Pakistan Update

dawn.jpgDawn Television debuted today in Pakistan, with an announcement by President Musharaaf. It was good to see that freedom of the press in this case is supported, Dawn has been in the past badgered by the government, but on the government’s side of the tale Dawn sometimes gets things wrong. The fact that they have a list of grievances up at their news site that’s remained up for a long time tells me that the Press in Pakistan is much freer than that in China, Iran, and Venezuela. Indeed, I find things in the Pakistan press that go un-reported here and other places.

In other news, Lal Masjid freed the two policemen the madrassa students were holding hostage without an operation by the Islamabad Police. Maulana Ghazi states that he was misquoted when he threatened suicide bombers, which is an outright lie. I’ve seen the videos of the white headbands, and too many different reporters have heard that statement or similar statements too many different times for it to be a misquote. From Dawn:

Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi, deputy in-charge of Lal Masjid, said the government had not released those whose list had been provided to the local administration, including three students and former ISI official Khalid Khawaja booked for allegedly burning audio/video CDs in the Barakhau residential area last month.

He said that the policemen had been freed on the request of their family members who visited the mosque on Wednesday. “Women of their families came to us and pleaded for their early release. They told us that the detained police personnel have nothing to do with the confrontation between the government and Lal Masjid,” Maulana Ghazi said.

The freed police reported seeing students and clerics carrying guns and handling weapons in a manner that demonstrated prior training.

Meanwhile in another speech President Musharaaf was decrying “Kalashnikov Culture”:

KARACHI, May 25 (PPI): President General Pervez Musharraf said Friday the government was trying to deweaponize the country. “It is an unfortunate reality that people had weapons. it is the result of 30 years of kalashnikov culture that started with the Afghan war”, he said while addressing city elites, bankers, industrialists and notables including Pakhtun representatives at Sindh Chief Minister House. President Musharraf referred to happenings at Lal Masjid in Islamabad, and said they are “our people but have lost the way. We are trying to tackle them as there are 2500 women and 1500 men inside with explosives and weapons.”

The Afghan-Pakistan Grand Jirga has been postponed until August according to comments by Sherpao, who also stated that actions by Lal Masjid against CD shops would not be tolerated.

In Tank the miltary border post has once more been attacked by Taliban rockets, there were no casualties.

The Daily times Political cartoonist was threatened when two masked, armed men attempted to break into his house Thursday night, but were driven off by a watchman. More at Daily Times.

Tribal Elders from Mohmand seem to have less spine than those in Anbar and South Waziristan, and refused to participate in an Anti-Taliban Jirga. From Daily Times:

PESHAWAR: A proposed jirga of Saafi tribe in Mohmand Agency has been postponed after tribal elders declined the invitation to avoid being “victims of Waziristan-like target-killings”, tribal elders said on Friday.

The Mohmand Agency political administration has been pressing major tribes of the area to unite against increasing Taliban-linked activities and had summoned a jirga for the purpose tomorrow (Sunday).

“No tribal elder is ready to openly support the administration against the Taliban,” a tribal elder, asking not to be named, told Daily Times. Security agencies have warned the government that Mohmand Agency was “exposed” to the Taliban phenomenon because the area borders Bajaur Agency and overlooks Afghanistan’s Nangarhar and Kunar provinces where there is a resurgence of the Taliban. “Frankly speaking, I am not mad to take on the Taliban … I know what happened to the people who tried this in Waziristan,” said another elder asking not to be named.

As fears of “Taliban reprisal” are gripping the Mohmand region, a meeting was held in Gandahab near Ghalanai, the regional headquarters of Mohmand Agency, on Friday where speakers paid tribute to Nazar Muhammad who was ‘martyred’ in Kunar province while fighting US forces.

A participant of the meeting told Daily Times on the telephone that speakers highlighted the need for jihad against the Americans in Afghanistan. He said that Karachi-based cleric Sheikh Fazal Muhammad told the gathering of about 1,500 men including “armed and masked Taliban” that the mujahideen lacked modern weapons, but were using suicide bombers to fight back the enemy (the US).

The gunshot echoes having faded, some signs of normality are coming back to Karachi. While some paint the violence as sectarian, it appears that the militant wing of MQM and that of PPP decided to face off. Both parties now have videos of the May 12th massacre at youtube, interestingly enough you can find the anti-mqm one by searching for MQM, and the anti-PPP one by searching for PPP. Both videos show party hooligans toting guns and shooting, both show well armed militias on both sides. When all is said and done both sides are guilty, it only remains to be seen which fired first, and which fired most.