Monday, July 09, 2007

Lal Masjid: The core issue in Pakistan's current crisis

I had alluded to this in replies to readers elsewhere, but I just want to get this out in the open.

The problem in Pakistan is the youth. In Paksitan the young outnumber the old and the economy is simply not in a position to satiate them and the socio-political environment provides them with no clues about their identity or world view. Over the last 20 odd years a large majority of these young people have been deliberately fed (by the State machinery) a steady diet of intolerance and militarized Islam. This is making them difficult to handle.

Lacking any democratic institutions, young Pakistanis do not have a way of expressing the disaffections through channels that are more readily available elsewhere. Left with no other outlets they are prone to violent self-expression and because of the indoctrination in militaristic Islam, they are easy prey for Islamists.

A number of the foot soldiers of the Jihad were young Pakistani men who gave up everything in the pursuit of an Islamic superstate. They listened to their "elders" in the Pakistan Army and followed the teachings of their religious leaders, as could be expected of them in any civilised part of the Indian Subcontinent.

Unfortunately they have found absolutely no tangible returns on their efforts. Their Islamic dreamland, the Taliban controlled Afghanistan is no more. What is worse is that it was betrayed by their own Pakistan Army "elders" to the very same adversaries the young Jihadis had been taught to hate. They are angry and distrustful of their traditional leadership. This is degrading the effectiveness of the Army-Mullah combine that traditionally kept these sections in check.

Most of the Jihadis are desensitised to violence and will use it in far greater quantities than mainstream political outfits can manage. A number of them have operated in environments where heavy weapons have been used and this makes their mindset completely different. Despite any rubbish you may hear elsewhere, no Pakistani political outfit is capable of meeting them head on.

There are number of Pakistanis in the army who sympathise with the Jihadis and their plight. This confrontation is the Masjid will rapidly spiral to a loyalty crisis in the Army itself.

If the youth cannot be controlled by the Army-Mullah combine, the urban centers of Pakistan will implode in an surge of violence. We will see a Somalia type situation emerge where armed gangs will rule the street randomly assasinating people at will.

That is what hangs in the balance here.


At 7:12 PM, Blogger Subramanyam said...

Maverick, yes...the youth of today's Pakistan are going to play a destructive role in the implosion of that country. However, it will not be because of a "lack of democracy". The term 'Democracy' is anti-Islamic, IMHO. Salafist Islam does not recognize democracy, may be an ijtihad-ized version of it would, but with the rapid spread of the Tablighi Jamaat, Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the Hanbali/Wahhabi/Deobandi brands of Islam, I see little chance of modern practices and thoughts permeating Pakistanis of the future. It is radical Islam that is spreading thick and fast. Again, with the frenzy of 'piety' gripping Pakistan, the youth of Pakistan are pre-heated enough so that when a radical preacher urges them to wage jihad-fi-sabilillah, they are just ready. If this transformation can happen to Kafeel and Sabeel from a modern, cosmopolitan and tolerant Bangalore, one can imagine what happens in the land of the Purest where the likes of Raiwinds and Muridkes exist. In a radically Islamized society, the Army recruits its soldiers from among these brainwashed people who carry their prejudices and biases into the Units. No wonder therefore that the Pakistani Army is increasingly radical. This is the thrust of my argument: Pakistan has gone too far in radical Islamization to turn back and every poltician, ruler, academic, professional, Armyman and others have contributed willingly to this process over the last sixty years.

History is replete with examples of how the snakes bite the hand that fed them once. India has experience of that herself. Therefore, naturally the jihadi Islamists are beginning to be assertive and the Army-Mullah-Politician combine which unleashed them in the first place will have to lose their control. We are seeing that in NWFP. The Army has already lost control there. You are right about the Army and Islamization. One reason that Gen. Musharraf delayed action against Lal Masjid was because he was uncertain about Army's loyalty.

Even the leaders like JuI-F's Fazl-ur-Rahman is losing his grip over the Taliban, his creation. These people are spreading out to Punjab, Islamabad and Karachi now. Within the next year or two, the consolidation of these forces will reach a critical mass across the country. The mullahs will then join them openly, a kind of reverse brain-drain. The Army may still hold out for some more time

While I do believe that a Somalia type warlordism may not totally engulf an 'unravelled' Pakistan for another 5 to 7 years (by the time of mid-decade next), the inexorable slide to that is happening. From now on, I expect Pakistan to yo-yo in radicalism. Every new wave of radicalism will be far more violent and broader than before with phases of relative calm in between when the forces consolidate and the minuscule moderates lose more ground.

At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent analysis by subra!
1)My only concern is how will it affect India(Kashmir), USA
in short,medium, long term
2) Will there be Iran style mass revolution against Musharaff-Bush
3)Will there be another 9-11?
4)What if western intelligence agencies pick up brainwashed people from India for another 9-11 style assault.Then blame it on India. Look what happened to kafeel in U.K. One has to go deepeer to unearth the conspiracy. Gordon makes a statement that he will try to have a special relationship with India. few days into 10 downing street kafeel strikes.This is nothing but an act of demonizing India
5)An explosive situation in land of pure combined with agressive designs of western intelligence agencies must have caused PM to lose sleep.Is it my imagination?

At 10:26 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hello Subramanyam,

I think there is a form of democracy possible inside an "Islamic" state. This is similar to the form that exists in Iran. In Pakistan the MMA has gradually created a political interface for democratic activity in the Islamist spectrum.

The problem right now is that the situation in Lal Masjid - that explosive combination of dry wood and fuel oil - exists in a number of madrassas across the country.

You may recall that a large number of these Madrassas are hosting Jihadis who have escaped from the US attacks on Afghanistan, Indian army operations in Kashmir and some who are on the run from the Pakistani authorities.

These Jihadi escapees are surrounded by a number of impressionable students.
Under the traditional Pakistani model, these students would have graduated into a variety of Jihadi enterprises, but now they are more likely to form quasi-cults around Jihadi leaders. These cults will create situations analogous to somalia and a rapid descent into warlordism will begin. Imagine the splintering that occured in the SSP happening over and over again.

The only way to avoid this is to give the students a direct political voice, essentially spawn more "youth" parties like the Islami Jamait Taleba and create political or electoral exercises to absorb the excess energy.

Even with this, it is going to be very very hard to control.

At 10:32 AM, Blogger maverick said...


In India: short term, no effect. Medium term and long term are too difficult to predict.

For the US: Short term looks bad, the biggest fear is a hostage situation in the Embassy or something like that. Medium and Long Term prospects don't look good.

A revolution is unlikely as of now, but it all depends on how Musharraf deals with student anger in the next few months.

Beyond the range of my predictive ability to see things like 9-11.

They can easily pin anything on anyone they want, we are going to have to watch out for that.

I don't think the PM is losing sleep. This is all par for the course, this is the way it has been for the last 50 odd years. After a point you get used to it.


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