Pakistan: Right Where We Want It?
President Pervez Musharraf must be positively gleeful because the Islamists have given the Pakistanis a reason to re-elect him.
The Red Mosque incident was, all in all, pretty well handled by the Pakistani leadership. While there is concern and criticism in Pakistan for the number of school-aged boys and girls who died, some with apparent terrible suffering, there is also recognition that the Musharaff government held back and tried to negotiate before being forced to take back the mosque.
Now, it's becoming more apparent why the negotiations failed. Here's the Times of London:
It was foreign al-Qaeda, from Egypt, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, who refused to give in, preferring martyrdom to negotiation; it was foreign al-Qaeda who brought about the deaths of the school kids, like the Red Mosque school girls pictured here. Many were the radical children of radical parents -- think of them as not unlike the children of Branch Davidians -- but many others wanted nothing to do with martyrdom, nor did their parents have that wish for them.
Al-Qaeda's leadership secretly directed the Islamic militants whose armed revolt at the Red Mosque in Islamabad ended last week with more than 100 deaths after it was stormed by the Pakistan army.
According to senior intelligence officials, the troops who finally took control discovered letters from Osama Bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. They were written to Abdul Rashid Ghazi and Abdul Aziz, the brothers who ran the mosque and adjacent madrasah.
Contrast that with the other side: Indoctrinating school children, holding many of them against their will and causing their deaths, all in the name of instituting a Taliban-like Sharia rule over Islamabad. Islamabad is not the Northwestern Frontier; it is what passes for cosmopolitan in Pakistan, and while the Islamists can drum up a loud demonstration there pretty much on demand, it is only because the population is big enough and diverse enough.
A majority of the residents of Islamabad would like nothing less than a bunch of Talibans telling them how to dress, cut their hair, and think.
Now, just days after having that grim Sharia nightmare waved in their faces, saner residents of Pakistan are seeing this same Taliban settting off suicide bombs targeting their soldiers, their police.
Masharaff could ride this as a very real threat to his country to re-election, but there are many ways he still could blow it. Today, his forces detained Shah Abdul Aziz, a National Assembly member from an alliance of religious parties, for inciting people against the government during the Red Mosque siege.
That's the sort of heavy-handed response that could turn the people against Musharaff. He should be concentrating on killing as many Talibani, especially foreign ones, as possible -- not working to muzzle speech.