Pakistan Update

cd-burn-fp.jpgLal Masjid / Jamia Hafsa has broken off talks with the government, and taken four police officers hostage. A FIR has been issued against 72 participants from the madrassa, which could be the prelude to government operations against the radical clerics of the madrassa. Abdul Aziz issued threats of suicide bombers across the country if the government acted, and also spoke out against music, co-education, and anything else that might bring a smile to someone’s face. From the Daily Times:

Police registered a case against the Lal Masjid administration on late Friday for snatching arms of four police officials and taking them hostage, Daily Times has learnt.
Aabpara police have registered an FIR, nominating 72 people. These people include administrators and students of the madrassa, official sources said. The FIR contains charges of terrorism, snatching of arms from police officials, taking them hostage and interrupting in government functions, they said. The students held four policemen to press the government for the release of their 11 fellows, who were arrested last month on the charges of burning CDs and videocassettes at various city shops.
A district administration team held two-hour-long talks with the madrassa administration. Lal Masjid deputy cleric Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi told the team that they would not free the police officials until madrassa students were released.

More on this from Dawn. 

As reported earlier, Afghan and Pakistani forces are still massed on the border in several areas, with villagers on both sides grabbing arms and wanting to join in. This situation has been created by Pakistan building fences along the disputed border, and by their recent stance against the Afghan refugees who are still in their country even though they can return home now. Along with that we have the Taliban firing across the border from both sides, intent on creating what mayhem they can by inciting sectarian and class friction. (Most recently in Parachinar, as noted in earlier Pakistan Updates.)

The schisms previously reported in the Taliban have widened between Pak and Afghan Talibs, and the situation appears to be devolving to a traditional Pashtun war amongst tribes with various factions and motives as always. Also, two more fuel trucks blow up on way to Afghanistan with fuel for ISAF.

musharaaf-in-uniform.jpgMusharaaf stated that Al Qaida is in Pakistan, and also designated an area in a television interview Friday Evening in Pakistan. He stated that they were in Mir Ali, however there are two Mir Ali’s. One is in Afghanistan, and the other, Mir Ali Khel, is in Pakistan. Unfortunately the Google Earth resolution for the area is pretty low-res, so I won’t bother with the map. Here’s the text of the interview from Hindustani Times, and the same text appeared in IRNA:

“Al Qaeda, yes indeed they are here. I have stated thousand times they are here. When I said they are not here? Al -Qaeda is in our mountains, in Mir Ali. This is completely true,” he said an interview on Friday (to be aired later in night).

“How to deal with them? There are cities. Whether we surround them? Whether we bomb them? Bullets will be fired, air force will be used and thousands of civilians will lose (their) lives. Should we do that? No sir, this is not the way. So it is more an intelligence operation,” he said.

Musharraf also admitted that the phenomenon of militancy and extremism was on the rise in the country.

“There is an increase of extremism and militancy in the country. We have to counter it. We have to face it.”

During the interview, Musharraf also said that exiled Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif would not to be allowed to come to the country before the next general elections, due later this year.

“No, they (Benazir and Nawaz) cannot return before elections,” he said in response to a question.

However, he said that the matter of their return might be considered after the elections.

To a question about the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Musharraf said that the issue of reference against him was being politicised, adding that the May 12 incidents of violence in Karachi were the result of politicisation of this judicial issue.

“Now when the full bench of the Supreme Court is hearing this case, why this judicial issue is being converted into a political one?” he asked.

The president said that the people, who are giving ethnic colour to the Karachi incidents, were playing with the destiny of country.

“If ethnic violence starts in Karachi, we will turn back to the 1990s to the detriment of the country,” he remarked.

In NWFP the Taliban threatens Christians with expulsion if they don’t convert to Islam. This is likely just the start to Christian Persecution – as the Taliban brings Jihad in-country they will need non-muslims to attack to justify their evil call to Jihad. Some of this might just be opportunistic land and property grabbing: From the Daily Times:

Bishop of Lahore Dr Alexander John Malik, who is also moderator of the Church of Pakistan, has condemned the letters by a Taliban faction threatening Christians of Charsadda and Mardan to convert to Islam or they would be expelled from the cities.

The Bishop said that Christians had the prerogative to practice their religion freely and no one could force them otherwise. He said he had written a letter to the NWFP chief minister to provide security to the Christians in the province.

The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) has also asked the government to take notice of the threatening letters being delivered to Christians of Charsadda and Mardan.

In a joint statement issued by the NCJP chairperson, Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha, and Executive Secretary Peter Jacob strongly condemned this act of intimidation of the small Christian community of these cities. They said, “The constitution of Pakistan guarantees protection of religious minorities and safeguards religious freedom.” Therefore, they said, the government is bound to ensure that the minority’s rights are safeguarded. They said such acts were spoiling the country’s image in the comity of nations. They said the government should make policies that ensure long-lasting peace among people of various religions.