without citing its name, he called the influential
Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) , the country's largest religious group,
a regressive force.
were the ones who declared Jihad-i-Kashmir un-Islamic in 1948
[referring to the statement of the founder of the JI, Syed Maudoodi,
that sending Wazir tribespeople to liberate Kashmir was un-Islamic,
that war should be declared by the state and not by private citizens]
and now they are disturbing the peace process between India and
The most significant part of the
speech was Musharraf's condemnation of the JI's role in 1971 when
it ran the "Bangladesh unacceptable" movement demanding
that the rulers not recognize Bangladesh after the fall of Dhaka.
(The JI's militant wing, al-Badr, fought side-by-side with the
Pakistani army against Bengali separatists and the Indian army
in the former East Pakistan. )
Now, the key question is whether
the Pakistani army as an institution approves this divorce from
On Thursday, police raided the
core of Islamic madrassas (seminaries), the Binori Town Islamic
Seminary in Karachi, and detained several foreign students. The
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a powerful alliance of six religious/political
parties, has responded by calling for nationwide protests.
How the masses react to the government
crackdown on madrassas is, however, secondary.
The central issue is that several
underground militant organizations have linked in preparation
for retaliatory action against the government if it, under immense
Western pressure, carries out "real" actions.
Previously, most "crackdowns"
were were a setup - militant groups were taken into confidence
before members were arrested, and asked to be patient until the
storm blew over. Now, both the militant groups and the army know
that they cannot fool around as the US and the UK are both serious.
The case of one Haseeb Hussain raises questions. The 16-year-old
Briton of Pakistani origin was pinpointed as one of the four London
bombers, and according to Pakistani immigration officials he visited
Pakistan last July via Saudi Arabia.
Haseeb Hussain and his father have been interviewed at their High
Wycombe home in England by Pakistani TV station ARY. "I first
saw my photograph on Channel 4 [news] and I was terrified,"
the boy told ARY. "I didn't want people looking at me saying,
hey, you are supposed to be dead," he told ARY. "Or
someone saying that there goes the London bomber." His father
told ARY that the family had indeed visited Karachi via Saudi
Arabia. He appealed for British and Pakistani authorities to clear
up the confusion.
Mujahid, a spokesperson of Jamaatudawa (formerly known as the
Lashkar-e-Tayyaba), also took issue with reports that have surfaced
about another of the bombers, Shahzad Tanweer.
whole story is built with bad intentions. Most of the allegations
leveled against us are false. Even the story of Shahzad Tanweer,
that he attended a madrassa at Mureedkey [headquarters of Jamaatudawa]
is false. In fact, according to his uncle's statement, he attended
a madrassa near Lahore. There are dozens of madrassas near Lahore
and he need not necessarily have gone to Jamaatudawa. Secondly,
he also spent time with Tableeghi Jamaat, which is [ideologically]
contrary to Jamaatudawa in all aspects. How come would he wear
two hats at the same time?" asked Yahya.
such baseless allegations they are aiming to put us behind bars.
Are we only here to be rounded up? Don't we have any human rights?"
Yahya asked. "We condemned the London bombing. It was murder
of civilians, which just cannot be approved," Yahya maintained.
Reports of differences between Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and
Musharraf have been circulating for some months, but they appear
to be coming to a head. Shaukat recently called on all heads of
law-enforcing agencies and asked them to report directly to his
Shaukat also flexed his muscles
when, on the instructions of President House, Brigadier Javed
Cheema of the Crisis Management Cell led an operation against
Lal Masjid Islamic Seminaries in Islamabad and detained several
dozen students and teachers.
Shaukat asked the concerned police
officials why they had acted without his permission, and issued
an order for the immediate suspension and transfer from the service
of all the top police officials of Islamabad. The arrested teachers
and students were released.
Shaukat is proving more ambitious
than Musharraf would like, with the premier wanting to be powerful
and the person to whom all intelligence agencies and law-enforcing
agencies report. This puts him on a collision course with Musharraf.
After rounding up the editorial staff of several pro-jihadi publications,
the government issued notices to 17 different media organizations,
including the two top-most newspaper groups, telling them that
support of any "unscrupulous" group would be tantamount
to meddling in the "war on terror" and that the government
would take strong action, including arrests and seizure of publications.
message from Musharraf is clear: you are either with us or against
us. The government has also approached the US government and asked
it to monitor some Washington-based Pakistani journalists and
scholars who are disseminating misinformation against the Musharraf
government, and in this manner disturbing his drive against terrorism.
writer is Bureau Chief, Pakistan, Asia Times Online. He can be
reached at email@example.com This article appeared
on July 23, 2005 on Asia Times Online