Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lal Masjid Case Against Musharraf; Karachi "Targeted" Ops; Syria

Vindictive Pakistani judges' relentless pursuit of Musharraf continues with an FIR ordered against the former president for Lal Masjid operation conducted in 2007.

Nawaz Sharif government is working with Sindh provincial administration to carry out "targeted" operations by rangers and police against criminal gangs extorting money from businesses and killing innocent citizens of Karachi.

United States is pushing for military action against Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad for alleged use of chemical weapons by his forces.

FIR Against Musharraf:

Islamabad High Court Judge Noor-ul-Haq Qureshi ordered a local police official in the nation's capital  to register a criminal case against President Musharraf for Lal Masjid operation back in 2007. The judge threatened  to hold the reluctant police officer in contempt unless he registered an FIR against the former president, forcing the poor officer to do so against his considered and lawful judgement.

Lal Masjid Vigilantes in Islamabad

The forced registration of an FIR against a former president in Lal Masjid case sends a very alarming message to the current and future government executives including presidents and prime ministers of Pakistan: "Don't mess with anyone who takes up arms to challenge state's writ in the name of Islam and the Shariah Law. If you do, you will be dragged into courts headed by right-wing Islamist judges who sympathize with the Shariah vigilantes".

Most of the Islamabad judges are from the Rawalpindi Bar Association which has the strongest right-wing Islamist connections in the country. Its members treated Punjab Gov Salman Taseer's killer Mumtaz Qadri  as a hero and showered him with rose petals.  Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of Islamabad High Court  was a Jamaat-e-Islami candidate in 2002 elections. He has represented  former Lal Masjid Imam Maulana Abul Aziz who led Lal Masjid vigilantes in defying the writ of the state to enforce his version of the Shariah law in the hear of Pakistan's capital Islamabad.

Masked Armed Terrorists at Lal Masjid

In April this year, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui ordered former President Pervez Musharraf's arrest by revoking bail that was properly granted earlier by Justice Mushir Alam, a Sindh High Court judge in Karachi.
Although Judge Siddiqui has recused himself from Lal Masjid case, the fact is that other judges of the Islamabad High Court are activists with similar views as right-wing ideologues.  Qureshi's biography on Islamabad High Court website describes him as "having dynasty of well esteemed Siddiqui Qureshi clan migrated to Sindh with Ghazi Muhammad Bin Qasim."  The appointments of both judges were confirmed by former President Zardari under the threat of contempt of court by Pakistan Supreme Court judges.

Karachi Operation:

Karachi is often called the urban frontier. It is also a goose that lays golden eggs; its businesses are forced to part with an estimated Rs. 830 million every day in extortion money (bhatta) to criminal gangs and terrorists of various kinds operating in the megacity of 20 million residents. The problem is that, in spite of such vast amounts of protection money, the businessmen are feeling more unsafe than ever; they are being kidnapped, tortured and killed by multiplicity of ever-greedier extortionists with growing appetite for money and violence. Could this excessive greed kill the goose that lays golden eggs?

Nawaz Sharif government is in the midst of yet another law-enforcement operation by police and rangers against criminal gangs in Karachi. It has the same problem as the myriad operations before it; Most criminals and gangsters are affiliated with Karachi's powerful politicians who spring them lose after they are arrested by rangers and handed over to the police.

Historical Chart of Karachi Killings

Karachi's past history tells us that violence goes down significantly when it is run by an elected local government. In recent history, the quietest years have been the years when an MQM-led duly elected local government has been put in charge of running Karachi. Nawaz Sharif should try this as well: Ensure local elections and allow an empowered local government with police powers to tackle its crime problems. If it fails, then Martial Law under governor's rule should be considered  to clean up Karachi.

Syrian War:

Syrian Child Refugee
There have been recent headlines  triggered by the  threat of the Obama administration to punish Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians near Damascus. This needs to be seen in the context of a major humanitarian disaster that started to unfold when, as part of the Arab Spring elsewhere in the Middle East, ordinary Syrians rose up against the Assad dynasty's dictatorial rule over a period of 43 years. Taking a page from his father's playbook in Hama where thousands were killed by Hafez Al-Assad for defying him, Bashar responded  with brute force to suppress a peaceful protest movement against his repressive rule.  This time, the Hama formula backfired on Assad as the Opposition took up arms with foreign help to fight the regime. It's now a major humanitarian crisis in which over 100,000 Syrians have been killed so far in a population of only about 22 million, several hundred thousand have been injured and disabled and millions have been uprooted from their homes and forced to live in refugee camps in Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.

Will the US strikes against Assad help resolve the Syrian humanitarian crisis? The answer is NO.

Viewpoint from Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses with Riaz Haq, Sabahat Ashraf, and Ali Hasan Cemendtaur new cases against Pervez Musharraf; the upcoming Karachi operation to arrest terrorists and criminal elements; and what benefit would a US attack on Syria have.

This show was recorded at 1 pm PST on Thursday, September 5, 2013.

پرویز مشرف پہ داءر نءے مقدمات، کراچی میں بھتہ خوروں، ٹارگٹ کلرز اور دہشت گردوں کے خلاف آپریشن کی تیاری، شام پہ امریکہ کے حملے کی تیاری، فراز درویش، ریاض حق، صباحت اشرف، آءی فقیر، علی حسن سمندطور، ڈبلیو بی ٹی ٹی وی، ویو پواءنٹ فرام اوورسیز، امریکہ میں پاکستانی، سلیکن ویلی، سان فرانسسکو بے ایریا


New cases against Musharraf; Karachi operation; US ready to attack Syria from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Is Musharraf's High Treason Trial Justified?

Pak Media Cheers Judges' Pursuit of Musharraf

Karachi's Gangster Politicians 

Karachi: World's Fastest Growing Megacity

MQM Worried By Karachi's Demographic Changes 

Karachi Tops World's Largest Cities 

Karachi Tops Mumbai in Stock Performance 

Eleven Days in Karachi 

Pakistan Most Urbanized in South Asia

Karachi: The Urban Frontier

Syria Crisis

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on MQM and Altaf Hussain:

He follows events through satellite televisions in his walled-off home, manages millions of dollars in assets and issues decrees in ranting teleconferences that last for hours — all to command a network of influence and intimidation that stretches from North America to South Africa.

This global system serves a very localized goal: perpetuating Mr. Hussain’s reign as the political king of Karachi, the brooding port city of 20 million people at the heart of Pakistan’s economy.

“Distance does not matter,” reads the inscription on a monument near Mr. Hussain’s deserted former house in Karachi, where his name evokes both fear and favor.

Now, though, his painstakingly constructed web is fraying.

A British murder investigation has been closing in on Mr. Hussain, 59, and his party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. His London home and offices have been raided, and the police have opened new investigations into accusations of money laundering and inciting violence in Pakistan.


“This is a major crisis,” said Irfan Husain, the author of “Fatal Faultlines,” a book about Pakistan’s relationship with the United States. “The party has been weakened, and Altaf Hussain is being criticized like never before.”


Mr. Hussain fled to London in 1992, when the movement was engaged in a vicious street battle with the central government for supremacy in Karachi. The British government granted him political asylum and, 10 years later, a British passport.

London has long been the antechamber of Pakistani politics, where self-exiled leaders take refuge until they can return. The former military ruler Pervez Musharraf lived here until recently, and the current prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, lived here until 2007.

Mr. Hussain, however, shows no sign of going back. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement has an office in Edgware, in northwest London. But these days Mr. Hussain is mostly at home, in a redbrick suburban house protected by raised walls, security cameras and a contingent of former British soldiers he has hired as bodyguards.

From there, he holds court, addressing his faraway followers in a vigorous, sometimes maniacal style, punctuated by jabbing gestures and hectoring outbursts. Occasionally he bursts into song, or tears. Yet, on the other end of the line, it is not unusual to find tens of thousands of people crowded into a Karachi street, listening raptly before an empty stage containing Mr. Hussain’s portrait, as his disembodied voice booms from speakers.

“The cult of personality surrounding Altaf Hussain is quite extraordinary,” said Farzana Shaikh, an academic and the author of “Making Sense of Pakistan.” “He is immensely charismatic, in the way one thinks of the great fascist leaders of the 20th century.”

In Karachi, his overwhelmingly middle-class party is fronted by sharply dressed, well-spoken men — and a good number of women — and it has won a reputation for efficient city administration. But beneath the surface, its mandate is backed by armed gangs involved in racketeering, abduction and the targeted killings of ethnic and political rivals, the police and diplomats say.

Other major Pakistani parties indulge in similar behavior, but the Muttahida Qaumi Movement frequently brings the most muscle to the fight. An American diplomatic cable from 2008 titled “Gangs of Karachi,” which was published by WikiLeaks, cited estimatesthat the party had an active militia of 10,000 gunmen, with an additional 25,000 in reserve — a larger force, the dispatch notes, than the city police.


Wasim said...

There was an organised effort to term muslim massacre as shia - sunni conflict even in Pakistan. Pakistani people showed lot of maturity and saw what was happening clearly and never played into the hands of the perpetrators. Shia Sunni have generally survived together with mutual respect for centuries, it is after the wahabi's state power got in play that the fitna is growing into monster with basically more of shia massacre.
There are no shia sunni wars. hoping meanings of war are understood well and the term is not used so loosely.
On going discussion is bringing out various perspectives and a lot of interesting concepts.

Riaz Haq said...

Wasim: " Shia Sunni have generally survived together with mutual respect for centuries, it is after the wahabi's state power got in play that the fitna is growing into monster with basically more of shia massacre"

Shia-Sunni schism goes back to the 7th century.

The Shia-Sunni violent conflict goes back to 15th century when the Safavids Shia dynasty took over Iran and forcibly converted the Iranian population which was almost 100% Sunni to Shia Islam.

And then Baghdad and southern part of Iraq went through the same process.

There was perpetual conflict between Sunni Ottomans and Shia Safavids and several wars.

Many historians attribute Ottoman's inability to take most of Europe in the 16th century to the constant threat they had from the Safavids.

During this period, there were Sunni massacres in Iran and Shia massacres in the Otttoman empire.

Even today, Turkey and Iran are supporting opposite sides in Syria.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET Op Ed on Iran-Pakistan ties and Syria:

It cannot be easy being Bashar al-Assad. Syria’s president has lost his brother-in-law, and some would say, his sanity to the civil war raging across the country. Yet, he continues butchering his people. Syria’s been ‘booted out’ of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), one of the many little wrist-slaps the regime has somehow survived. But at the OIC’s last emergency meeting, Assad found sympathy from unlikely quarters.
President Asif Ali Zardari urged “a policy of non-interference” in Syria, then repeated himself in Tehran. In the routine outrage that followed though, commentators felt less strongly about Pakistan supporting the blood-splattered Assad than what several felt was a sop to Iran, Syria’s insurance in the Middle East. Whatever Pakistan’s motives, Iran is one of Pakistan’s most pressing cross-border headaches — even if no one likes talking about it.
The careers of the fellow Islamic Republics have been diverging for a while. And whereas Pakistan’s foreign policy agenda is defined hazily at best, Iran is not nearly as conflicted about the role it seeks for itself in the world. It patronises Hamas, the Palestinian party running the Gaza Strip. It throws its weight around in Iraq, the prime minister of which took refuge in Tehran during the Saddam years. And it extends a veritable lifeline to Hezbollah, now a force to be reckoned with in Lebanon.
Granted, Persian Empire 2.0 it is not, nor does Pakistan concern itself much with these states anyway (by itself a policy failure). But in places that Pakistan has bothered to create a stake for itself, like Afghanistan and post-uprising Bahrain, it quickly becomes evident that not only are the ‘brother countries’ on opposite sides, their proxies are also pitted directly against the other’s.
That is not to say there is no potential for improvement. Pakistan and Iran are bound by historic, linguistic and cultural ties. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s fondness for cheap grandstanding commands a bizarre respect from the Pakistani street. Both sides remain committed to building the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, despite several stupid attempts at persuading Pakistan otherwise. But between Hezbollah, Assad’s Alawis, and the Shia-majority states of Bahrain and Iraq, most of Iran’s associates gel well with Tehran’s regional ambitions. By comparison, Pakistan’s credentials are not that good: armed with nuclear warheads, longstanding ties with Iran’s Arab archrivals and a series of ad hocisms in place of a foreign policy.
This bleeds into what was always a confused relationship. In 2005, Iran’s nuclear chief coincidentally let slip that “pieces of centrifuges” were received from Pakistan. Pakistan has accused Iran of arming militant Shia groups operating in the country. And unlike the old days when the Shah would ply the original PPP regime with Cobra gunships — for mowing down Baloch tribesmen — today’s Iran blames Pakistan for ignoring Sunni outfits like Jundullah in Balochistan.
Yes, everyone knows that Pakistani policy requires coherence. But Iran’s officialdom needs to grow up. Ever since the revolution, Iranian diplomacy has reduced its range to vary from petulance to hostile petulance. Unfortunately, proximity to Pakistan is not akin to either Israeli anger or American sanctions; it cannot be manoeuvred around or weathered through. A better relationship can only serve Iran....


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on chemical weapons used in Syria:

Details buried in the United Nations report on the Syrian chemical weapons attack point directly at elite military formations loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, some of the strongest findings to date that suggest the government gassed its own people.

The inspectors, instructed to investigate the attack but not to assign blame, nonetheless listed the precise compass directions of flight for two rocket strikes that appeared to lead back to the government’s elite redoubt in Damascus, Mount Qasioun, which overlooks and protects Mr. Assad’s presidential palace and where his Republican Guard and the army’s powerful Fourth Division are entrenched.

“It is the center of gravity of the regime,” said Elias Hanna, a retired general in the Lebanese Army and a lecturer on strategy and geopolitics at the American University of Beirut. “It is the core of the regime.”

In presenting the data concerning two rocket strikes — the significance of which was not commented upon by the United Nations itself — the report provides a stronger indication than the public statements to date of intelligence services of the United States, France or Britain that the Syrian military not only carried out the attack, but apparently did so brazenly, firing from the same ridges from which it has been firing barrages of high-explosive conventional munitions for much of the war.

Looming over a tense capital and outlying neighborhoods bristling with anger and fear, Mount Qasioun is Damascus’s most prominent military position. It is also a complex inseparably linked to the Assad family’s rule, a network of compounds and positions occupied by elite units led by members of the president’s inner circle and clan.

The units based on the mountain are “as close to the Assad regime as it’s going to get,” said Emile Hokayem, an analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Mr. Hokayem added that theories that the chemicals had been launched by a rebel mole seeking to discredit the government were unlikely because of the solidity and tight control of those units.

Mr. Assad’s government and its ally Russia have continued to claim publicly that Syrian rebels were responsible for the attacks, which killed hundreds of people, many of them children, in the most lethal chemical warfare attack in decades. But the United Nations data, if accurate, would undercut that claim and appear to erase some of the remaining ambiguity.

Rebel forces have never penetrated the major military installations of Mount Qasioun. In tactical and technical terms, they would almost certainly have been unable to organize and fire sustained and complex barrages of rockets from there undetected.
Speaking on Tuesday in New York, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, took pains not to express publicly any conclusions about culpability that could be drawn from the report, noting that assigning blame was explicitly beyond the United Nations’ mandate.

The investigators’ mission, Mr. Ban noted, “is to find out facts and whether or not chemical weapons were used; if used, to what extent.”

“It is,” he added, “for others to decide whether to pursue this matter further to determine responsibility and accountability.”

Pressed later about whether he thought those responsible should be referred to the International Criminal Court, Mr. Ban was unequivocal. “The international community is firm and I am firm that any perpetrators who have used these chemical weapons under any circumstances under any pretext must be brought to justice,” he said.


Riaz Haq said...

Speaking to Reuters at a local football club, (Zafar) Baloch compared Karachi to a cake which attracted too many takers. "Right now we are sitting across the table watching the MQM eat the whole cake," Baloch said. "If this goes on, we will either ruin the cake for everyone or get our slice."


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times Op Ed by a former Afghan Jihadi on "foreign fighters" in Syria:

The numbers certainly demand our attention. Of an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 foreign fighters in Syria, as many as 2,000 are said to be European nationals, as well as some 100 Australian citizens and several dozen American passport holders, according to published sources. While some are fighting alongside “moderate” rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army, most have reportedly joined the ranks of the militant Jabhet al-Nusra and the formerly Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

I know the mentality of these nationless combatants. I fought beside them.

As a teenage Afghan refugee living in Pakistan in the 1980s, I joined the anti-Soviet resistance. I took up arms in a cause we called jihad, or holy war — but one focused on liberating our homeland, not exporting an ideology. War came to us through Soviet invasion: We hated it, and we wanted to live through it to see a free Afghanistan at peace.

Pitting a small, impoverished Muslim nation against an infidel invader, Afghanistan’s conflict attracted up to 20,000 foreign fighters in the 1980s, the largest contingent drawn to any Muslim country in modern history. Made up mostly of Saudis and Pakistanis, the army of volunteers also included Egyptians, Tunisians and Indonesians, among others.

Make no mistake: The Afghan mujahedeen, equipped with Western arms, won that war. International volunteers played a marginal role in sealing our victory, their numbers notwithstanding.
With an estimated 1,500 groups fighting in Syria, the conflict is clearly far more complex than the Afghan war. Europeans and Americans of Syrian heritage are fighting to liberate their homeland from the murderous Assad regime. Sunnis from Saudi Arabia and Libya have been drawn by their solidarity with coreligionists.
The build up to intervening in Syria is all too similar to the run up to Iraq in 2003. Farivar underestimates foreign fighters by some 6,000...
In an attempt to understand the foreign fighters, some Western experts have crafted caricatures — the revenge-seeker, the status-seeker, the identity-seeker and so on — but the legion of fighters with varied and often overlapping motives defy easy stereotypes. As the scholar Thomas Hegghammer observed: “In reality, most foreign fighters never engaged in out-of-area operations, but fought in one combat zone at the time.”
In Afghanistan, hundreds of veterans stayed behind and followed in Osama bin Laden’s footsteps to later infamy. Others, gripped by religious fervor and martial wanderlust, went on to cause mayhem in places like Algeria and Egypt during the 1990s.

But not all did, of course. For some, their adventure concluded, quiet civilian lives beckoned. I befriended a young Arab-American from New York who was happy to be heading home at the end of the war. A Harvard-educated British convert I knew went on to become a distinguished war correspondent. I, too, became a writer and journalist. You might say that in the end, we were more closely allied in peace than we had been in war.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times report on Pakistan's troubled criminal justice system:

LONDON — Pakistan’s troubled criminal judicial system has failed to prosecute several notorious figures living there over the years, including Hafiz Saeed, the militant leader with a $10 million American reward on his head, and Osama bin Laden.

But Pakistani justice has not been hesitant with Musa Khan, a 9-month-old boy who faces charges of attempted murder and whose relatives have spirited him into hiding.

In a case that has heaped ridicule on the under-resourced police force, the baby boy was charged alongside four adults in connection with a violent protest in a Lahore slum in February. Slum residents threw stones at gas company workers who had tried to disconnect households that failed to pay their bills, leading the police to charge an entire family with attempted murder, including Musa.

The absurdity of the case became apparent last Thursday when the screaming child was produced in court, and had to be comforted with a milk bottle as a court official recorded his thumbprint.

“He does not even know how to pick up his milk bottle properly — how can he stone the police?” his grandfather Muhammad Yasin said to news service reporters outside the courthouse.

On Tuesday, Mr. Yasin said the family had moved the child to nearby Faisalabad for safety reasons, citing “pressure” from the authorities.

The case has attracted ridicule in the news media and provided fresh fodder for critics of the country’s dysfunctional judicial system, which frequently appears to suffer from misplaced priorities.

Crude police tactics played a central role in the prosecution of Musa, who was charged in February alongside his father and grandfather following the attack on the gas company workers. Lawyers say that the Pakistani police often lodge exaggerated complaints against poor families as a form of collective punishment.

The matter is likely to be quickly dropped. Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab Province and brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has ordered an inquiry into the incident. The judge in the case has ordered the police to produce an explanation for the charges.

The child’s lawyer has argued that children under the age of 7 cannot be prosecuted under Pakistani law. Musa remains free on bail until his next hearing, scheduled for Saturday.


Riaz Haq said...

From Economist on Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Aziz:

IN THE summer of 2007, things were not looking good for Maulana Abdul Aziz, an extremist cleric who had just failed in his attempt to impose strict sharia law on Pakistan’s capital by force.

His Red Mosque and madrassa complex, a stone’s throw from government buildings in Islamabad, was stormed by security forces on the orders of then-president, Pervez Musharraf. Dozens of people died during the siege. Mr Aziz was caught trying to escape dressed in a burqa.

In this section
Riding the wave
Returning with a vengeance
Back on track?
Time to deal
A ferry sinks
The game of the river
A tricky rebalancing act
Seven years later it is Mr Musharraf who is on trial for high treason while Mr Aziz is a free man, basking in media attention and busily rebuilding his religious powerbase. “We receive donations from people all over the world”, he says, gazing out at a group of workmen building another marble edifice that will house more seminary students and teachers. “They are inspired by the sacrifice of the martyrs who died protecting the mosque.”

He has his freedom thanks to the government’s tolerance of radical Islamists in national affairs. In February Mr Aziz was among five people nominated by the Pakistani Taliban to represent its interests in peace talks with the government. Although he soon dropped out of the process, the question of how much the country should adjust its constitution to suit its militant tormentors became a routine topic on talk shows.

Mr Aziz says he is not part of the “armed struggle”, but he argues that violence is justified in order to establish God’s laws. He is revered by terrorists for whom the Red Mosque affair was a defining moment. One militant group—Ghazi Force—is named after Mr Aziz’s brother, Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was killed during the siege.

Some suspect the group may have been behind the suicide attack in Islamabad on March 3rd. Among the 11 dead was a liberal-minded judge who outraged extremists last year when he rejected a petition for Mr Musharraf to be tried for ordering the raid on the Red Mosque in 2007.

Zahid Hussain, a commentator, says the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has lost its appetite for controlling illegal madrassa construction in Islamabad. He says there are now thousands of madrassa students in the city. No wonder Mr Aziz feels the tide of history is flowing in his direction. In 2007, we were on the defensive, he says. “Now things have turned 180 degrees and it is the secular forces who are hiding.”


Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AFP report on Lal Masjid's Maulana Aziz naming his madrassa library after Osama Bin Laden:

A religious school for women in the Pakistani capital Islamabad has renamed its library in honour of slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The seminary is run by controversial hardline cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, the imam of the city's Red Mosque, once notorious as a hideout for hardliners with alleged militant links.

The mosque was the scene of a week-long military siege against radicals in 2007 which left more than 100 people dead and unleashed a wave of Islamist attacks across Pakistan.

Now the Jamia Hafsa seminary connected to it has named its small library, stocking Islamic texts, in honour of bin Laden, who masterminded the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/asia/south-asia/story/osama-bin-laden-library-pakistan-religious-school-20140417

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times on the rise of Lal Masjid cleric and fall of Musharraf:

..The chief cleric of the Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz, has inserted himself into the argument with a typically showy gesture: the inauguration of a new library named after the slain founder of Al Qaeda.

“If Pakistan truly has freedom of expression, then we should be able to express our love for our heroes,” said Mr. Aziz, a willowy, bespectacled man with a wiry gray beard, in a room with the sign “Martyr Osama bin Laden Library” on the door. “And we love Osama bin Laden.”

Today, Mr. Aziz delivers thunderous Friday sermons from the lavishly refurbished Red Mosque, a stone’s throw from the Parliament building. And he oversees a network of madrasas that teach 5,000 students.

Only seven years ago, the mosque was in the throes of a pitched battle against the authorities. Mr. Aziz tried to escape the siege under the cover of a burqa, a purse clutched in his gloved hands, but was captured and paraded by the intelligence services on national television, still wearing the black cloak.


Malik Riaz Hussain, a sympathetic property tycoon, provided a temporary home for hundreds of madrasa students and spent at least $150,000 on refurbishing the bullet-pocked mosque. He attributed his generosity to pragmatism rather than to religious conviction.

“I have huge interests in Islamabad and Rawalpindi,” the businessman, who has close ties to the military, told The New York Times in a 2010 interview. “Bad law and order is bad for my business.”

The city provided land worth millions of dollars in central Islamabad for the rebuilding of Jamia Hafsa, a women’s madrasa that was bulldozed after the 2007 siege. The madrasa, whose construction is not complete, is home to the Osama bin Laden library.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story

But it is the courts that have been most indulgent toward Mr. Aziz and his followers. Over the past year, judges have dismissed all of the 27 criminal charges against Mr. Aziz, who at times has used the courtroom as a pulpit to call for the imposition of Shariah law.

Instead, the court’s attention has mostly focused on Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former military ruler. A judicial inquest determined that General Musharraf, not Mr. Aziz, was responsible for the deaths during the siege of the Red Mosque, even though armed jihadis from banned militant groups had joined the students inside...
At Jamia Hafsa, Mr. Aziz has named a dispensary after Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman who is serving an 86-year prison term in the United States on charges of attempting to kill an American soldier and an F.B.I. official in Afghanistan.


The Red Mosque has also staged a comeback on the Internet: Its Facebook page is named after the 313 Brigade, a fearsome band of armed female students that conducted raids on suspected brothels and video stores in Islamabad in 2007, in the months before the siege.

A return to such vigilantism is unlikely, said Cyril Almeida, a columnist with Dawn, an English-language newspaper in Pakistan. But he warned that the mosque’s enhanced profile posed other dangers. “The more they gain visibility on the national stage, the more the myth of militants fighting the good fight against an illegitimate state gains in strength,” he said. “And that makes the narrative war more difficult for the state to win."...


Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani security agencies have reportedly warned the government that the resurgence of Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, who is believed to have links with militant groups and is known for his anti-government rhetoric, poses a security threat to the law and order situation in the capital city of Islamabad.
A report entitled, "Activities of Maulana Abdul Aziz," forwarded to the interior ministry by the country's primary intelligence agency, accused the "Lal Masjid mafia" of having links to militant groups and land grabbers. It also claimed that Aziz was reorganising the Ghazi Force militant group, spawned by his followers after the Lal Masjid Operation, reported the Dawn.


Riaz Haq said...

Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi, the Lal Masjid leader and extremist preacher profiled in Among the Believers, says as much, restating a reality that has become axiomatic among Pakistanis. “The military rulers have failed to solve the major problems of the country. The republican leaders have failed. When everyone has failed, it creates a vacuum. Someone has to fill it.”

Along with religious institutions like Lal Masjid, grassroots social services organizations and informal networks of patronage also function as a surrogate welfare state to the country’s most needy. Pakistan’s most famous non-governmental charity organization, the Edhi Foundation, operates not only boarding schools, but also a huge fleet of ambulances and hospitals funded entirely by private donations.

But for a country of 180 million people, such services are still inadequate, and many children end up panhandling on the streets or working in atrocious conditions in the country’s makeshift brick kilns and factories. For girls, families resort to marriage in the absence of other opportunities. In the film, 12-year-old Zarina is married off to a local boy by her reluctant parents after her village school is shuttered. For families faced with such choices, sending a child to a distant madrassa can seem like the most benign option, albeit one they seldom understand the full implications of.

Among the Believers portrays Pakistan as a country in the throes of a clash between atavistic religious forces on one hand, and progressive, secular reformists on the other. The extremist figure of Abdul Aziz Ghazi is contrasted with that of Pervez Hoodbhoy, a nuclear physicist and spokesperson for the country’s liberal intelligentsia. But while this ideological divide is relevant, it is perhaps too simplistic to understand the country’s predicament.

Although the Lal Masjid is an infamously malign presence in the country’s body politic, not all Pakistani madrassas are created equal. In the Karachi neighborhood where my extended family lives, a local school attached to a mosque offers religious instruction, as well as tutoring in science, mathematics and other subjects. Such schools, technically religious in nature, are not unique, and offer one of the few pathways toward a better future available to the overwhelming majority of Pakistan’s urban poor. While poorly regulated institutions are not ideal, they still offer some semblance of upward mobility through education in the absence of the state.

Endemic corruption and an overbearing, largely unaccountable military establishment have, on the other hand, siphoned away funds which could otherwise be used to build sustainable schools with standardized curriculums throughout Pakistan. Until this problem is addressed, huge numbers of children will still be forced into early adulthood by work and marriage, and institutions like Lal Masjid will still be able to find a steady supply of children to indoctrinate into their radical worldview.

In the closing scenes of Among the Believers, Tariq, the head of the village of Bunni Behk, reopens the school Zarina attended, which Tariq had founded for the local children, and which had been under threat by local militants associated with Lal Masjid. In a classroom full of young boys and girls learning to use their computers, he says, beaming, “If the next generation gets to learn, it means we will all learn.”


Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan hangs #MumtazQadri who killed Gov Taseer over call to reform #blasphemy law -
http://go.shr.lc/1OGFFVX from Jpost
d a man who shot and killed the governor of Punjab province over his call to reform the country's strict blasphemy laws, which carry a death sentence for insulting Islam, police and television said.

Authorities nationwide were on alert in anticipation of protests by those who consider Mumtaz Qadri a hero who defended Islam with the killing, Geo TV reported.

"At 4:35 a.m., Qadri was sent to the gallows," a senior police officer told Reuters by telephone on Monday. He requested anonymity because of the controversy surrounding the case.