April I described the mounting crisis that was then starting to
engulf Pakistan (parts
). At that time there were problems with
Islamist radicals in Islamabad, the capital, protests across the
country from lawyers against Predisent Musharraf, and in
North-West Frontier Province the Pakistani Taliban were flexing
their muscles and intimidating those not deemed "Islamic" enough.
In all these areas the problems remain, but they have become
The Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad has a compound
containing two madrassas (Islamic seminaries), called the Jamia
Hafsa and Jamia Fareedia. Students from these seminaries had
occupied the only children's library in the capital since January.
The head imam at the Lal Masjid, Abdul Aziz, had threatened that
any interference with his students would be met with a campaign of
suicide attacks across Pakistan. Many of his students came from
the troubled North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) which borders
Afghanistan, and while the Lal Masjid students attacked stores
selling Western DVDs and CDs in the capital, similar actions were
being taken in NWFP.
On March 26, students had kidnapped three women and a six month
old child, and held them hostage, tied up with rope. The kidnap
victims were accused of running a brothel and were only released
three days later when they publicly recanted their "immoral
behavior". On March 27, when police tried to arrest two female
madrassa teachers as they went to work, armed students kidnapped
two policemen. The policemen were released the following day. In
April, the Lal Masjid established a "sharia court" in the complex.
April 9, the first fatwa of the Lal Masjid sharia court was issued
- targeting a woman member of the government. Tourism minister
Nilofar Bakhtiar was accused of "lewd conduct", after she had been
photographed being hugged by a paragliding instructor in Paris. Ms
Bakhtiar had been raising money for victims of the earthquake of
October 8, 2005, which had killed thousands. On
Bakhtiar succumbed to pressure and resigned
as tourism minister. She had been forced to resign from her post
as head of the women's league within her party, the Pakistan
Muslim League (PML-Q), earlier in the month and had also received
Negotiations were made with the Lal Masjid leaders by politician
Chaudry Shujaat Hussain, at the
of President Musharraf, but the mosque
leaders refused to tone down their public demands for nationwide
sharia law. Threats of suicide attacks continue to be made. The
Lal Masjid has 2,500 students at two madrassas - the Jamia Hafsa
and the Jamia Fareedia. In
after the London 7/7 bombings, there was a crackdown on extreme
madrassas. The Lal Masjid showed then that it would react
violently to interference from the authorities. When police tried
to enter the mosque complex (without removing their shoes) there
were violent clashes, in which 35 girl students were injured.
Friday, May 18, four policemen were kidnapped by students from the
mosque complex as an act of retaliation for the arrests of 27
students. Two policemen were released the following day, but the
other two were kept inside the complex. On Thursday
, the remaining officers were
from the building (pictured) by Abdul
Rashid Ghazi, one of the two cleric brothers who run the complex.
Ghazi said: "We have released the two policemen on Islamic and
humanitarian grounds because their relatives came to us with
requests to free them. We are not cruel people like the
government. None of them contacted us for negotiations, nor did
they release our remaining students."
All four kidnapped officers
that weapons were being held inside the
mosque complex. The authorities had been planning an operation to
storm the complex, and to this end had drafted in 10,000 police
constables from Punjab province. This action was conducted in a
haphazard manner, with some officers sent to Islamabad on only an
hour's notice. When they arrived at the capital, no accommodation
had been made for them, and many were forced to sleep rough. Some
at local mosques, but had been ejected when
clerics learned that they were to be involved in a storming of the
Lal Masjid complex.
On the night of Saturday May 26, half of the Punjabi police left
the capital. A group of 2,200 Punjabi police had
taken up residence
in the Pakistan Sports Complex
last week, against the wishes of the center's administrators, who
accused the police of vandalism. Doors of some rooms and toilets
had been broken down, and water pumps and chairs at the main
Jinnah Stadium had been vandalized. 5,000 police reservists remain
in the capital, and police chiefs claim that the storming of the
Lal Masjid has only been postponed, not cancelled.
Maulana Abdul Aziz, the senior cleric at the Lal Masjid announced
that his students would attack shops selling audio CDs and videos
unless these stores were closed. He said: "Our students can attack
these outlets anytime because the deadline given to their owners
had already passed."
The deputy secretary of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the
coalition of Islamist parties with 66 members sitting in the
Musharraf of deliberately manipulating the Lal Masjid situation.
Liaquat Baloch claimed that the issue was being exploited to draw
attention away from the other problems in the country.
The Pakistan People's Party (PPP), headed by exiled former rime
minister Benazir Butto, has made
. The PPM spokesman said: "The
situation in Islamabad is all contrived. The government wants to
tell the west that Pakistan is in danger of being taken over by
The MMA has been involved in demonstrations by members of the
judiciary against the government, but its aims are ultimately the
same as those of the Lal Masjid - to enforce Sharia law throughout
the country. Both the MMA and the Lal Masjid members support the
Taliban. Earlier in May, the MMA had introduced a proposed bill to
the National Assembly, called the Apostasy Act. Under the terms of
this bill, any person who left Islam for another faith would be
subjected to draconian punishments - death for a man, and life
imprisonment for a woman. In addition, anyone convicted under this
proposed law would
legal custody of their children, and have their land and property
confiscated. The draft bill was approved by the Assembly.
Additionally, a law to water down Pakistan's blasphemy laws was
rejected by the parliament.
are deliberately exploited to
discriminate against minority groups. These rules were introduced
in 1986 by the Islamist military dictator General Zia ul-Haq.
Article 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) stipulates that
anyone who insults prophet Mohammed can receive the death penalty.
Originally, judges had the option to impose a death sentence or
life imprisonment, but in the early 1990s, the law was altered so
that the death penalty was mandatory for breaches of Article
Article 295-B of the blasphemy laws
that anyone who "defiles, damages or
desecrates a copy of the Holy Quran or of an extract therefrom"
shall receive life imprisonment. Once accused of blasphemy, there
is no possibility of bail - the person is automatically held in
custody until the trial is concluded. False accusations,
particularly against minorities such as the Ahmadi sect of Islam
and Christians, proliferate. In
an 11-year old boy was among five Christians
detained under Article 295-B.
In Lahore in Punjab province, a 79-year old Christian is
facing the death penalty
, after his neighbors who
run the Jamil Mosque accused him of insulting Mohammed and burning
the Koran. The mosque members took over Walter Fazal Khan's
property and turned it into a madrassa. Mr Khan's 84-year old wife
Gladys has been forcibly converted to Islam. She has been so
by the experience that she is in
hospital, unable to talk. Such abuses of the blasphemy laws and
attacks upon Christians have recently escalated. On
Christians living in Charsadda in North-West Frontier Province
received letters, giving them a one-week deadline to convert to
The demonstrations by lawyers began in March after Musharraf
suspended Chief Justice Iftikar M Chaudhry from his post in the
Supreme Court, accusing him of misuse of power. These have
continued, assisted by the MMA and other opposition parties. On
, effigies of Musharraf were burned in Dera
Ghazi Khan in North-West Frontier Province. The leaders of the Lal
the suspended Chief Justice. Abdul Rashid Ghazi said: "We have
sympathy for the chief justice's plight, which is because of the
system that has allowed Musharraf to do this kind of thing. The
man who is meant to give justice to the people is begging for
Chaudhry responded on Saturday
to Musharraf's accusations in a speech that
was broadcast on television. He did not mention the president by
"Abuse of power often occurs in a system of governance where there
is centralisation of all power in one person." He claimed that the
judiciary was a "bulwark against abuse of power". When the
judiciary upholds laws that blatantly discriminate against
citizens, Chaudhry's defense of the legal process in Pakistan
are two large parties in Pakistan's National Assembly which
support President Musharraf - the PML-Q which was established by
the president in 2001, and the
- the Muttahida
Qaumi Movement. MQM has 48 seats in the National Assembly. The MQM
was established in 1978 in Karachi, largest city in Pakistan, in
Sindh province in the southeast of the country. Though avowedly
secular, and an advocate of equal rights for women, the party has
been linked to acts of terrorism and violence in Karachi. The
party's leader, 53-year old Altaf Hussain, has been based in
Edgeware in northwest London since 1992. He claims to live in
Britain because of fears of assassination in Pakistan. He has been
granted British citizenship.
On May 12, there were riots in Karachi, in which up to 40 people
were said to have been killed. The riots happened after Hussain
ordered his supporters in the city to support Musharraf's decision
to suspend Chief Justice Iftikar M Chaudhry. Supporters of Benazir
Bhutto's PPP, clashed with MQM members, and shots were fired. The
rioting lasted for an hour. MQM was condemned by the PPP and also
the Islamist parties of the MMA for instigating the rioting.
Mohammed Anwar, the London-based senior coordinator of MQM
: "We were the only party in the city that
had permission from the authorities to hold a rally in the city on
Saturday, so why would we shoot out own supporters?" He blamed the
MMA and PPP for starting the violence, saying: "It is the death
squads of these parties who were responsible for the carnage, and
nothing to do with MQM."
The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), a party founded by cricketer
and former playboy Imran Khan,
its intention to sue the British
government for "harboring" the leader of the MQM. A coalition of
opposition parties, including the PTI, PPP and MMa announced that
they would be making a
against Blair's decision to grant Altaf
Hussain citizenship. The head of the MMA, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, has
that Altaf Hussain be extradited to
Pakistan. It should be noted that Qazi Hussain Ahmad is a suporter
of the Taliban and has frequently praised Osama bin Laden. The MQM
last week, apparently showing PPP guards
opening fire on demonstrators.
Altaf Hussain stands by his support of the President. He
: "Because of activities next door in
Afghanistan as well as our own country, the Taliban is growing
very strong. He is doing his level best to fight these groups.
Musharraf is a very brave man. Only he can prevent the
Talibanization of Pakistan."
The internal intrigues of the squabbling factions within the
National Assembly are insignificant compared to the very real
threat of the country descending into the clutches of a
Taliban-style regime. The march of Islamization is quickening its
step, assisted by a general dissatisfaction with Musharraf.
a report by the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity
announced that of all the countries in the "war on terror"
alliance, Pakistan was the largest recipient of funds, gaining
about $200 million per quarter. The Coalition Support Fund donated
more than $3 billion to Pakistan between 2002 and 2006.
There may be reasons to question the size of these sums, but as
Pakistan is a nuclear power, the need to keep the nation out of
the clutches of Islamofascists is paramount. As I will describe in
Part Two, even though Musharraf has made moves to counteract the
threat of both Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the threat of large parts
of the nation being taken over by the current movements for
Talibanization is becoming increasingly real.