Thursday, April 13, 2006

Displacement psychology in Pakistan

I was shocked to read about the events at Nishtar Park.

B. Raman characterized this as a decapitation strike on the Sunni Tehreek.

I agree with B. Raman's characterization that the Sunni Tehreek was opposed to the growth of Salafi influence.

In Freudian psychology, the term displacement refers to a defensive mechanism whereby the person under stress redirects their feelings caused by one thing towards a more benign object. Strictly speaking this is a unconscious mechanism and so it can't be used to analyse the pre-meditated actions of terrorist groups.

The concept is more useful in understanding the spontaneous actions of a community as a whole.
Today the followers of the Sunni Tehreek are in a state of disorientation. Lacking a functioning leadership it will be very difficult to coordinate or control their actions. This is the closest we are going to get to see what happens when an Islamist group is decapitated. Unlike previous assasintions of key religious leaders, e.g. the murder of Azzam Tariq, or Nizamuddin Shamezai, or the recent attack on Fazl ur Rehman Khalil, this is a true decapitation strike.

The Sunni Tehreek has two main adversaries. The first is a group of Pakistan Army ISI personnel, they are Pakistani deobandis and have in the past supported groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi(LeJ) and the Anjuman Sipaha Saheba Pakistan (SSP). The second adversary is the Muttahida Quami Mahaz (MQM) which comprises poor urdu speaking Muslim migrants - Mohajirs from India. The MQM seeks to maintain its powerbase and looks down upon encroachment by the Sindhi and Gujurati speaking Sunni Tehreek. The Pakistan Army and the government is keen to blame this action on Wahabbi extremists but is appealing for calm between the communities.

The modus operandi of the attack at Nishtar Park clearly speaks to the involvement of PA-ISI backed LeJ/SSP type groups, though given how controlled these groups are, it is difficult to construct a logic for their actions or to acertain what this act really was. It is impossible as of now to tell if this was a spontaneous action on part of the Deobandi extremists or whether is part of an ISI plan to initiate a controlled conflict in Karachi. In past for example by creating the MQM(Haqiqi) faction the Pakistan Army ISI sought to weaken the MQM's hold on Karachi. It could be that the hand-wringing and pretence by the Pakistan Army that the Deobandi groups are out of control is part of a calculated scheme by the Army to cause splintering in the Islamist pantheon.

Without a real leadership to direct their strength, and given the overwhelming support that the ISI will pull for the LeJ and SSP, it seems likely that the Sunni Tehreek's followers might redirect their anger towards the MQM.

If the statements of Qazi Hussein Ahmed are anything to go by the MQM needs to prepare for the worst - a descent into the maelstrom.


At 6:13 PM, Blogger Nitin said...


After reading the Daily Times' editorial yesterday, I was looking at it from the perspective of a consolidation strategy, perhaps orchestrated by pro-Musharraf ISI. This is speculation of course, but in the face of the religious extremist groups slowly getting out of control, it would make sense to attempt to attempt to put them into a small handful of easily controllable groups.

After this decapitation, the cadre and assets of ST can (a) disperse (b) re-form or (c) assimilate into other groups. Vested interests rule out (a), (b) is difficult if the ISI does not permit it. (c) will remain as the option left.

As for who actually carried out the operation, as you pointed out, there are any number of groups that the ISI can leverage on.

At 3:24 AM, Blogger cynical nerd said...

Very good analysis.

MQM is now putting the ball back on JI.

At 6:07 AM, Blogger maverick said...


You may be right.

Musharraf is interested in weakening the religious parties and their military wings. The Sunni Tehreek was the only group that was not banned along with the TNFJ, SSP and the LeJ. Most high ranking deobandi ulema have had their activities curtailed. The Sunni Tehreek was the last tanzeem that was operating with almost complete autonomy. Now they too are out of the equation.

At this point if a disorganized Sunni Tehreek goes to war with the deobandis than that will weaken the MMA.

But there are other things to consider also, the communities that back the Sunni Tehreek - gujurati Muslims and communities like the Memons etc... all have business interests in India.

The MQM as you know also had a very positive relationship with India.

At this time if the disorganized Sunni Tehreek goes to war with the MQM, then Musharraf's ISI buddies will be quite happy.

By claiming that the attack was carried out by suicide bombers Musharraf has successfully deflected the blame for the attack to Jihadis he does not control. All over the place his government representatives are talking to Ulema urging them to remain calm and to eschew sectarian violence.


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