ICC Note: One of the best articles weve read that sheds light on the Pak socio-political situation. The rise in fundamentalism is making it harder for Christians. Just this morning we read about more Christians that have been accused of blasphemy.
Pakistan : The Taliban takeover
4/27/2007 Pakistan (For the full story, go to The New Statesman) Pakistan is reverberating with the call of jihad. Taliban-style militias are spreading rapidly out from provinces in the far north-west. The danger to the country and to the rest of the world is escalating
“You must understand,” says Maulana Sami ul-Haq, “that Pakistan and Islam are synonymous.” The principal of Darul Uloom Haqqania, a seminary in Pakistan ‘s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), is a tall and jovial man. He grabs my hand as he takes me round the seminary. Maulana ul-Haq laughs when I ask his views on jihad. “It is the duty of all Muslims to support those groups fighting against oppression,” he says.
The Haqqania is one of the largest madrasas in Pakistan . It produces about 3,000 graduates, most from exceptionally poor backgrounds, every year. The walls of the student dormitory are decorated with tanks and Kalashnikovs. A group of students, all with black beards, white turbans and grey dresses, surrounds me. They are curious and extremely polite. We chat under the watchful eye of two officers from Pakistan ‘s intelligence services. What would they do after they graduate, I ask. “Serve Islam,” they reply in unison. “We will dedicate our lives to jihad.”
Pakistan is reverberating with the call of jihad. . .A new generation of militants is emerging in Pakistan . Although they are generally referred to as “Taliban”, they are a recent phenomenon. The original Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan briefly during the 1990s, were Afghan fighters, a product of the Soviet invasion of their country. They were created and molded by the Pakistani army, with the active support of the United States and Saudi money, and the deliberate use of madrasas to prop up religious leaders.
Many Taliban leaders were educated at Haqqania by Maulana Sami ul-Haq. The new generation of militants are all Pakistani; they emerged after the US invasion of Afghanistan and represent a revolt against the government’s support for the US . Mostly unemployed, not all of them are madrasa-educated. They are led by young mullahs who, unlike the original Taliban, are technology- and media-savvy, and are also influenced by various indigenous tribal nationalisms, honouring the tribal codes that govern social life in Pakistan ‘s rural areas. “They are Taliban in the sense that they share the same ideology as the Taliban in Afghanistan ,” says Rahimullah Yusufzai, Peshawar-based columnist on the News. “But they are totally Pakistani, with a better understanding of how the world works.” Their jihad is aimed not just at “infidels occupying Afghanistan “, but also the “infidels” who are ruling and running Pakistan and maintaining the secular values of Pakistani society. “They aim at nothing less than to cleanse Pakistan and turn it into a pure Islamic state,” says Rashed Rahman, executive editor of the Lahore-based Post newspaper.
The Pakistani Taliban now dominate the northern province of Waziristan , adjacent to Afghan istan. “They are de facto rulers of the province,” says Yusufzai. Waziristan is a tribal area that has historically been ruled by the tribes themselves. Pakistan has followed the policy of British Raj in the region. The British allowed tribal leaders, known as maliks, semi-autonomous powers in exchange for loyalty to the crown. Pakistan gives them the same power but demands loyalty to the federal government. They have been sidelined by the Taliban, however. Pro-government maliks who resisted the onslaught of the Taliban have been brutally killed and had their bodies hung from poles as a lesson to others. The Taliban have declared Waziristan an “Islamic emirate” and are trying to establish a parallel administration, complete with sharia courts and tax system.
Why is the ostensibly secular government of President Pervez Musharraf not taking any action against the Taliban militants and the parties that support them? Part of the answer lies in the militants and religious parties having served the military regime well. After coming to power in 1999, Musharraf used them to neutralise the mainstream political parties – Benazir Bhutto’s People’s Party and the Muslim League, led by Nawaz Sharif. “The military and mullahs have been traditional allies,” says the Islamabad-based security analyst Dr Ayesha Siddiqa. “The alliance of religious parties that rules NWFP came into power through his support.” Musharraf also used the religious militants to destabilise Indian-held Kashmir by proxy. He encouraged extremists preaching jihad to infiltrate India for acts of sabotage.
Pakistan : a short history
1947 Muslim state of Pakistan created by partition of India at the end of British rule
1948 First war with India over disputed territory of Kashmir
1965 Second war with India over Kashmir
1971 East Pakistan attempts to secede, triggering civil war. Third war between Pakistan and India . East Pakistan breaks away to become Bangladesh
1980 US pledges military assistance following Soviet intervention in Afghanistan
1988 Benazir Bhutto elected prime minister
1996 Bhutto dismissed, for the second time, on charges of corruption
1998 Country conducts nuclear tests
1999 General Pervez Musharraf seizes power in military coup
2001 Musharraf backs US in war on terror and supports invasion of Afghanistan
2002 Musharraf given another five years in office in criticised referendum
2003 Pakistan declares latest Kashmir ceasefire. India does likewise
2004 Musharraf stays head of army, having promised in 2003 to relinquish role
2005 Earthquake in Pakistan-administered Kashmir kills tens of thousands of people
2007 Musharraf suspends Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, triggering nationwide protests