Pakistan Update

In the latest move of the radical madrassah in downtown Islamabad, Jamia Hafsa / Lal Masjid, they have issued a Fatwah against the female minister of Tourism for Pakistan, Nilofar Bahktiar. Official government reaction is that they are not going to confront directly:

The official reaction to Sunday’s decree came from Minister of State for Health Shahnaz Sheikh who said Darul Afta had no authority to issue a decree against anyone. “These people are misinterpreting Islam and we strongly condemn this act,” she added.

It is also apparent the mufti of the madrassah are holding some of the children in the Madrassah hostage from the parent’s complaints. Satellite recon shows armed men in the madrassah, denoted as “wanted criminals”… which probably really means “known Taliban or Al Qaeda Terrorists”.

So while it’s normal for the Pakistani’s to want their government to take strong action, I suspect that’s exactly what the Madrassah’s leaders want. The extremists want dead children and a spectacle, something produced in this country by the standoff at Waco with another religous zealot, David Koresh. With the numbers of students, militant or not, this has the potential to be as bad as Beslan became.

In a sign that even the people in the frontier regions are against the actions of the Madrassah, please see this article in Dawn, which tells of parents complaining about the madrassah, and some of the grief they are catching from their neighbors in NWFP for having children at the madrassah:

PARENTS’ THREAT: “We have admitted our daughters there to study Islamic subjects and not to carry sticks or guard their academy,” Sanober Khan, who belongs to Mardan, told Dawn on Sunday. Around 70 per cent of students studying in Jamia Faridia and Jamia Hafsa belong to the central NWFP –- Peshawar, Mardan, Swabi, Swat, Buner, Charsadda and Nowshera.

Mr Khan, who did not wish his daughter’s name be published, said that he had talked to the Lal Masjid administration and had objected to the clerics’ action of using young women in the movement.

“A dozen of other parents have also asked their children to refrain from any violent activity inside or outside their madressah”, Mr. Khan, who is a farmer, said.

“We have been assured that the students of Jamia Hafsa will not be used for enforcing Sharia, while the students of Jamia Faridia will continue their routine activities”, he added.

When asked what his reaction was to the news of a raid by Jamia Hafsa students on a house allegedly used as brothel, he said: “My villagers were taunting me that my daughter was searching for prostitutes rather than concentrating on her studies”.Mohammad Rasool of Buner told Dawn that his daughter was not well and had refused to join her ‘stick-brandishing’ fellows but she was forced to do so. Mr Rasool said that in tribal traditions a woman was not supposed to take arms or fight enemies, adding that the action of Lal Masjid was not only against the Pashtoon culture but also a misuse of female students.

Another parent, Abdul Jabbar, said the Lal Masjid administration did not allow him to take his daughter out of the madressah, adding that he did not want his daughter to study in Jamia Hafsa any more.

Meanwhile others are calling for a ban on politics in educational institutions, a sign that Pakistanis are more aware of the vipers residing in their schools and colleges than the Americans are of the ones in theirs.

The Sunni on Shia fighing in Parachinar continues, with mortars and rockets. Casualties are hard to determine as few of the reports agree — they range from 20 to 40 dead, and greater than 100 injured. Power, Water, and electricity are out in some villages, and in central Parachinar. The government is contemplating using Cobra gunships to dislodge fighters holed up in fortifications on both sides of the issue.

The battle between local Pakistan Taliban and Tribals and the Uzbek/Chechen Al Qaeda continues, with the Uzbeks being driven out of Azam Warshak, and surrendering in Sheen Warshak. The reports coming back from this front are going to be slower, and information spotty as the efforts are now dispersed. Below from the Pakistan Observer [editor’s note: Pakistan Observer frames stories closer to the government spin than other papers in Pakistan, while Dawn and Frontier Post print from a more objective stance, but sometimes their unfiltered story is MMA spin. Forewarned is forearmed in the battle for an objective view — like papers in america, many prefer one party over another, and there are many parties in Pakistan’s electorate.]

From the Pakistan Observer:

Peshawar—As the pro-government tribals are consolidating their hold in troubled areas of South Waziristan Agency with particular reference to purging the region from the fugitives, eight more dead bodies were found in Tora Gola area on Monday. This has brought the death toll of the clashes began between the alleged foreign terrorists and the government supported local tribes some three weeks back to 250.
Reports reaching from Wana, the summer headquarters of this southern tribal belt, say that the local tribals, having support of the administration, were succeeding in taking control of the areas dominated by the trouble makers and a Lashkar of local tribesmen eventually captured Azam Warsak area in South Waziristan tribal region and drove foreigners out of the area on Monday.
However, as the reports say, armed clashes took place between the tribal Lashkar and the militants before the miscreants were pushed out of the area and blood was also shed during the process.
The restive South Waziristan Agency, it may be recalled has been witnessing bloody clashes between the security forces and the alleged foreign militants as well as the security forces and the local tribals being charged of harbouring the foreigners for the last few years.