Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Red Mosque Backlash Beginning

There is a bit of debate over whether Gen. Musharraf's order to storm the Red Mosque will help or hurt his position at home.

Some observers are claiming that the Pakistani strongman has shown needed resolve and the nation will gain stability from a more aggressive strategy against Muslim fundamentalists.
Analysts say Musharraf's degree of success in rehabilitating his political image with a forceful stand against Islamic militants will depend in part on the final toll in the mosque conflict; the extent to which the slain cleric, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, is embraced as a martyr; and whether there is a significant backlash from the country's many extremist Islamist groups, which in the past have proved capable of staging suicide attacks.

"These events could enfeeble or embolden him," Samir Puri, a defense analyst at Rand Europe, said of Musharraf, an army general who seized power eight years ago. "If he is seen to have been decisive and as having acted in the interests of maintaining law and order, this will emphasize his claim, and the army's, to being the custodians of the nation." ...

Pakistani authorities, who in recent months have restricted media coverage of protests triggered by Musharraf's suspension of the country's reform-minded chief justice, limited journalists' access to the scene of the fighting, keeping them several hundred yards away. Journalists also were denied access to hospitals where wounded were taken.

Over the last year, as Al Qaeda and the Taliban have regrouped in Pakistan's tribal areas, Musharraf has come under pressure from the Bush administration to rein in Islamic militants, who are believed to retain close ties to Pakistan's military intelligence establishment.

Analysts said it was too soon to tell whether the mosque assault presaged a wider crackdown.

Rand is fielding a large roster of experts on the question:

Some believe the assault on the Red Mosque shows a turnabout, with the government acknowledging that extremism has gotten out of hand. "There is a realization that monsters develop ideas of their own," says Najmuddin Shaikh, a former foreign secretary of Pakistan.

Others suggest that there could be more pragmatic motivations, like self-preservation. "It is to [Musharraf's] advantage to be viewed as taking a stand against extremism," says Seth Jones, a terrorism expert at Rand Corp., a research group in Washington. "There may be a political intent in doing this."

Yet the need for continued action is pressing, say Dr. Jones and others. Since Muslim extremists were rousted from Afghanistan in 2001, Pakistan's border areas – once loosely governed by a patchwork of tribes – have become a breeding-ground for global terrorism.

"[Intelligence agencies] and the Army are not able to control militants in that area," says Jones. "It is no longer a tribal area; it is a religious extremist area." ...

Indeed, news of the mosque raid prompted violent protests in such remote regions. Militants and students from madrassahs burned and looted the offices of the French Red Cross and Care International in one district of Northwest Frontier Province on Tuesday. Army and paramilitary troops had to be called to stabilize the situation.

In Peshawar, there are those with their doubts about the government's intentions, too. "Musharraf is doing all this to please the Americans," says Muhammad Arshad, a graduate from a religious seminary. "He is killing fellow Muslims to earn dollars."

There is concern with what actions the Islamists will undertake in retribution for Musharraf's move against the well-connected [see yesterday's post] mosque.

(A) religious leader who had been part of previous negotiations said the government was to blame for the failure of the talks and had made a hasty decision to conduct the raid, a decision it would later regret. "First it was one Red Mosque in Islamabad," said Maulana Abdul Majeed Hazarvi. "Now you will find Red Mosques everywhere." ...

On Tuesday, there was evidence that a backlash had already begun. In the North-West Frontier Province, bands of armed young men shut down a major highway, and religious leaders called for demonstrations elsewhere.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad urged American citizens to limit their movements in the northwestern city of Peshawar, the main gateway to the tribal areas.


Blogger Meatball One said...

Thanks for the concise and convenient Predator's-eye overview.

Most excellent MDB (Meatball's Daily Briefing). Reminds me of the old dayz.

7/11/2007 6:21 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...



7/12/2007 8:47 AM  

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