Friday, May 25, 2007

Lal Masjid Operation: Hamid Gul's Assurances.

Hamid Gul gave a speech to the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA). The LHCBA usually seats some of the most influential lawyers in Pakistan. Hamid's presence here speaks to an attempt by the Islamists in the military to reach out to civilian groups in their anti-Musharraf agitation.

In his speech Hamid Gul said

"I will act as a safety valve between the army and the masses if Musharraf tries to confront the masses."

The Lal Masjid operation and an offensive of sorts against Maulana Fazlullah in the tribal areas have both been shelved. The reason may have been resistance from within the Military Islamists like Hamid Gul. Hamid's talk at the LHCBA may be his all too famous big mouth at work, Hamid is full of ambition and often rushes where others fear to tread, but it may (in an imperfect way) reflect a deeper fact which has thus far eluded our attention.

If this is the case, i.e. if the Hamid Gul types in the Pakistan Army have been able to stop Musharraf from beating up the Lal Masjid people, then I submit to you that the balance of power has already shifted in Pakistan. The ISI Core - that fine mix of serving and retired military Islamists in the Inter Services Intelligence - have positioned themselves at an advantage. Maulana Ghazi's self congratulatory speeches are evidence of this sense of victory.

A critical piece of the puzzle fell into place yesterday where I read this piece by Alex Stolar in the News. Alex works for Micheal Krepon, and I think is voicing things Alex is writing things he has heard Krepon mutter off camera, how else does an undergraduate on an summer internship know that

"Today, the (Pakistan) military's Strategic Plans Division devotes over 8,000 men, mostly undercover, to protecting Pakistan's weapons and fissile material"

The Stolar piece reeks of over confidence in the Pakistani ability to keep things managed. Granted Stolar is kid with a pen and thinks he is smarter than everyone else, but is he really stupid enough to go charging into an issue like Pakistan's nuclear C&C, when most American experts are giving Pakistan a wide berth? I doubt it. Stolar is reflecting the general unspoken consensus among US experts about Pakistan.

This kind of talk hints at the possibility that the Lal Masjid drama is being staged. One can only wonder if the Pakistan experts in the US are able to grasp that the actors have a mind of their own in this drama and that the mind of the average Pakistani is what this battle is for.

Surely they realise that the man with the finger on the big red button in Pakistan may be a Pakistan Army man of the suit and boot variety but what goes on in his mind - especially in that sphere of his brain where right and wrong are decided - may become more susceptible to the views of the Islamists than to the entreaties of America's Pakistan experts.


At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Call it gut instinct or call it a hunch, but there is something ominous in what Gul is saying that I really can not put my finger on. This is just too brazen, even for someone as overly bombastic as Gul.

Are the islamists in the army finally starting to make a public case for staking their claim to power? This 'saving the army as an institution from Musharaff the man' line is something new. Is it possible that the islamists are fighting not for the soul and the mind of the average Pakistani but those of the average officer and soldier in the Pakistani army?

At 3:04 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Anonymous,

Indeed Gul's choice words is very interesting.

One has to remember that ultimately it is a praetorian state. So the only loyalties that matter are those of the praetorian guard commanders. If someone else can take the Praetorian guard commanders' loyalties then they become Musharraf's replacement.

However in order to supplant yourself on Pakistan, i.e. render Pakistan prostrate before you, begging once more to be raped as it has begged from all previous military rulers, you have to have a moral high ground.

That is where the "average pakistani" comes in.

At 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi m,
what is the purpose of this lal masjit operation whoever is orchestrating it?

At 8:51 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Anonymous,

They want to remove a focus for militant activity that is physically close to Musharraf, while appearing to "deal firmly" with the Islamists in Pakistan - thus re-establishing the moral supremacy of the Army.

In an ideal world the Masjid would serve as a focus for anti Musharraf activity and keep the prospect of an Islamist coup alive for the western media. However its proximity would allow Musharraf to keep an unobtrusive eye on things, thus ensuring that nothing bad really happens.

If however the strength of the anti-musharraf feelings grow and the Lal Masjid leadership cannot give Musharraf the access he needs, then they have to be replaced by someone who can.


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