Saturday, April 07, 2007

While We Focus on Iraq And Iran...
Some quick thoughts..

I have been following events in the subcontinent especially Pakistan and Afghanistan a bit closely these past few days. And I am not sure if we should be concerned about Pakistan. I read these different stories and I am not sure how the threads tie up or this is all gonna unravel. Only time will tell.

I saw this news story in the NYTimes today and saw it on the BBC news last night too. Scary?

Radical Pakistani Cleric Threatens Suicide Attacks in Capital

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, April 6 — A hard-line cleric said Friday that he was setting up a religious court here in the country’s capital, and threatened suicide attacks if the government did not enact Islamic law and close down brothels and video stores within a month.

The announcement was made during Friday Prayer by Maulana Mohammad Abdul Aziz, the head cleric of the Lal Mosque who is known for his extremist and anti-American views. Mr. Aziz and his allies have stirred a national debate with their drive to impose Taliban-style rule in the capital, prompting protests by human rights advocates and political parties.

Mr. Aziz’s remarks were the latest in a series of challenges by hard-line clerics to the authority of the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is considered an ally of the United States and who has vowed to put Pakistan on the path to what he has called “enlightened moderation.”


“Rulers, listen! Our last option will be suicide attacks,” Mr. Aziz said.

Some critics of the government say it has buckled under pressure from the clerics, emboldening them. Others charge that the government has allowed the clerics a free hand in order to divert attention from the constitutional crisis that has roiled Pakistan since last month, when General Musharraf removed the country’s chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who had taken on cases threatening the president’s authority.


Last week, female students from Jamia Hafsa kidnapped an alleged brothel owner from a neighborhood in Islamabad. The woman was released only after she gave a public confession.

Veiled students have also visited several video stores, urging their owners to close.

On Friday evening, dozens of students gathered in front of the mosque around a smoldering heap of Pakistani, Indian and English CDs and DVDs. “These are all dirty movies,” one said, claiming that they had been handed over to the students voluntarily by a local video store owner.

Dirty movies? heh.. they ain't seen nothing yet.. ;)

But seriously, what's happening in Pakistan has been a concern for me for a while now. I heard a different opinion from the journalist and author Ahmed Rashid on fresh air (link here). Terry Gross (how I love her show!) asked him about the threat of an takeover by the fanatical Islamic elements. He thought the threat had been exaggerated by the media and elements within Pakistan and the US for their own purposes. He noted that the fanatics had only managed a 10% of the share in the last elections.

I sure hope he is right. But to touch upon something else here too. The news does get through us via the media and the picture above is a good example of how a story might stay with you. I found the picture above a bit disturbing, given my opinion, I tend to be against women having to wear a veil, but that is just me if they do it voluntarily who am I to object?(but that discussion is for another day). How would this image and story stay with you? Pakistan although an Islamic country is by no means homogenous in how their people are with regard to the culture, language and dialects as well as in the practice of their religion.

But Ahmed Rashid did bring up another very relevant point. He did say Musharraf is in a bind. The protests from the people (the non fanatics) are mostly the well educated and moderate folks, "intelligentsia" if you will call them that. He said these are the people who are often at the end of a movement, in the sense that they stand back as movements like these go, usually tending to join in later. But he said they trend is different here and that says a lot about the general unhappiness at the state of affairs in their country.

Now couple it with the fact that President Karzai of Afghanistan has held talks for reconciliation with some Taliban leaders. Someone ask our "with us or against us, good v/s evil" simple minded dear leader, what he thinks about this.

Stay tuned people, this part of the world is getting more interesting..


Aditi said...

Ts a serious topic and yet the 105 degree heat has fried mybrain so all i can think on seeing that picture is
damn arent they hot? I wonder how the men would handle being in a burkha all day

meno said...

You have an interesting definition of interesting. I would call it frightening.
Sigh. Why do people feel they have the right to dictate to the rest of the world. And to kill them if they don't cooperate?

Eli said...

If the fundies believed in suicide bombing, they probably would have taken the US over by now...

Lotus Reads said...

Sanjay, I spent many years in the Middle East and one of my favorite things to talk about with the local women was the wearing of the veil and if they enjoyed it or felt forced to wear it. Most of the young, local women I spoke to had embraced the veil by choice and seemed to relish the anonymity it gave them.

Friends in India tell me that the wearing of the veil (or burqa as it is know there) has increased in recent years, especially in the state of Kerala but I would say that could be because of the influence of the Gulf-returned families...I don't know.

About the fundamentalists slowly taking over is quite possible...question is, what are the moderate Muslims doing to stem it, why won't they speak up, why do they prefer to stand by and let the fanatical movement gain momentum?

Beenzzz said...

Fear. That's all I can say. Fear causes the fundamentalists to rise. Fear causes the U.S. to cleave to the extreme right (hopefully, that will change). Fear makes people shrink instead of standing up. It's all fear based, all fear driven, and it is perpetuated in a unending cycle.
As for women in burqa. I saw quite a few of them in India. I've heard that they wear them because the women are beautiful and their husbands don't other men looking at them. Then there are those women who choose cover up because they feel it gives them control.

Sanjay said...

@Aditi.. I know what you mean, I guess one gets used to it? It is 105 deg F? Is that Bombay?

@Meno..Yes I guess it is frightening, I just don't get this intolerance either.

@Eli. Maybe

@Beenzzz. As they say "Fear is the key".I guess different strokes for different people who choose to wear the veil.

Sanjay said...

@Lotus.. Thank you for your comment. You know you bring up a very interesting aspect here. I had never thought of it that way,in that the women would embrace it as a way to have anonymity. Is this empowerment of a different kind?

It's interesting that Kerala might have an increased incidence of women wearing the veil. Guess some influences do reach far beyond the shores.

Maybe the moderates do make a stand, but we do not hear enough? Maybe they exercise that thru the ballot box rather than being more activist? Which might explain why the fundies have never won more than 10% of the seats/votes.