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Pakistan in Crisis: Situation Critical

May 22, 2007
By: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

In Pakistan sectarian tensions are soaring, persecution of Christians is
intensifying, lawlessness is increasing, security and liberty are
failing fast, Islamisation and Talibanisation are taking root in
Islamabad, and in the midst of Musharraf\'s political crisis a stand-off
at the Lal Masjid approaches boiling point.

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PAKISTAN IN CRISIS: SITUATION CRITICAL
- the inevitable consequence of systematic Islamisation.
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Pakistan\'s present state of crisis is not going to be a quick violent
spasm because it is not an anomaly. Rather, it is the inevitable
consequence of at least two and a half decades of systematic state and
Saudi sponsored (Sunni) Islamisation which has continued post 9/11
despite all the rhetoric to the contrary.

Since 9/11 Pakistan\'s President Musharraf has persistently played two
hands at once. Musharraf, a military general who seized power in a
military coup, has allied Pakistan with the US in the War on Terror in
exchange for military aid. Meanwhile he has allied himself to the
pro-Sharia, pro-Taliban, Islamist Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA: an
alliance of six Islamist parties) in exchange for votes in the National
Assembly.

The MMA, an avowed enemy of secularisation, progress and "enlightened
moderation", is a minor party that has become disproportionately
powerful because it holds the balance of power in Pakistan\'s National
Assembly. Yet this situation was engineered by Musharraf himself, for as
was noted in the WEA RLC News & Analysis posting of 12 December 2006
entitled "Pakistan: Musharraf\'s Manoeuvring - could see persecution
escalate through 2007", the elections were rigged specifically to ensure
that Islamists would be present in force in the National Assembly for
Musharraf\'s purposes. (Link 1)

As President Musharraf makes quid pro quo deals with the MMA to advance
his agenda, which is to stay in power and in uniform, he empowers the
MMA to advance its agenda, the Islamisation of Pakistan.

Further to this, President Musharraf has always relied on evidence of
domestic Islamic fundamentalism, agitation and terrorism to legitimise
his military dictatorship, especially in Western eyes. For five years
Musharraf has preached "enlightened moderation" while at the same time
he has abjectly failed to bring about madrassa reform, rein in sectarian
violence (Sunni vs Shiite), or prevent Islamisation and Talibanisation
from taking root in Islamabad.

The situation may well have passed the point of no return. Pakistani
society is fracturing violently along political, sectarian and ethnic
lines; even the military is showing signs of political and ethnic
fracture. Islamists (Sunni) are exploiting the present lawlessness and
political instability to advance their agenda. So we are seeing
persecution escalate to the point that Christians are being driven from
their homes and extreme Islamist legislation is progressing through the
National Assembly without objection.

Whilst this might sound alarmist, it is highly probably that before this
year is over Pakistan\'s Christians (comprising three percent of a
population of 160 million) may well be facing catastrophe - just like
their Iraqi brethren - as their liberty and security situation rapidly
morphs from difficult but hopeful to catastrophic and out of control,
thanks to lawlessness, sectarianism, Islamisation and political
paralysis. The short and medium term future for the beleaguered
Christian minority is looking very bleak indeed.

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SECURITY AND LIBERTY FAILING FAST
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SECURITY: LAWLESSNESS AND SECTARIANISM SOARING

As a member of a minority community, Pakistan\'s founding father Muhammed
Ali Jinnah, a Shia, was keen to establish religious liberty as a core
principle of Pakistan. Likewise the Bhuttos, as minority Shiites, have
stood on a platform of religious liberty, equality and secularism.

However over the past two and a half decades Saudi Arabia and the USA
have both pumped money into Pakistan to advance their own interests. The
Saudis started investing massively in Sunni-majority Pakistan after
Iran\'s 1979 Islamic (Shiite) Revolution to create a Sunni fundamentalist
bulwark against Shiism on Iran\'s eastern border. The USA started
investing in Pakistan in 1980, funding the mujahideen\'s jihad against
the Communists.

The combined effect is that Pakistan has been turned into a veritable
factory for Sunni fundamentalist Deobani and Wahhabi ideologues and
mujahideen. But Pakistan is (like Iraq but to a lesser degree) a
Sunni-Shia sectarian fault-line state. Pakistan has the world\'s second
largest Shiite population after Iran. (Pakistan\'s Shiite population is
estimated at up to 20 percent. Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia both have
Shiite populations of around 15 percent). Deobandi and Wahhabi Sunni
Islam condemns Shiites as apostates. So as Saudi-sponsored, vehemently
anti-Shia, Sunni fundamentalism has taken root and grown in Pakistan
since the 1980s, Sunni vs Shiite sectarian tension and violence
escalated, with Saudi Arabia and Iran funding and training their proxies
in the struggle for dominance in the Muslim world.

According to sources as many as 4,000 people are estimated to have died
in Sunni vs Shiite sectarian fighting in Pakistan in the last two
decades and the conflict is intensifying. Pakistani Shiites have
historically been linked to Najaf (Iraq), not Iran. But the explosion of
Sunni-sponsored, anti-Shiite Wahhabism led many Pakistani Shiites to
seek training in Qom (Iran). Sectarian violence has further escalated
since the war in Iraq took on sectarian tones. And as is common, when
Sunni vs Shiite sectarian violence escalates, so does violence against
Christians.

On Friday 6 April, Sunni militants shot at Shiites as they were gathered
at their mosque in Parachinar, about 150 miles southwest of Peshawar,
the capital of the highly Islamised and Talibanised North West Frontier
Province (NWFP). Normally Pakistan\'s minority Shiite communities absorb
the violence against them, which includes targeted killings and mosque
bombings. But Parachinar is a majority Shiite town and this time the
Shiites retaliated violently, burning down some 400 Sunni-owned shops
and homes. At least 40 people were killed and more than 40 were wounded.
(Link 2) (This may well have been a deliberate attempt to provoke a
Shiite response that would elicit an even more violent and wider Sunni
"response".)

Christians in Charsadda district on the north-eastern outskirts of
Peshawar have since been threatened with severe consequences if they
fail to either flee or convert to Islam. Over recent months local market
stalls trading in the "un-Islamic" (such as music, videos, fashion, and
haircuts) have been bombed and threatened. Likewise, girls in Charsadda
and neighbouring Mardan districts have been threatened with
"consequence" if they don\'t stop attending school. Girls Higher
Secondary School at Gumbat, Mardan district, was bombed in the early
morning of Friday 4 May. The region is being systematically cleansed,
purged of all that is un-Islamic; Islamised by force and threat of
death. The situation for Christians in Charsadda and throughout NWFP is
intolerable. (Link 3)

But Islamisation and Talibanisation are no longer problems confined to
NWFP or western Pakistan in general. Islamisation and Talibanisation are
spreading eastwards across Pakistan like an air-borne virus. Pakistan\'s
national capital and nerve-centre, Islamabad, and the National Assembly
are both succumbing.

LIBERTY: APOSTASY ACT 2006

On 9 May, the MMA tabled its Apostasy Act 2006 in Pakistan\'s National
Assembly. According to this Act, a male apostate (one who leaves Islam)
would receive the death penalty and a female apostate would be
imprisoned for life or until she \'repents\'. Apostates would also forfeit
their property and lose legal custody of their children. The testimony
of just two adult witnesses would be sufficient grounds for conviction
in apostasy cases.

Pakistan\'s Daily Times reports: "The government did not oppose the bill
and sent it to the standing committee concerned. If passed, the bill
will over-ride all other laws in force at present. The bills\' section 4
states that apostasy can be proved if the accused confesses to the
\'offence\' in court or at least two adult witnesses appear in court
against the accused.

"Section 5 states that the court should give a proven apostate at least
three days or a month at the maximum to return to Islam. If he refuses,
he should be awarded the death sentence.

"Section 6 states that a pardoned apostate can face rigorous or simple
imprisonment, extendible to two years, if he commits the offence for the
second or third time. In case of the fourth commission he will be liable
to death sentence, it adds.

"Section 8 proposes suspending all rights of the accused over property.
If the accused is awarded death, the part of the property, which he
owned before committing the offence, will be transferred to his Muslim
heirs. It states that the property rights of a female apostate will
remain suspended till her death or penitence. In case of her penitence,
the rights will be restored and after death, her property will be
treated the same way as adopted for male apostates." (Link 4)

Shockingly, the National Assembly "did not oppose the bill". Furthermore
during the same session the Assembly rejected a draft bill moved by NA
minority member Mr BP Bhandara which sought to amend the existing
blasphemy law.


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ISLAMISATION AND TALIBANISATION OF ISLAMABAD
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Government inaction (or complicity) has enabled Sunni fundamentalists to
establish themselves in the heart of Islamabad. Only about a mile away
from the Prime Minister\'s Secretariat, the Supreme Court and the
Parliament is a mosque-madrassa complex run by two hard-line, Sunni
fundamentalist brothers. The complex comprises the Lal Masjid (Red
Mosque) which is run by Maulana Abdul Aziz, and two madrassas: the Jamia
Hafsa (for burqa-clad girls) and Jamia Faridia (for bearded male
students), which are run by his brother Abdur Rashid Ghazi.

The madrassas, which are believed to be linked to domestic and
international terrorism, have some 7,000 students. The brothers have
established a Sharia Court, issued fatwas and launched a city-wide
campaign against "vice".

According to Kanchan Lakshman, writing for Asia Times, Pakistan\'s
Capital Development Authority has reportedly declared 87 mosques in
Islamabad to be illegal, some of them built on public land. After the
authorities demolished several illegally built mosques the warriors of
the Lal Masjid complex (which was built illegally on public land) sprang
into action.

After a brigade of armed Jamia Hafsa burqa-clad females kidnapped
"prostitutes", held them hostage, forcibly and illegally occupied a
children\'s library and threatened wide-scale suicide bombings and
terror, the President of the ruling Muslim League (PML-Q), Chaudhry
Shujat, entered into negotiations with Abdul Aziz and Ghazi Abdul
Rasheed in search of a "peaceful settlement". (Link 5)

According to Pervez Hoodbhoy\'s comment in the Guardian, "Chaudhray
described the burka brigade kidnappers as \'our daughters\', with whom
negotiations would continue and against whom \'no operation could be
contemplated\'.

"Clerics realise that the government wants to play ball. Their initial
demand - the rebuilding of eight illegally constructed mosques that had
been knocked down by Islamabad\'s civic administration - became a call
for enforcement of Sharia law across Pakistan. In a radio broadcast on
April 12, the clerics issued a threat: \'There will be suicide blasts in
the nook and cranny of the country. We have weapons, grenades, and we
are expert in manufacturing bombs. We are not afraid of death.\' " (Link 6)

Kanchan Lakshman (Asia Times) reports the cleric\'s demands include, "the
rebuilding of demolished mosques in Islamabad; immediate declaration of
sharia (Islamic) law in Pakistan; immediate promulgation of the Koran
and Sunnah in the courts of law; and \'immediate discontinuation to
declaring jihad as terrorism by the government, as it is the great
sacred religious duty of Muslims\' ".

According to G Parthasarathy, a columnist with the Daily Pioneer, "The
Government has agreed to reconstruct the seven illegal mosques it had
pulled down. It has also agreed to act against alleged centres of
prostitution. The clerics have refused to close down their shari\'ah
court and remain firm on their demands for the introduction of
shari\'ah." (Link 7)

Kanchan Lakshman (Asia Times) reports: "The Wafaq-ul-Madaris, Pakistan\'s
main and influential confederacy of seminaries, which runs about 8,200
institutions, has supported the extremist program of the Lal Masjid
brigade. The confederacy\'s secretary general, Qari Mohammad Hanif
Jhalandari, announced on April 15: \'We are in complete support of their
four demands - to enforce the sharia in Pakistan, have the government
rebuild all the mosques it destroyed, close down all dens of vice across
the country, and change the Women\'s Protection Act in line with the
Koran and Sunnah.\' "

The government is now in the process of providing land for the
demolished mosques. As Parthasarathy notes (Daily Pioneer), Islamists
around the nation will be watching and learning from the La Masjid and
are likely to follow suit. "The process of Talibanisation moving
eastwards from the NWFP appears to have commenced. In Lahore, the
student wing of the Jamat-e-Islami, the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, has
beaten up \'un-Islamic\' students and proclaimed \'Islamisation\' of the
campus."

And the stand-off with the Lal Masjid is far from over. In fact the
situation is approaching boiling point. On 18 May students abducted four
police officers (two have since been released). Students have barricaded
the streets, declaring that if the authorities make any moves against
the complex, then Islamabad will face jihad. According to the Pakistan
Tribune the mosque\'s loudspeakers are playing jihadi songs, and
pamphlets have been distributed claiming that some 500 members of the
banned militant group Lashkar-e-Jahngvi have entered Islamabad in
preparation for jihad against the government forces who they falsely
claim are largely Shiite. (Link 8)

Pervez Hoodbhoy (Guardian) writes, "In a sense, the inevitable is coming
to pass. Until a few years ago, Islamabad was a quiet, orderly, modern
city no different from any other in Pakistan. Still earlier, it was
largely the abode of Pakistan\'s elite and foreign diplomats. But the
rapid transformation of its demography brought with it hundreds of
mosques with multi-barrelled audio cannons mounted on minarets, as well
as scores of madrasas, illegally constructed in what used to be public
parks and green areas. Now, tens of thousands of their students with
prayer caps dutifully chant the Qu\'ran all day. In the evenings, they
roam in packs through the city\'s streets and bazaars, gaping at store
windows and lustfully ogling bare-faced women.

"The stage is being set for transforming Islamabad into a Taliban
stronghold. When Musharraf exits - which may be sooner rather than later
- he will leave a bitter legacy that will last for generations, all for
a little more taste of power."

MUSHARRAF\'S EXIT ?

Musharraf is facing a major political crisis caused by his 9 March
suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. (Link 9)

This is not a trivial hiccup or passing spasm either. Stratfor
Intelligence comments: ". . . with each passing day Musharraf appears to
be losing his hold on power. Musharraf\'s own constituency, the military,
is beginning to show signs of concern - even his close generals are now
privately admitting things have gotten out of hand." (Geopolitical
Diary, 16 May)

Pakistan\'s descent into chaos is now virtually guaranteed, as Sunnis
provoke and clash with Shiites, Islamists provoke and clash with
"enlightened moderates" and secularists, and Islamisation and
Talibanisation become entrenched in the very heart of the nation.

Once again, it looks like Pakistanis will be left in need of military
"rescue". No doubt there will be plenty of sponsors keen to hand
Musharraf (or whichever general is in charge) yet more financial aid for
the sake of "stability". It is not surprising that some commentators are
wondering if the entire Lal Masjid affair is "a government ruse". (Link 10)

Elizabeth Kendal
rl-research@crossnet.org.au

Links

1) WEA RLC News & Analysis, 12 December 2006
"PAKISTAN: MUSHARRAF\'S MANOEUVRING
- could see persecution escalate through 2007"
By Elizabeth Kendal
http://ea.org.au/default.aspx?id=f067ba32-88da-48fb-bca3-b4aec68a24a3

2) 40 Killed in Pakistan in Sectarian Clashes. 7 April 2007
Gun battles flare between Sunni, Shiite Muslims, homes burned in
Northwestern Pakistan.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/04/07/world/main2660296.shtml
ALSO
40 Killed, 70 Hurt in NWFP
Azhar Masood & Agencies
PESHAWAR, 8 April 2007
http://www.arabnews.com/?article=94689

3) Pakistan Christians demand help. BBC 16 May 2007
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6663305.stm
ALSO
WEA Religious Liberty Prayer (RLP) 429, 16 May 2007
Pakistan: Christians Defying Purge in the NW Frontier Province
http://www.worldevangelicalalliance.com/news/view.htm?id=1113

4) - fails to oppose death for apostasy draft. 9 May 2007
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C05%5C09%5Cstory_9-5-2007_pg1_7

LAL MASJID and the ISLAMISATION OF ISLAMABAD

Profile: Islamabad\'s red madrassa
By Syed Shoaib Hasan. 28 March 2007
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6503477.stm
Anti-madrassa protest in Pakistan. 5 April 2007
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6530935.stm
ALSO
\'Their business is jihad\' 20 March 2007
Declan Walsh visits Islamabad\'s Red Mosque, a hotbed of Islamic
militancy at the heart of Pakistan\'s capital.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/pakistan/Story/0,,2038568,00.html

Three excellent pieces on the Islamisation and Talibanisation of Islamabad.

5) More muscle to Pakistan\'s madrassas
By Kanchan Lakshman 25 April 2007
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/ID25Df02.html
This report includes details of US financial aid to Pakistan, "US$4.75
billion to date".)

6) Islamabad succumbs
Pakistan\'s president is doing nothing to prevent the country\'s capital
from becoming a Taliban stronghold. By Pervez Hoodbhoy. 17 May 2007
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/pervez_hoodbhoy/2007/05/islamabad_succumbs.html

7) Talibanisation of Islamabad. By G Parthasarathy
http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnist1.asp?main_variable=Columnist&
file_name=parthasarathy%2Fparthasarathy137.txt&writer=parthasarathy

8) 500 members of banned outfit enter Federal Capital
20 May 2007.
http://www.paktribune.com/news/index.shtml?178762
Lal Masjid students held positions at mosque, Jamia Hafsa
20 May 2007.
http://www.paktribune.com/news/index.shtml?178763

POLITICAL CRISIS

9) Pakistan judge: Fight for rule of law. 5 May 2007
http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/05/05/pakistan.judicial.ap/index.html
ALSO
How Pakistan\'s Sacked Judge Became a National Hero
By Ghulam Hasnain in Karachi for TIME. 8 May 2007
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1618546,00.html

10) \'Lal Masjid standoff a government ruse\'
By Khalid Hasan. 22 May 2007
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C05%5C22%5Cstory_22-5-2007_pg7_10

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