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..