Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Pakistan: In the Line of Fire

This year has been one of tumult and challenge for the administration of President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. Last year, he had tried to deal with the twin threats of "legitimate" Islamists and terrorists who were threatening to undermine the nation. Within the National Assembly's 342 seats, there are 63 seats that belong to members of a coalition of six Islamist parties known as the MMA (Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal or United Action Front). The MMA members of parliament forced a compromise when Musharraf tried to water down the so-called Hudood Ordinances. These religious laws were introduced by the dictator Zia ul-Haq in 1979 with the full blessing of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, which is now the main member of the MMA coalition. The Hudood laws meant that any woman who complained of being raped could be found guilty of adultery if she could not provide four (male and Muslim) witnesses.


The actions of the MMA and other Islamist groups have brought Pakistan close to becoming an archetypal "failed state". Pakistan's constitution is meaningless: Part 2, Chapter 1, section 20 claims that "every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion." Despite this, the Blasphemy Laws, introduced by Zia ul-Haq in 1986, stipulate that members of the Ahmidiyyah sect can be given three year jail sentences for preaching (article 298-B of the Penal Code). Anyone who insults Mohammed, the founder of Islam, could be given a death sentence (article 375-C of the Penal Code). Since 1990, the death sentence has become mandatory for this "offense.” A person accused of any blasphemy is automatically jailed until trial. Attempts by Musharraf to repeal any of the Blasphemy Laws have been challenged by the MMA.


In May of this year, the National Assembly approved the first draft of a bill introduced by the MMA. If made into law this bill, The Apostasy Act 2006, will mean that any Muslim man who leaves his religion (or is claimed by two Muslims to have left Islam) will receive the death penalty. A woman apostate will be given a jail sentence for life, unless she returns to Islam. Section 8 of the draft bill ensures that all of an apostate's properties are removed and given to Muslim relatives, and Section 9 ensures that an apostate loses all rights of custody over his or her children.


The MMA has consistently called for attacks against American interests, and during the February 2006 "cartoon protests," leaders called for Islamist revolution and the murder of the President. Four days before the earthquake of October 8, 2005, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, president of the Jamaat-e-Islami and the MMA, swore that his party would lead an Islamic revolution against Musharraf. This individual has openly claimed his support for the Taliban and for al Qaeda. His party has urged its membership to shield al Qaeda operatives fleeing from Afghanistan, while Qazi has praised Osama bin Laden, whom he met in Sudan in 1998. Qazi has called for "martyrdom operations" in Israel, Kashmir and Chechnya, and has supported close ties with terror group Hamas. As both his Jamaat-e-Islami party and Hamas have historical Muslim Brotherhood links, this is not surprising. Qazi Hussain Ahmad runs a madrassa in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province. From this seminary, he sent numerous fighters to Afghanistan to join the Taliban.


The MMA controls the Regional Assembly of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), which adjoins Afghanistan. Since the fall of the Taliban in October 2001, this region has been a haven for Taliban and also for al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden and Ayman-al-Zawahiri, his deputy, are believed to reside in this region. The majority of Taliban and al Qaeda members (who include Uzbek, Chechen and other foreign nationals) live in the agencies of North and South Waziristan. These agencies are part of the so-called "Federally Administered Tribal Areas" (FATA) and are only nominally under the control of the Pakistan government. No journalists are allowed into the region. Law and order is predominantly settled by jirgas, or tribal councils. Since March of last year, the "Pakistan Taliban" have controlled North and South Waziristan. 70,000 Pakistani troops have been posted in the region since 2003, but these have failed to stem the activities of the terrorists.


Waziristan has been a headache for the Americans and for Musharraf, as it is here that Al Qaeda plans its attacks, and the Taliban pass freely into and out of Afghanistan. On September 5, 2006, a "peace accord" was signed between tribal leaders and seven leading members of the Taliban at a jirga in North Waziristan. The 16-point accord was signed by the Pakistani government representative for the agency, Dr Fakhr-i-Alam. The treaty maintained that there would be no passage of fighters into Afghanistan, and no targeted killings. Within days both of these clauses were broken. Additionally, the Pakistan government agreed to compensate the Taliban for members who had recently lost lives in operations conducted against them. The accord, which had been initiated by the MMA, also stated that Pakistan would withdraw its troop numbers from the region, and would give the Taliban $165,8400 if it did not return vehicles and weaponry it had seized from them. Another jirga was held shortly afterward, where 45 local leaders were given $1,658 for brokering this accord.


Far from stemming the activities of the Taliban across the mountain passes into Afghanistan, the accord seems to have encouraged such activities to increase. Pakistan is no closer to apprehending the leaders of al Qaeda who live in the region than it was in November 2001, when Musharraf agreed to be a partner in the "war on terror." The Islamists who have thrived in NWFP have also been active in the national capital, Islamabad. The Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) was run by two brothers, Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi. It housed two madrassas within its complex, accommodating thousands of students, mostly from NWFP. In January, students took over a children's library, threatening suicide bombings if they were interfered with. The students kidnapped policemen, women whom they accused of prostitution, and staged burnings of Western videos and CDs sold in markets. The threats against suppliers of such material were simultaneously repeated in Peshawar, capital city of NWFP. The MMA supported the actions of the Red Mosque students, and failed to condemn their threats of suicide bombings.


The brothers at the Red Mosque set up their own Shari’a court (issuing a fatwa against the tourism minister), demanding national Shari’a law, and claiming that they had weapons and suicide bombers inside the complex. Policemen who had been held hostage at the complex attested to the armory inside the Jamia Hafsa madrassa. After months of government prevarication and pointless negotiations, Musharraf finally made a stand on July 3rd. A shootout began at the Red Mosque, but only after students had marched to the nearby Environment Ministry building, taken four officials hostage, and set light to its offices. By the end of the day, 148 people were injured and 12 were dead. Standoffs and shootouts between mosque/madrassa members and security forces ensued over the following week in a measure called "Operation Silence," while attempts were made to safely evacuate women and children.


Abdul Aziz dressed up in a woman's burka and tried to smuggle himself out as a female "refugee." He was arrested on July 5th. The complex was finally stormed on July 10th. Abdul Rashid Ghazi was among the 102 people who died during the week of "Operation Silence". Eleven of the dead were soldiers. At least 73 bodies were collected on July 10th. Of these, at least 10 belonged to foreign Jihadists. A suicide bomber blew himself up while the group of 164 commandos stormed the complex. His severed head was found on the floor of the one of the complex's buildings. The bodies of five individuals were so badly burned by this suicide blast that even their gender was indeterminable.


The supporters of the Red Mosque did not go quietly into the shadows. As they were rounded up into Islamabad's sports complex, about 90 female madrassa students chanted for Jihad. Attacks began almost as soon as the complex had been cleared of mines and booby traps. On July 11th, Musharraf issued a condemnation of the Red Mosque, claiming it had been infiltrated by Jihadists. He said: "The intransigence of a few extremists hampered every attempt for a peaceful solution of the issue and the government was compelled to launch the operation," and blamed the radicals for damaging the reputation of both Pakistan and Islam. He warned that any similar attempts by madrassas to enact their own rules would be met with force.


There are 13,000 registered madrassas in Pakistan, and numerous unregistered madrassas. In 1971, six years before General Zia ul-Haq assumed power, there had been only a thousand madrassas in the country. By the time Zia ul-Haq died in a plane crash in 1988, there were 8,000 registered madrassas and 25,000 that were unregistered.


Two weeks after it had been stormed, the Red Mosque was officially reopened on Friday July 27th, with an imam chosen by Shaukat Aziz, the current prime minister. By this time, at least 180 people had been killed in Pakistan in terror attacks since the storming of the mosque complex. Islamists objected to the imam, Maulana Ashfaq Ahmed, and objected to the beige paint job which had been made on the Red Mosque. The imam was escorted away by police. After painting Islamist slogans on the walls, some protesters began to paint the mosque red. A group of MMA members was thrown out of the mosque by the protesters, who claimed the politicians were capitalizing on the situation.


While the protesters agitated at the complex, a group of policemen from Punjab province were in an adjacent road at the Aabpara Market. A suicide bomber blew himself up in a café beside the police barricades, injuring 61 people and killing 13 others, most of them police. Two more victims later died of their injuries. A video of the events can be found here.


On Monday July 23rd, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, president of the MMA, resigned from the National Assembly. He claimed that "one-man rule" (by Musharraf) was eroding parliamentary authority, and vainly urged other MMA members to follow suit. On Monday July 30, Qazi led a group of 2,000 women Islamists in a demonstration to support the Red Mosque's former leaders. He vowed that the Jamaat-e-Islami would create new seminaries like the Jamia Hafsa madrassa, which had been destroyed in the storming of the Red Mosque complex. On Tuesday July 31st, Qazi presided over a larger demonstration of 7,000 women. Again, there were calls for the Red Mosque to be headed by Maulana Abdul Aziz, and condemnations of Musharraf as a U.S. government stooge.


When Qazi resigned from the National Assembly, he was strongly criticized by Maulana Fazlur Rehman (pictured), secretary general of the MMA. Rehman heads the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Islamic Party of Religious Leaders or JUI), one of the six MMA component parties. Like Qazi, he is a supporter of the Taliban and has campaigned against Musharraf. However, over the past week, differences between Rehman and Qazi have become more acute than they have ever been, and may signal a permanent rift between the JUI and the Jamaat-e-Islami parties. On July 31st, Rehman made an unexpected announcement that the Pakistani electorate should vote for President Musharraf in upcoming elections, to avoid the potential of martial law being imposed. He also claimed to support a deal between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, if "it was done in all sincerity." He claims that there is no rift within the MMA, but only time will prove him right or wrong on this score.


The talk of Musharraf doing a "deal" with Bhutto and her Pakistan People's Party has been triggered by fears that the U.S. will withdraw aid from Pakistan. Currently, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto is living in exile in London and Dubai. She has not returned home, as she faces charges of corruption. As a matter of strategy, Musharraf has been examining the possibility of bypassing these charges by amending the constitution and bringing her back into Pakistani political life. Bhutto herself may be a uniting factor in a country which is split between those who want moderation and those who want bloody Islamist revolution. Last week, Musharraf and Bhutto met in the neutral ground of Abu Dhabi to discuss a possible alliance. On Sunday, Bhutto said she would not engage in a power-sharing arrangement with Musharraf while he wears a military uniform. She said: "The post of the army chief must be separated from that of the president."


The pressure on Pervez Musharraf has come mainly from the passage of a bill in the United States, the Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007. Part of this act specifically deals with Pakistan, and specifically ties the distribution of U.S. aid to Pakistan to a more concrete suppression of the Islamists of al Qaeda and the Taliban. The issue has become a matter of urgency for America, since the National Intelligence Estimate announced recently that al Qaeda is planning an attack upon the U.S. This Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007 is a massive piece of legislation, first tabled in January of this year. It was passed by the House of Representatives on Friday, July 27th by 317 to 40 votes. The day before this, the Senate had approved the act by 85 votes against 8 dissensions. The White House has confirmed that George W. Bush will sign this legislation into law. The bill has had support from both sides of U.S. politics. Even Barack Obama supports a tougher line against Pakistan's homegrown terrorists. On Saturday, as Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi was in Islamabad and discussed the situation of Waziristan/Afghanistan with Musharraf.


Pakistan has been sensitive to any criticism of its terrorist enclaves. When the Red Mosque was stormed, CNN was barred from Musharraf's press conference and was denied access to the complex. Pakistani officials objected to a documentary broadcast on July 7th entitled "The Threat Within," which described the presence of al Qaeda and Taliban in the country. The reality of this terrorism is not confined to the rugged landscape of NWFP. About 600 students from the Red Mosque complex have disappeared, and are thought to be hiding in madrassas and mosques in Islamabad and neighboring Rawalpindi. These students are viewed as potential suicide bombers. The group that arranged the suicide blast on July 27th is also responsible for another suicide attack in the capital which took place on July 17th.


The fanatics who supported the Red Mosque are not the only individuals to pose a threat to peace. Two suicide bombers from the banned group Tehreek Nifaz-e-Sharia Muhammadi are said to have left Bajaur agency in NWFP on a mission to attack military residences in Rawalpindi. On March 25th, members of this group threatened 100 suicide bombings across Pakistan if their jailed leader, Maulana Sufi Muhammad, was not freed.


Far away from the capital, a shrine in Mohmand district in NWFP was raided by 150 masked militants on Saturday. The shrine was renamed by its captors "The Red Mosque," and they claimed they had the support of 3,000 local tribesmen. The militants vowed to carry out suicide bombings if anyone tried to interfere with their activities. On Monday, July 30th, 15 Islamists were killed in a battle with government troops in North Waziristan, NWFP.


Musharraf entitled his autobiography, which was published last year, "In the Line of Fire.. Now, more than at any other time in his career, he and his government are truly "in the line of fire."


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Adrian Morgan, aka Giraldus Cambrensis Western Resistance is a British based writer and artist. He also writes for Spero News, Family Security Matters and He has previously contributed to various publications, including the Guardian and New Scientist and is a former Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society.

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Comments Notes: Make comments preferably in "single" paragraph, since it cannot separate paragraphs.

Name: vbv.
Date: Friday August 03, 2007
Time: 03:38:47 -0700


Pakistan has only one agenda - "Hate India" & destruction of India and annexation of all its territories to Pakistan,in another words total islamisation of South Asia. With this political objective in its mind ,it is not surprising that the politcal estalishment finds it fruitful to hobnob with extremist fanatical islamic groups , who are overtly as well as covertly funded from the money they get from countries like Saudi Arabia as well as the aid money they receive from U.S.A.,not to mention the money they generate from other nefarious activities such as illegal arms trade,narcotics to name a few.All this great effort is for annexation and islamisation of India , which is their greatest obsession. Like the famous English novelist Mary Shelley creation "Frankenstien" they have created many far worse monsters ,veritably destructive ones,such as Taliban,LeT,Jaish 'a mohamed,etc. virtually slipping out of their control and turning to consume their creator. these monsters ,no doubt, did give some headaches to India, but far from acheiving any of the stated objectives of Pakistan.In fact ,thanks to these petty but gory stunts of Pakistan , India has emerged stronger and as always resilient overcoming all such adversities.When will Pakistan realise that India has faced much greater aggressions in its course of 1000years of its History out its over 7000 years of its existence and survived them , which no other nation can boast of in this world.India never propogated its religion and its way of life in all its history by way of crusades or jihads.Polytheism allows tolerance unlike the exclusivity,bigotry and intollerance of monotheistic religions.Further India also has atheistic beliefs such as Budhism, Jainism, Advaitism,etc all of which originated and co-existed in this country for many a millenia.Mind you Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh was also a part of this ethos until recent times, vitiated by Islam and its highly intolerant and bigoted philosophy. It is high-time that Pakistan,Afghanistan and Bangladesh reinculcate its lost heritage and give up the extremist wahabi islamic worldview ,maybe move to a more tolerant type of sufy-islam , which is mystical andless intolerant. But with wahabi islam being on the rise and common-sense and good-sense being given a good-bye, the chances are very remote that these countries will ever realise,even upon their own destruction and adverse impact on their neighbours as a consequence of their faulty policies and actions,that they will not gain anything poltically , economically and socially.Probarbly they will be gobbled by their own monsters ,when it will be too late for anybody to help them.

Name: agnostic
Date: Sunday August 05, 2007
Time: 16:27:53 -0700


What an evil gooblededook islam is. So which muslim sect qualifies for the 'true islam'? Which muslim is praying to the real 'allah'? 1400 years of Islamic history shows nothing but utter hatred for all unbelievers to succumb, convert or be killed. India suffered the most. No other country in the world had a holocaust of the sheer gory of murders by islamists. What is ironic is that more muslims die at the hands of muslims. Mushy created his own hell when his Inter-Services Intelligence set up the Taliban, he slept with them, and now he must pay for his sins. If he is toppled the US will not stand by and let the nuclear arsenal fall into rogue islamists hands.

Date: Wednesday August 15, 2007
Time: 20:18:12 -0700



Name: tooba
Date: Friday September 07, 2007
Time: 13:02:05 -0700


hindus should not always blame muslims. ust go through the history once again.

Name: long live pakistan
Date: Friday September 07, 2007
Time: 13:05:30 -0700


pakistan's object is to protect islam and neighbors from the extremists. Allah will protect Pakistan don't woory

Name: Caleb
Date: Tuesday August 05, 2008
Time: 02:07:41 -0700


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