Today there was a suicide blast that killed 16 people at a rally for Chief Justice Iftikhar in Islamabad. This is a terrible thing to have happened, however it makes the extreme shariat goals clear to all.
It’s not just the frontier corps guards, or the border checkpoints the Taliban are attacking now. It’s not the just the army, or the economy in the form of fuel trucks and electric towers — it’s the moderates of Pakistan who have been attacked. Many lawyers and justice advocates were in attendance, and this should send a message to anyone in Pakistan that they must unify or face things they do not wish.
One thing might be a future like that of Afghanistan, devastated and at war nearly 20 years. Another might be a permanent state of emergency where the government must behave in the worst manner to protect the bulk of the population and the economy from the aims of these neo-luddites and extreme religionists. Another might be to succumb to the Taliban’s demands from Gilgit to the Punjab. I don’t believe the Pakistanis find any of those alternatives good, and hope that they will take a fourth path.
Trying to make peace is a noble goal and must be attempted, however Pakistanis should not hold out high hopes for success or they will fail in preparing for what they must do if peace cannot be gained.
Extremist’s nature makes any negotiation all or none for them; one compromise leads to the next demand, and eventually they will get to the demand that makes Pakistan not Pakistan, but instead Deoband Saudi Arabia without a royal family to moderate the worst of the religious extremists. ( How do they moderate their extremists in Saudi Arabia? They send them to prison, or they send them elsewhere on conversion missions, foreign programs… they put them in places like Pakistan and Thailand, or they just ban them from the kingdom.)
There is more about the dilemma of how to get the concerns of the sympathy addressed without the empowerment of extremes in the Daily Times by Ijaz Hussein here. This is a difficult and narrow path fraught with peril, and perhaps people in Pakistan are beginning to see some of the weight on their government’s shoulders now.
I predict that negotiations will fail or that they merely delay confrontation until a later time. When that comes, the army alone cannot defeat the Taliban. It must be the people of Pakistan who do so. They know who the Taliban are, who their foreign supporters are, who their families are, and where they live, breathe, and sleep. When all is said and done for success the Pakistani’s must bear the weight with the government and the army to succeed. They can no longer sympathize and protect the extremists who would tear their country, their lives, and their fortunes asunder.
[Editor: a couple of notes here: the editorialist above falls prey to the common Pakistani perception that Musharraf is a puppet of Bush’s. This notion of putting all power and blame in the hands of one person needs to stop for we are not dealing with reality when we do that. Besides, who are we going to blame for all of the world’s ills when President Bush leaves office in 2009? Will poverty, misery, terrorism, despair, destabilization, insurgency, religious extremism, and world hunger stop when he leaves office? I think not. Let me be blunt: If Musharraf were just a puppet, then Pakistan would have no nukes, Peace would have been achieved with India, the Taliban would be wiped out, and Pakistan would not be building pipelines with Iran or buying jets from China. Nobody in Washington has a magic wand they can wave to make Musharraf march, the Pakistani people do however – it’s called a ballot.
Second note: In the Panel discussion at Fox news channel on Britt Hume’s show the other night Mort stated something to the effect that not a single madrassa or mosque had been shut down by Musharraf. This was incorrect — seven mosques were demolished and several training camps and concommittant madrassas were shut down in the Kashmir last October. This is clearly the lead up to the Red Mosque militancy and subsequent military operation. ]