Sunday, December 11, 2005

Pakistan Watch

Gen. Pervez MusharrafWomen’s marathonThere’s trouble brewing in Pakistan — big trouble, the kind that comes when state religion begins to scuffle for power with secular government. And to scuffle more adroitly.

President Musharraf has his hands full; many consider his ability to survive so far quite remarkable. Despite his maneuvers against MMA, the large and powerful Islamist party (these were the people who raised such a brouhaha about women running in marathons, even women in burqas were suspect) seems to be winning the war for hearts and minds. According to Adnkronos International,
     Pakistan's federal government has decided to conduct a major operation against religious leaders who last year asked people not to say the funeral prayers of any soldier who died in fighting rebels in South Waziristan, along the Afghan border. However, there is tension in the capital Islamabad, where law enforcement agencies are on high alert to clamp down on influential clerics, but the fear of fierce retaliation has to date prevented them from proceeding.
Don’t forget that Pakistan is the same place where there were riots over the alleged desecration of the Koran at Gitmo; it’s the same country that raised money for a bounty on the head of the Danish cartoonist(s) who’d dared to draw a picture of Mohammed; and this is the cultural sink which practices an interesting form of Islamic divorce: throwing acid in the face of one’s wife and then waiting for her to die of the burns. Costs about fifty cents.

In Pakistan, abuse of women has been estimated at 80% or more. In the rural areas, honor horrors like the gang rape doled out to Mukhtar Mai are common. That’s why the fact that she is still alive even though she fought back against an entrenched system makes her survival seem so miraculous. We cannot help but admire those who manage to transcend brutal limits and even improve the lives of those around them in the process.

Many Pakistanis admire the Taliban. The “rebels” on the Afghan border are largely composed of Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. How they might feel about these people when the fundamentalists took over and the music died could be another matter. For the moment, influential clerics have the stage and they’re using it to good effect:
     In an attempt to clamp down on this campaign against the army, the two leading clerics at the Lal Masjid, Maulana Abdul Aziz and Maulana Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, are already under siege. Last week, Pakistan's interior ministry issued a notification in which it termed the two brothers Maulana Abdul Aziz and Maulana Ghazi Abdul Rasheed as “Badmash Basta Alif” or high-level hoodlums. However, security agencies have not conducted any raids to arrest them.
These two brothers run two schools, one for girls and one for boys. When the police tried to take on the girls’ school many of the students were hurt and the public outcry forced Musharraf to back off.

Pakistan has made some strides in moving toward the 16th century but it has a long row to hoe. After all, this is the country of the madrassas that the Saudis funded, this is the black hole American Islamists come to learn their terror training, this is the country of origin for the families of the “British” men who bombed the London trains. It is the land of the treacherous atomic scientist, A. Q. Khan, and it is the source of much of the trouble for India, its sworn enemy.

Maybe that’s the problem. A country which divides itself because one group thinks itself better than the other may not ever be at peace with itself. It must move toward ever more rigid interpretations of the deeply-imbedded sense of superiority which led to partition in the first place. Consider where the American South might have gone culturally had it won its attempt to sunder The Union. A pyrrhic victory, indeed.

Afghanistan has its problems and sorrows. A country which depends on opium as a large part of its GDP is on shaky ground. But Afghanistan got a full taste of the Taliban flavor of Islam and they’re not going back there any time soon. Their elections and the stance they have taken on education for girls, on alliances with the West -- just to name a few good decisions since the American invasion – place their feet firmly on the road to modernity.

Poor Pakistan has not had the room to make that decision. And this crowded, easily-led-to-hysterics populace has no space in which to think about the consequences of its reactive stance on trivia. Those who cannot distinguish between the frivolity of a cartoon and the seriousness of radioactive weapons are in real trouble.

Considering the global reach of what would, in an earlier time, simply have been a small, far-away country, we’d best pay attention to what they’re doing. The Danish government takes their reactive lunacy seriously. So should we.

Hat tip: Counterterrorism Blog.


bordergal said...

Afghanis don't have to go back to the Dark Ages of the Taliban, in many ways they are still there.

From Diana West:

Mohaqeq Nasab, the Afghan editor already sentenced to two years hard labor for "blasphemy" against Islam. Now, Afghan prosecutors want to put him to death.
Why? The Muslim editor of Women's Rights magazine published articles in post-Taliban Afghanistan that criticized aspects of Islamic law, including the penalties of stoning for adultery, amputation for theft, and death for leaving Islam.

"Sometimes the whole religion and the rules of the religion were attacked," explained Muhammed Aref Rahmani, who sits on Afghanistan's council of Islamic scholars.

Attacked? "For instance," Mr. Rahmani told the Chicago Tribune, "he says one woman should be equal to one man, as a witness in a case, which is completely against our religion."...

So much for post-Taliban — and, come to think of it, post-Operation-Enduring-Freedom — life in Afghanistan. Maybe the more useful exercise here is not to wonder how we became midwife to a theocratic police state but to see what we can learn from it. One thing is clear: where Islam is protected from so-called blasphemy, freedom of conscience and freedom of speech — let alone women's rights — are not....

al fin said...

Since Pakistan is a nuclear state, the US would be forced to back a military coup should the islamists win control of the government in elections.

The majority of Pakistanis in Pakistan have IQs below 85. This makes them too unintelligent to be trained to live in a modern country, except as unskilled labor. The religious clerics may be slightly brighter, but barely.

The elites who currently run things are split politically, so a military dictatorship would be very harsh, necessarily, to maintain control.

Papa Ray said...

bordergal beat me to it, posting how Islam is showing itself to be the enemy of almost all that is right and decent.

Islam is the problem.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Dymphna said...

border gal-

I don't argue that Afghanistan is a modern state. My thesis is that it is better off than it was under the Taleban and while they continue to fight off the Taleban, any modernization efforts will be very, very slow.

However, you don't see the screaming hysteria that you do in Pakistan. Nor or American citizens being trained as terrorists on a regular basis by Afghanistan.

Saudi money flows to the borders of Iran, but it is everywhere in Pakistan, funding salafist Islamism.

There is a difference and the people who went to vote in Afghanistan would tell you there is a difference. That doesn't mean there aren't still outrages.

I don't expect the Muslim nations to recognize women as equals in this century, and I am surprised that any magazine exists at all whose focus is Women's Rights...that seems at best premature, like several dozen steps have been skipped in order to get to the pc stuff.

OTOH, I never expected the Berlin Wall to come down or Soviet Russia to implode. So who knows??

We did not mid-wife a theocratic state in Afghanistan. It was grandfathered into any arrangement we helped broker. All we did was break up the Taleban, chase Osama into the woodwork, get the voting started, and begin to improve the infrastructure of a country which has been destroyed in a generation of war.

And the music is playing again. And girls are in school, and women are being permitted to earn a living.

We are merely the bumbling US, we're not God.

Dymphna said...

al fin-

where in the world did you get the stats on the IQs of the Pakistanis?

Are you being facetious?

I agree with your assessment of what would happen if they are successfull in killing Musharraf. He's been dancing across a minefield for a long time. I never expected him to last this long.

goesh said...

IMHO - if Musharaaf falls and fundamentalists take over, we better take out their nukes and fast.

bordergal said...

IQ of nations: This table says Pakistan rates in at 81.
Unfortunately, being smart is no guarantee of a decent society, the average in North Korea is 104.

Dymphna, my point is that Afghanistan will not progress if they kill off their reformer. Although many changes have been made, they are very much at risk of backsliding and this development worries me.
I think that the international commumity needs to give them a hand, as it were through the application of diplomatic and financial pressure.

airforcewife said...

I, too, am shocked that Musharraf has held on so long without being killed.

He must know that it's only a matter of time, and as much as we look to the progress he has made and the regression he has prevented in society, I still can't forget that he's a nasty piece of work himself.

I've also noticed that he seems younger looking now than he did before the coup... we surmise that he's been regularly dining on the blood of the innocent. God knows the rest of the Middle East rulers look like the portrait of Dorian Grey.

Dymphna said...


we've done much to train the Afghan Army, and pretty much from scratch. Not only do they come to West Point, West Point goes to them. Their new military school holds great hope of a decently-trained, liberty-loving military. As one man said, he is proud to be paid to defend his country.

As the Rand Corp has reported, it is the terrorists' staging grounds in Pakistan that is causing the country problems. And it is causing problems for Musharraf also, as he wrestles with them and with the fundamentalist clerics who back them.