I wanted to respond to Sobek’s post on the recent troubles in North Africa and elsewhere. But I didn’t want to post such a long screed at Michael’s place and abuse his hospitality, so I’ll do it here.
Sobek hit on some very important things for us to keep in mind, things we should watch. >
In Pakistan, once someone dies, relatives (who usually are around if the person was expected to die shortly, if not they converge quickly) take and body and bathe it. It is given the ritual washings of wuzu (ritual ablutions) and ghusl (bath). The body is often scented. It is then wrapped in shrouds – five for women, three for men. Pieces of cloth are used to bind the body around the elbows and feet. The nose and mouth are filled with cotton. The deceased wear no other clothing or vestments.
The people who perform this are usual close relatives of the same sex. Strangers or non-relatives may be used as needed. To be able to bathe the body of a dead person is considered an act of great merit.
Once wrapped in shrouds (often one can part of the top-most shroud to uncover the face), the body is moved to where mourners are. While awaiting for people to gather for the funeral prayers to be said, people recite the Qur’an and pious texts.
At the appropriate time, people gather for the funeral prayer (namaaz-e janaazah). It is considered to be of great merit to participate in a funeral prayer, whether for someone one knew or for a stranger. The funeral prayer contains a number of takbeeraat (“proclaiming ‘Allaahu akbar’ with certain gestures of the hands and arms”) along with short prayers for the dead person: that their sins be forgiven them, that they go to Heaven.
After the funeral prayer, the bier is lifted and carried. There are no pallbearers – everyone (all men, of course) are encouraged to do what in Urdu is called kandha dena (lit., “give the shoulder”) which means to carry or transport the bier. How it works is sort of complicated – people revolve in a clockwise pattern, then make room for others to take their place. I remember when my maternal grandfather died and his bier was taken in a bus, the bier was passed back and forth, back and forth the entire time. One often says the shahaadah whilst doing this or close to such an activity.
The bier is then carried to the grave. Depending on the locality, the body might be lifted from the bier, head facing Mecca, and laid in the grave. Each person there throws in three fistfuls of dirt, then the grave is filled. A simple stone is placed at the head, and certain portions of the Qur’an are recited. More supplications are made for the forgiveness of the deceased’s sins and that he/she will go into Heaven.
In the US, what I have noticed is that the bier is lowered into an open concrete box, and a slab is placed over it. Dirt is thrown over the box, then the grave filled. Sometimes people are buried in the concrete box in a simple coffin, sometimes not.
This usually happens within 24 hours. When my maternal grandmother passed away (she passed away in Pakistan), she was buried within 4 hours. When another person I knew passed away here, she was buried within 18 or so hours. (They were waiting for some of her sons to fly in, and wanted to have her namaaz-e janaazah after the afternoon prayers.)
All in all, it’s quite simple. No undertakers, no funeral homes, no elaborate presentations. Very simple.
I knew there was something I forgot to do last night.
In the past month, there have been two deaths of people close to me. One very close, one a little less close. The first was my maternal grandmother (she passed away December 4) and the other was someone who was like a grandmother to us (she passed away November 15).
This gave me an opportunity to observe and experience death and mourning up-close, which I will write about this week.
Many people who die of old age, or causes incident to age, often die surrounded by loved ones. If it’s a sudden death, then that may not be the case. Nevertheless, because social interaction is quite strong in the South Asian community, few old people are alone. My like-a-grandmother died surrounded by people (literally – people almost filled her hospital room as she lay dying). My grandmother was surrounded by people too – mainly my mother, my father, and other people in the house. When my grandmother had difficulty breathing, she was immediately surrounded by people and caretakers trying to solve the problem.
When a person is dying, relatives often come and read the Qur’an and other pious books for aisaal-e sawaab (transferring the merit of these pious actions to someone else, in this case the dying person). A dying person is not to be left alone. If I understand it correctly, there must be someone of the same sex present if possible (for post-death rites, which will be discussed tomorrow).
Once a person has died, various things happen. What exactly happens depends on the location a person died (things in Pakistan are a bit different from here). But, generally, the body is washed and wrapped in shrouds. People should accompany the body at all times, often reciting the Qur’an and other pious books or texts (for the same reason as before). Upon the announcement of death, relatives and friends converge to help and console the mourning family.
Traditionally, the stove is not turned on for three days (more on this on Friday), so people will often bring food. It’s considered a major act of merit to visit someone in mourning to comfort them; conversely, many people reach out to relatives for support and company. The social network is strong and translates into a lot of potential support and help if needed.
A major question people have with regard to all this business of the Taliban and the military is whether the Pakistani military is physically capable of taking on the Taliban. There are people who doubt the Pakistani military can. Many operations in the past have been Pyrrhic – the military faced massive casualties. Incompetence is exacerbated by the geopolitical aspects of this issue: not only is the military fighting the Taliban but also the Pashtuns who support and harbor the Taliban. As such, people doubt whether the Pakistani military has the capability or wherewithal to fight the Taliban. The fact that they’re always asking for more money and materiel also makes one question whether they have what they need. (But if they keep asking for stuff, will they ever have what they need?)
Another issue that plays a crucial role is that of willingness. Assuming that the military has the ability to take on the Taliban, does it have the desire to do so? I say that answer is, “No,” for two reasons:
1. The Pakistani military is not unitary. That is, it is not united. It is divided into factions. One faction is more Islamist than the prevailing authorities. The military, whether itself or through intermediaries or through the ISI, provides support for militants. Some do it out of personal allegiance (a sort of solidarity with defenders of Islam) and others do it for geopolitical purposes (to keep Pakistan relevant, to keep India on its toes, to extend Pakistan’s influence in the northwest region). Other soldiers are not wholehearted in the military’s operations because they don’t want to have to open fire on fellow Pakistanis, as they see it. They don’t like this Pakistani-on-Pakistani violence. So, even if the military were capable of taking out the Taliban, there’s no guarantee that the soldiers sent to do the work would do their job.
2. In order to effectively take on the Taliban and eradicate them, the military would have the take drastic measures that could instigate a veritable civil war. Various military groups, outfits, and militias would have to be eradicated. (The legal system won’t work: they would have to be physically disarmed or sent to their 72 virgins.) This also means taking on the vast number of people, civilians, who will undoubtedly rise up against the military in defense of these militant outfits. The popular reaction to the very needed and justified Red Mosque operation shows that the public can and will turn against the military when it carries out needed operations against militants. The military would rather slay a head of the hydra, allow others to grow, than the slay the monster itself. for one thing, it prevents the great turmoil going after the monster would elicit, and the more heads means more targets, which means a more precarious situation, which means the ability to milk Pakistan’s allies for more money and materiel.
If militancy were eradicated in Pakistan, the West’s interest in Pakistan would wane. I do not think it is a coincidence that Congress unconditionally approved a massive amount of money for Pakistan (namely, Pakistan’s military) while the military and its PR apparatus have been engaging in various operations against militants, as if to say, “Look! We have this great threat to deal with! It is a difficult fight! Send help, please!” Where was the military a few months ago? Why now, all of a sudden?
It seems our only ally was the military. But it is undependable. It cannot be our ally. Or, rather, we should not depend entirely on Pakistan’s military to ensure the Taliban threat is dealt with adequately.
We interrupt the regular programming to bring you something…unique.
Watch the following video that is in Urdu (the language of Pakistan):
Especially at 5:50.
What’s he getting so worked up about? Is it the injustices by extremists or by infidel Crusading Zionists? Is it some sorrowful tale of martyrs? Is it eulogizing some renowned leader?
He’s lamenting about and exhorting against Muslim men who remove their beard.
Yes. He worked up about beards.
“Don’t shave your beards and look like Jews!” he says.
12 videos, all on the subjects of beards.
(No, I don’t know why he’s waving that flag.)
There is one aspect to the whole Pakistan-Afghanistan-Taliban issue that some seem to not see, yet it is a critical aspect.
It answers the important question: why doesn’t Pakistan do more to defeat militancy in Pakistan and originating from Pakistan? The West is worried about the proliferation of militancy in Pakistan, turning Pakistan into a haven and training-ground for terrorists, not to mention a conduit for personnel, materiel, money, and so on. Afghanistan is annoyed that Pakistan isn’t doing more to staunch the Taliban flourishing in the area bordering Afghanistan, from where they launch attacks into Afghanistan, and where Afghani Taliban retreat to recuperate, regroup, or restock. And Pakistanis and Indians are wondering why the Pakistani military and government are not doing more to secure stability and security in Pakistan.
The reason is, actually, quite simple. Money.
If NATO found Usama bin Ladin (y’makh sh’mo), many people will believe there is no more reason to fund Pakistani’s military and its efforts to get rid of the Taliban. Bin Ladin’s dead, game over. And the Pakistani military loses one of its major sources of funding, not to mention relevance.
Similarly, if the Pakistani military were to wipe out the Taliban, why would America (and other Western allies) give huge sums of money to Pakistan (unconditional at times even)? If thr Taliban were swept away, the influx of money would stop. And this isn’t just money going into the public coffers, which the politicians would be worried about. It’s even more dire: it’s money going into the military’s coffers. An unhappy military does not mean good news for Pakistan’s civilians or government.
And so the Taliban will remain. The Pakistani military and government will conduct operations every now and then so as to assuage its Western allies that it is making some use of the funds given to Pakistan for that purpose. But they will not eliminate the Taliban. Indeed, the stronger the Taliban get, the more Pakistan can beg from other states. They can say that because the Taliban is so strong, they need more money and sooner in order to prevent the Taliban from conquering all of Pakistan. Obviously, they would say, they don’t want that to happen, for then they would have nuclear weapons.
May sound somewhat cynical, but it makes sense. Without this money, how would the Pakistani military feed its soldiers?
More factors will be discussed in the upcoming days.
They say Pakistani politics is like a soap opera and a roller coaster. You don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s non-stop drama, and it goes up and down and around and around.
In response to the great opposition from the populace regarding Shariah Nizam-i-Adl Regulation 2009, the government and military have indicated their hesitations. Essentially, they’re saying that they will review the Regulation if it doesn’t solve the problem. On the other hand, there are reports that government officials are negotiating with Taliban militants in other parts of the NWFP to strike a similar deal. (But then, “government officials” negotiated the Regulation, whilst the rest of the government officials were caught in a quandary: support the militant-coddling government officers or not?)
The good news is that this means the government may not have made up its mind finally. The bad news is that because it has not made up its mind, it can choose one, then the other, then the first, etc.
On Sunday, April 19, 2009, my mother, father, and I had a passionate discussion on Pakistan, specifically the signing of the Shariah Nizam-i-Adl Resolution 2009 by President Asif Ali Zardari, before I left for church. My mother said, “When a simple housewife who all she does is cook aloo gosht and do laundry, even she knows that this is a stupid idea, then how could it have been signed?” We tried to explain all the political reasons, but I admit it’s a major case of myopia by Pakistani politicians, if not desperation.
She then asked, “Okay, forget the politicians and army. How come the people aren’t doing anything?”
My father said, “I asked this very question to Mr. XYZ in Karachi. He said it was more than 100 degress at 8 pm. The light was out and had been for a few days. When people have no electricity, no water, and in high temperatures, then, bhaai saahib, these are issues only you discuss, comfortable in America.” In other words, the people have many other things to worry about, more immediate worries.
Problem is that distracted as such, they might be caught unawares when shariah law sweeps through Karachi, or when they look on with amazement as militant, Islamist entities start taking over the Pakistani state. Perhaps this is why they are distracted. But they are distracted. And those who aren’t can’t do anything. Newspaper editorials simply offer more paper with which to wrap roasted peanuts. What will they accomplish?
On Monday, I will reveal what many people say is the real reason for all of Pakistan’s suffering.
Shariah – ( شريعة ), sharee’ah, literally, “way” or “path” – is the law of Islam. While some people call it the religious law, it’s not confined to religious matters, or rather all matters are religious. It codifies issues such as inheritance, civil punishments, crimes, prayer, purification, and all the other observances and performances and laws and regulations. In Sunni Islam, there are four versions of shariah corresponding to the four schools of jurisprudence: Maliki ( مالكي ), Hanbali ( حنبلي ), Hanafi ( حنفي ), and Shafi’i ( شافعي ).
From the advent of Islam through the Ottoman Empire, shariah law, or versions thereof, ruled Muslim lands. With the modernization of Muslim lands, shariah law was replaced with civil law, or shariah law was tempered with civil law. This was the case with Pakistan.
The Pakistani constitution mentions the Qur’an and sunnah (example of Muhammad and prominent early Muslims, and usually refers also to the ahadeeth or sayings of Muhammad and prominent early Muslims) but does not mention shariah, thus trying to establish a system that derives inspiration from the Qur’an and sunnah but that isn’t shariah law.
But Islamists want to reverse this: they want to oust civil law for shariah law. They want a return to the “gold old days” when Muslims behaved like Muslims, and Muslim states supported Islam. Problem is that even before the Europeans left their mark, Muslim states had not been enforcing shariah law as strictly as today’s Islamists want to do so. Indeed, the norm was not to enforce shariah law, which is why Muhiyuddin Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir stood out among the Mughal emperors: he tried to enforce it. Others stood out for other reasons: Aurangzeb Alamgir stood out because his Islamism. If it were the norm, why would he stand out? Of course, the Islamists know this: which is why they laud Aurangzeb Alamgir but excoriate his great-grandfather Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar. (Aurangzeb Alamgir was the son of Shah Jehan, who was the son of Jehangir, who was the son of Akbar the Great.)
It seems the Islamists are winning. Problem is that like socialism, their nizam (plan, system) has never worked. All this will do is extend suffering.
The Qur’an says in in verse 256 of Sooratu-l-Baqarah (soorah 2): ( لا إكراه في الدّين ), laa ikraaha fi-d-deen, which means, “There is no compulsion in religion.”
Why? The Qur’an explains further in the same verse: ( قد تّبيّن الرّشد من الغيّ ), qad ttabayyana-r-rushdu mina-l-ghayy, which is translated as: “Truth stands out clear from error.”
Thus, because the truth is clear, there is no need to force people in matters religious: they all know better, and unto each his/her own to work out his/her own salvation, as it were.
So…whence shariah law and its enforcement of draconian penalties on transgressors?
Well, the fact the the common interpretation of 2:256 is not entirely correct. There is no compulsion in forcing people into the religion – for if they reject it, they do so knowing clearly well that they are wrong – but once a Muslim, the needs and obligations of the Muslim community takes precedence. Thus, any endangerment thereof is severely punished, as is any non-compliance. So, Muhammad should have said, “There is no compulsion in converting others to the religion, but once you’re a Muslim all bets are off.”
In “MPs who opposed Nizam-e-Adl are no longer Muslims: Sufi” on Saturday, April 18, 2009, by Ghulam Farooq of the Daily Times, it is written:
MINGORA: The parliamentarians who opposed the promulgation of Nizam-e-Adl Regulation in the National Assembly are no longer Muslims, Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) chief Sufi Muhammad said on Friday.
The TNSM is the Taliban-led coalition that took over Malakand (often referred to as Swat) that seeks to implement shariah law throughout Pakistan. They started with an area that had slowly been turning friendly to the Taliban, which they then conquered. They stipulated that in order for them to lay down their arms, they must be allowed to implement shariah law.
This is an incident of takfeer (proclaiming another person a kaafir or non-Muslim). Technically, this is not permitted because it is forbidden to call a Muslim a non-Muslim, so most jurists say it is better not to take changes and do takfeer mistakenly.
Talking to Daily Times at Maidan Kambar in district Dir, he said Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain had nothing to do with Islam.
Altaf Hussain and the MQM were the only political entities that opposed to recommendation of the Shariah Nizam-i-Adl Regulation 2009. Thus, according to Sufi Muhammad, he is no longer a Muslim. Also, this means that having a spine is un-Islamic, unless the spine is used to whip people into subservience to the most draconian forms of Islam. Or, rather, to be a Muslim = terrorists have a spine (not to mention quite a lot of chutzpah!), and to be a kaafir = having a spine against the terrorists.
Sufi said Taliban had promised to lay down their weapons after the implementation of sharia in Malakand division. He appealed to the people to attend the April 19 public meeting at Mingora’s Grassy Ground to show the rest of the country how much the people of Malakand division loved Islam.
Love Islam = terrorism to intimidate the government, kill soldiers, kill police officers, whip women, et cetera
The TNSM chief said the people would also be briefed on the Nizam-e-Adl in the meeting. He urged the government to appoint qazis across the division. He said the Awami National Party had proved its love for Islam. He also praised parliament for the approval of the draft Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009.
“Proved its love for Islam” = become traitors to the laws and political system of the country they reside in and supposedly serve. Also, = supporting and loving terrorists.
He vowed to continue his struggle for the restoration of peace and said he would soon visit the division.
Of course, he couldn’t just ask his cohorts to lay down their weapons. No. It’s all the government’s fault.
I’m not a swearing man, but with many people who have been following Pakistan, all I can say is: “WTF???!!!”
The Pakistani Parliament approved a recommendation to the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, to approve what is known as the Shariah Nizam-i-Adl Regulation 2009, which allows the Taliban government of Malakand, an area of the North-West Frontein Province (which is by the border of Afghanistan), to impose Shariah law. Pakistan’s civil law and civil courts will have no import: the Taliban may impose Shariah law.
One of the first things the Taliban government did? Ban education for women.
So, what lesson did we learn? That is militants harrass the police and military and people enough, the government will cave like a house of cards. The only politician with a spine has been Altaf Hussain of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), whom I usually dislike.
Pakistan is…I dunno. I’m dumbfounded by this act. More commentary in the following days.
Jamaatu-d-Da’wah (hereinafter “JuD”) is quite adept at avoiding the attention of the government and at gaining public approval.
When Pakistan was forced to outlaw the Lashkar-e Tayyiba, the organization now known as JuD had a different name, which was to be listed in the list of banned organizations. Conveniently, just before the list was officially promulgated, JuD changed its name, thus escaping being banned. And so they – JuD, its supporters, and the Pakistani authorities – could say, “It’s not the banned organization. Look, it’s a different organization!” But the people aren’t stupid.
One of the challenges with banning the JuD was that such a move was not popular with the people. Various such organizations are popular among the people despite all the mischief they cause. No clearer example of this exists than the incident of the Red Mosque, when the Pakistani army raided and flushed out a mosque in the middle of Islamabad (the capital of Pakistan) where a radical group had established its operational center along with a vast weapons cache. The people, rather than being relieved that another source of chaos was eliminated, turned against the Pakistani army and accused it of attacking Islam.
So, the people support these organizations, despite the destruction and damage that they do. To take action against these organizations would be to invite the wrath of the people, who could become a mob and cause all sorts of trouble for Pakistani authorities. As such, Pakistani authorities do not often take drastic action against Islamist organizations unless forced to do so – whether forced through external pressure or due to internal security threats.
Why the people support organizations like JuD – and, because of this and other reasons, why Pakistani authorities are not motivated to taken them down – will be discussed day after tomorrow.
The terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, it has been found, were carried out with the instrumentality of a Pakistani organization called Jamaatu-d-Da’wah (meaning “Congregation/Group of the Invitation/Proselyting”, hereinafter “JuD”). It is an organization allied with Lashkar-e Tayyiba (literally, “Army of the Pure”, note that it could also mean “Army of Muhammad” when “Tayyib” is one of Muhammad’s names/titles, hereinafter “LeT”).
This is not good news.
There are two obstacles: popular support for JuD, and a lack of incentive for Pakistan to crack down on them.
JuD operates mainly within Pakistan with eyes towards Chechnya, Kashmir, and other areas where Muslim extremist “freedom-fighters” are wont to obsess about. It is ideologically tied to the Ahl-e Hadith, which the Salafi groups (the most prominent one among which is the Wahhabi Hanbali movement) subscribe to or teach or practice the most. Thus, JuD is linked, even if only ideologically and theologically, with the vast multinational Islamist extremist movement under the the auspices of the Salafi movement. (Although not all Salafis are extremists, and not all extremists are Salafis, the momentum of Islamist extremism is mainly because of the Salafi movement spreading itself and its version of pure and purified Islam.)
Unlike some Salafi movements, however, JuD is a little different, which I will discuss in the following two days.
The recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai were unprecedented on a variety of levels.
Most terrorist attacks involved a single target, whether a train, market, plane, or building. This time, multiple targets were targeted at the same time in a sophisticated, coordinated attack.
Most terrorist attacks involved a single incident, whether opening fire or exploding a bomb. This time, the terrorists took over two major hotels and a Jewish center, staying there for days.
Most terrorist attacks targeted random bystanders. Reports indicate that the terrorists singled out people from Western countries (particularly America, the UK, and Israel).
But the terrorists, I think, accomplished their goals, even though most were killed. They spread immense panic and unrest throughout the world.
I think it is a little difficult, perhaps, for some people in the West to realize what role, status, and stature hotels have, particularly in South Asia. Americans don’t often go to hotels unless they’re staying in one or are attending some grand function or gathering. In South Asia, hotels are often the gathering places for the elite, who dine there and go to see and be seen. They are very much a part of the local community’s life, not just those of guests or banqueters. Attacking the Oberoi and Taj hotels dealt an immense blow to the communities and elite of Mumbai.
More on these attacks, what they mean, and issues behind them, will be forthcoming.
Around 8 pm Pakistan Standard Time, a large explosion shook Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. The explosion targetted and destroyed the Marriott Hotel.
About 60 people have died (including two US Marines), and hundreds are injured. Casualties are expected to rise as injured people succumb to their injuries and as more bodies are found.
This attack has sent Pakistan into a panic. Now, this is not a new terrorist attack. There have been terrorist attacks going on for some time now, particularly as the Pakistani military has stepped up its campaigns against terrorists and militants. However, the symbolism of this attack is staggering. The Marriott was a very prestigious hotel, and was frequented by foreign officials, foreign reporters (Christiane Amanpour of CNN would broadcast from the roof of the Marriott), foreign visitors, and even well-connected Pakistanis visiting Islamabad. It was supposed to be the most secure hotel. It was also used extensively by government officials for functions, receptions, dinners, and whatnot. That such an attack could be made, practically destroying the entire hotel, has sent confidence in Pakistan plummeting. Even Pakistanis are extremely shocked and upset.
Now, there were terrorist attacks against the Marriott, but none were as massive as what happened on Saturday, September 20, 2008.
In a flashback to September 11, 2001, people were leaping from the top floors of the building to their death when fire made any other form of escape impossible.
There was a personal edge to this for me. My father had left for Pakistan a few days before, going to Islamabad. When he’s at Islamabad, he stays at the Marriott. When I found out about the attack, I began to panic mightily. I called his cell phone, but there was no answer. In fact, I got a message saying the call could not go through. So I called home (I was at school at this time), and Mom picked up. I panickedly asked her what city Dad was in. She said he was in Karachi. I was able to calm down a bit. I then explained to Mom what had happened in Islamabad.
There are many stories going around and, as is the wont for Pakistanis, it’s impossible to tell which are true, which are embellishments, which are crackpot conspiracy theories, and which are deliberate lies for misinformation.
One explanation that seems plausible is that the high-ranking officials of the Pakistani government were going to hold a reception at the Marriott in honor of Asif Ali Zardari’s first address as president. At the last moment, the venue was changed to the Prime Minister’s House. The attack could have been against the government officials expected to be there, who were spared by this last-minute decision.
(As a point of reference, the key buildings of the Pakistani government – the National Assembly, Prime Minister’s House, President’s House, Supreme Court – are walking distance from the Marriott.)
I’m still sifting through various conflicting reports in American and Pakistani media. It’s way too confusing right now. But hopefully we shall see the facts.
Just when I thought Pakistan was making some progress, something like this comes along and throws everything into chaos again.
Update: According to Dawn News (a respected Pakistani newspaper), Marriott representatives said there was no reservation by or for government officials at the Marriott.
Also, a commenter left a comment comprising of a link to a post of his/her alleging that The United States did the attack. The comment was not approved, and no such comment will be approved.
XBradTC of Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid, a great and patient guy, asked me on a thread over at The Hostages to look at a story: “A Pakistani ‘awakening’?” posted on Wednesday, August 27, 2008 by Neptunus Lex.
Later, we learn that the armed services of The United States conducted raids across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, into Pakistan, attacking militants.
On September 11, 2008 (fortuitously), Neptunus Lex put up an interesting post on President Bush’s authorization of such raids, in his post “Gloves Off“.
It would be an understatement to say that relations between The United States and Pakistan have taken an interesting turn.
The problem has to do with the Pakistani military’s inability or unwillingness to take action against militants within its border.
Now, one may ask: Was it a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty to conduct this raid? The answer is: Yes. The next question is: Were The United States justified? The answer is: Yes.
When elements within one country are conducting attacking against another state or its interests, the attacked state has the right to respond, by force if necessary. If, after so many years of threatening and cajoling and persuading Pakistani forces to take action against militants to end their incursions into Afghanistan, the state that has sovereignty does not cease and desist such acts (or cause them to stop), the attacking state may be attacked as retaliation, to take out offending elements, or as an invasion. This occurred, I hope people will remember, between Turkey and Iraq where the offending elements were Kurdish terrorists and the offended party was the state of Turkey. Although a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, Turkey was within its rights to respond as it did.
However, this discussion skirts the real issue: what is to be done about terrorist, militant elements in Pakistan that are attacking American interests, interests of allies in Afghanistan, and Afghani interests?
I see the raids not as a true attack to eliminate militants (if it were, they would be much more extensive and would take many, many such raids). I see this as part of the delicate relations between Pakistan and The United States: this is The United States sending a strong message to Pakistan.
The United States could not conduct these raids while Musharraf was in office because doing so would mean he would be ousted, resulting in immense chaos. With Musharraf out and there being no strong ties between The United States and Asif Ali Zardari, the new president of Pakistan, The United States could send a strong message. The message was: Get to work, and eliminate the militants, or we’ll do it.
I think this message was also to assert that The United States will not allow Pakistan to dictate terms. The United States will pursue their interests, and the Pakistani forces ought to get in line.
In response, the Pakistani military revealed that the Pakistani military has orders to fire back if any foreign entities violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. So, if Americans try to do the thing the Pakistanis have failed to do, the Americans will be attacked, rather than the militants.
However, this is all part of a face-saving campaign. Many Pakistani authorities have made somewhat staunch and belligerent stances against America. This is essential, otherwise the public will think that Pakistani authorities were allowing Americans to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty, which could result in chaos and riots if not all-outs coups.
Furthermore, not one American thing will be hurt. While the Pakistani military may be jingoistic, in fact they will not do anything. The fallout of such an incidence would be immense. Additionally, the orders seem to be allow the Pakistani military room to not attack – it has to be unmistakably and verifiably a foreign entity, and likely by the time such a thing could be verified, it would be too late.
The raids also made the Pakistani authorities perk up. There were a number of meetings between Pakistani and American military officials to discuss the issue. Now the Pakistanis know they’ll have to do something. And while the public may or may not support them, at least the Pakistani military will know it has to get to job done.
The good news, which the post by Neptunus Lex on August 27 mentioned, is that the Pakistani military has been getting more active with regard to taking action against militants. The result is painful for Pakistan: there is a wave of suicide attacks. But the military is pushing forward.
So while things seem chaotic and perhaps discouraging, I think through the clouds we can see quite a bit of sunshine. The Pakistani military has begun taking its job a little more seriously, and it may be that with local help, the militant threat will be eliminated.
Issues will he rehashed, and others will be elaborated on later.
Was this good or was this bad? Perhaps both.
When Musharraf was the autocrat of Pakistan, he was good for The United States. But when he started to play politician, he became unreliable and undependable simply because he no longer controled all the levers of power in Pakistan. Add to this the intense opposition against him by various branches of the government, which did everything they could to stymie his efforts, and we get a situation that makes his cooperation with The United States difficult, if at all possible, and puts us in a position of supporting a man who has become useless.
Most supporters of Musharraf have been complaining that he veered off track soon after becoming the autocrat. They said, “He should be a general or a politician, not both.” In trying to be both, he essentially shot himself in the foot by opening himself up to being challenged, opposed, and taken down by forces he does not and cannot control. He should have stuck to being a general, with a puppet government and figurehead prime minister, while implementing those measures needed to make Pakistan stable and prosperous. Instead, he decided to usher in a wave of democracy, which brought him down.
This selfsame wave of democracy also moved Pakistan away from The United States. The people, who before had to simply accept Musharraf’s stance because they couldn’t do anything about it, began to express their disapproval of cooperating with The United States, and essentially began implementing measures and stances that hindered cooperation with The United States. In fact, the government of Pakistan turned from strenuously opposing militants to coddling and tolerating them, letting them take over key cities and areas rather then putting them down like it should have.
Having Musharraf in power also contributed to an environment of instability and uncertainty. The opposition to him was doing everything it could to unseat him, and we had no idea how successful they would be, or when they would try which trick, and what tricks would be next.
I hope that with Musharraf’s successor, attention to Pakistan’s military by Pakistanis will wane, allowing the military to take on more robust and active roles in flushing out the militants and preventing the establishment of a de facto Taliban mini-state in the North-West Frontier Province. With Musharraf out, critics cannot accuse the military of following Musharraf’s pro-American (and ostensibly anti-Islamic) policies. What is fortunate is that Kayani, the current head military guy, is our guy (or so it is believed). Without the intense public pressure, criticism, and opposition, maybe with the new president he’d be able to operate more freely.
Forging links with Kayani was a excellent decision by the Pentagon, and will help us move forward regardless of who is president of Pakistan. We cannot be tied down to one person, particularly a politician who, as such, is exposed to unpredictable maneuvers by opponents. I hope we are forging links with other military people so we can move forward regardless of unexpected circumstances that may befall Kayani.
In the end, Musharraf became useless, and part of this was his own fault. While democracy is good, there never has been democracy in Pakistan. It’s all a political game with dirty tricks, everyone manipulating (and even changing) the law to suit their needs and interests. There will never be resolution in Pakistan, and the government (and military) of Pakistan will always have to contend with militants. What we must prevent is Pakistan becoming an active supporter of militants, allowing them to use Pakistan as a base.
So what do the elections in Pakistan mean?
Yes, elections took place.
Yes, they were freer than one first expected them to be.
Yes, they were competitive for the most part.
Yes, the people of Pakistan had a say.
But, no, they were not intrinsically good for Pakistan.
And, frankly, I doubt whether Benazir would have changed the above. Let me explain in a short while.
The former ruling party was PML-Q which stands for the “Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid faction”. This is because the other major faction is the PML-N, the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz faction. In essence, PML-N supports Nawaz Sharif while PML-Q does not. PML-Q is Musharraf’s party, for all intents and purposes.
But since its beginning, PML-N strenuously opposed Musharraf. This is because Nawaz Sharif strenuously opposes Pervaiz Musharraf. And this mutual opposition is quite personal. Nawaz fired Musharraf, Musharraf ousted Nawaz, Nawaz tried to kill Musharraf when Musharraf was returning to Pakistan, Musharraf put Nawaz on trial, Nawaz was sent in exile. They both hate each other.
Now, what was personal has become political. PML-N and its allies have been doing everything to oppose and topple Musharraf. They are the ones primarily responsible for the meme that democracy in Pakistan is threatened (or, for that matter, doesn’t exist) as long as Musharraf has any power, as if Pakistan will become a haven for democracy the moment Musharraf steps down.
In contrast to Nawaz Sharif, Benazir was pro-Musharraf. When she returned, she realized that this certainly helped her return to Pakistan but it certainly hurts her when it comes to the elections. So she changed gears and became anti-Musharraf. What remains questionable is whether this anti-Musharraf stance was for appearance’s sake or whether she meant it. What also is questionable is whether she would have acted on anti-Musharraf demands made by her allies if she came into power. Many people expected her to be pro-Musharraf to staunch the rise of anti-Musharraf sentiment and policies, and indeed Musharraf depended on this, but it is difficult to tell how she would have acted.
Various political movements, parties, and people planned to use these elections has a launching pad for effective anti-Musharraf plans and policies. Once in power, the civilian government would begin to do everything it could do oust Musharraf, beginning with the deposed Supreme Court (which was dismissed at the end of last year when Musharraf declared emergency rule). With the proper elements in place, they planned to declare Musharraf ineligible as president of Pakistan and force him out. They may yet do it.
But Musharraf is not an idiot. Whereas he may not be able to completely stop such efforts, he can fight back. As president, he still has the power to dismiss Parliament. And he can always use his friend General Kayani, Chief of Army Staff, to help him out.
In other words, there was to be a showdown and there may yet be one. Musharraf’s options have been reduced due to no longer being the Chief of Army Staff and due to Pakistan’s need to present some semblance of respect for civilian or political rule. PML-N and PPP (Benazir’s party) made major gains in the recent elections. Let us see whether they can unite to do anything, and if they unit to oust Musharraf. If they do, there will be an intense period of instability in the political world of Pakistan. But then, this instability is the story of Pakistan.