lal masjid 88 courtesy.
(photo credit: )
The storming of the Red Mosque in Islamabad by Pakistani security forces has intensified the debate over the future of Pakistan. The crisis has been brewing for several months and in hindsight Musharraf should have taken action much sooner but various political considerations discouraged him from dealing with the problem.
Pakistan is facing a volatile future as it came to terms with decades of Islamisation, which will have tremendous implications for the region, as an Islamist Pakistan will pose a clear and immediate threat to India, as well as to Pakistan's other neighbors: Iran and possibly Afghanistan and China.
The father of modern day Pakistan, Mohamed Ali Jinnah (Quaid-e-Azzam, Great Leader) envisioned the creation of a Muslim state for British India's Muslim. Jinnah did not seek to create an Islamist state. However, Jinnah died within months of Pakistan's independence, and the country experienced a great change as the elite with the support of the military placed the country on the slippery-slop of Islamism (a system that embraces Islam and politics) as a way to ensure their dominance, (strict Islam calls for obedience, as seen in Saudi Arabia, where the House of Saud struck a holy alliance with Wahhabism, a strict interpretation of Islam).
As time passed, Pakistan increasingly adopted a more Islamic stance, which reached unparalleled level under Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988), who had two passions: Islam and Afghanistan. Under Zia, tremendous sums of money were spent on educating Pakistanis to be more Muslim leading to a proliferation of madrassahs(Muslims schools) which churned out thousands of radical Muslims who went to Afghanistan to partake in the jihad. Zia reportedly had close relations with Maulana Abdullah, the former head of the Lal Masjid, and the father of Maulana Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi.
The Red Mosque crisis is a culmination of a failure by the Pakistani state to deal with the continuous Islamic radicalization of Pakistani society. The decision by President Musharaf to sign a series of peace agreements with tribal leaders in the border areas of North and South Waziristan in 2005-06 ensured that the provinces where Taliban and Islamic indoctrination were strong remained outside government control. It also showed the Islamists that if they continue to fight, eventually the government will relent, sign a peace agreement and permit them to continue with their way of life and proselytizing activities.
When looking at the current situation in Pakistan, it is clear that Musharraf is between a rock and hard place. The Islamists are on the rise across the country and to that end they pose a serious threat to Musharaf's and Pakistan's survival. Liaquat Baluch, a leader of Muttehida Majlis Amal, an alliance of six Islamic political parties he recently declared, "He [Musharraf] is now become [sic] a threat to national security and has to be removed." At the same time, Musharaf is coming under tremendous pressure from the West and especially the United States to introduce democracy and political reform, which will ensure that the Islamists will contest the elections and will win seats (with enough seats at Parliament, they may even elect their type of president, as the president is elected by parliament).
Musharaf has largely been responsible for many of the problems that he currently faces, as he has worked very hard at alienating his internal supporters. This is best seen with Chief Justice case. Musharaf suspended Chaudhary over allegations of corruption and nepotism leading to a major anti-government and pro-democracy campaign which has seen secular parties working together with Islamist against the government. It has also led to Bhutto and Sharif, two former prime ministers of Pakistan to use Musharaf's policies to galvanize support in Pakistan and outside. Ironically people forget that it was under Benazir Bhutto that the Taliban emerged, whilst under Nawaz Sharif, Pakistani successfully tested its nuclear missiles (Sharif is also known to have a good ties with elements within the Pakistani Inter-Service intelligence, a nefarious government agency that promoted the Mujahideen and the Taliban).
Musharraf has also permitted the clamping down of the media because it has been highly critical of some of his policies. Finally, there has also been an increase in ethno-nationalist tensions with such organization as the Balochistan Liberation Army committing more attacks against the Pakistani state, as they strive for concessions and arguably an independent Balochistan.
The truth of the matter is that the only way to deal with the Islamic threat in Pakistan is by neutralising those in the military and the security services that support the Islamists, whether on doctrinal or realpolitik grounds. A second requirement is improving the socio-economic conditions of the majority of Pakistanis, of whom around 60% live in poverty. Many Pakistanis choose to send their children to Islamic schools because at least in those places, their children receive some food and some basic education. Ultimately, the only way to defeat the Islamists is by taking away potential recruits, which means embracing socio-economic, and political reform in the country and reducing the tremendous power wielded by the military and its agencies.
Dr. Issac Kfir is a lecturer on international relations at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy & Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya