Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lal Masjid: A Parting Of Ways

The Pakistani Deobandi religious leadership comprising the Mufti-e-Azam Pakistan, the heads of the Wifaq Board, the heads of the key Islamic universities (the Dar ul Uloom Akora Khattak, the Dar ul Uloom Karachi, the Jamia Binoria and the Jamia Ashrafia) and the Deobandis in the MMA top brass are in a difficult position.

The madrassas they teach at are filled with angry students. In the old days this righteous anger was turned into acts of violence on the direction of the Pakistan state. However now the Pakistani state itself is the cause and the target of the anger. This is not a furtive assasination that could be papered over as factional infighting. This is a full blown assault on the face of Pakistani Islam itself. The very men who legitimized military rule as divinely justified in the past are now being publicly humiliated by it.

The messge here is obvious, if the Maulanas attempt to break with the military overtly, the Pakistan Army will simply kill them.

But the flip side is less obvious, if the Maulanas attempt to stick with the Pakistan military, the students will revolt and the Maulanas will lose their authority and not just them personally, but entire institutions built over decades will lose their standing. This is the consequence of a common error made in analysing Pakistani Deobandis, their softpower is underestimated.

This latter cost in my opinion outweighs the former.

By authorising the attack on Lal Masjid, an unwritten unspoken compact (that I suspect was) drawn up in the early years of Pakistan, around the time of the passing of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi has been broken.

The Deobandi Ulema and the Pakistani Army have reached a parting of ways.


At 11:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi m,
1)How will it be if it is written that in case Indian Army knocks on the gate of lahore,karachi.. it will be given a rousing reception aka American army marching into the streets of paris will all the parisan's lining on the street to welcome them. Am I dreaming?
2)Has a boing point reached where Pakistani army is much despised?

At 6:12 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Anonymous,

I think "a parting of ways" is about as far as it goes right now.

The Maulana know that they are not in a position to govern the country as yet. They need the Army for now.

Beyond that it is too difficult to predict.

I find that most policy is based on predictible risks.

At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The parting will not happen as each of them need each other more. As you said both have their strengths, mullahs have street cred and army has material resources. They have to work together. Currently the effort is to spin the outcome such that their mutual partnership is maintained. Finding scapegoats is easy, there are lots of disposables available in PMLQ. Considering the past behavior of PA and the mullahs, they would prefer statis rather than brinkmanship.

Now the matter of disgruntled students could be handled by using multiple means: diversifying their frustration, placating them (Quran is not against material resources) and finally tarring the Gazi. You see Indian Ulema were so terrified that they went ahead and gave their "Full" support to PA action, without anyone asking them. See their promptness, and compare to their behavior when any major terrorist incident happened in India. How far will be Paki Ulema? Saab line pe aa jayenge. Lootne ko kaafi hai, jhgadne se saab ka nukssan hoga.

Ot course this projection is for 3-6 month period only.

At 12:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The tarring op has already started.

At 12:25 PM, Blogger maverick said...


I think there will be no overt gesture of disapproval of the Pakistan Army by the Deobandi Ulema.

The entire Lal Masjid episode was largely an attempt by the Pakistan Army to demonstrate that the Fauji and ONLY the Fauji has the right to kill.

And the Deobandi Ulema have no problems accepting that, they are happy to have the Pakistani Army do the dirty work of killing people. What they are unwilling to cede is who has the final say in moral affairs of the state. Here the Deobandi Ulema consider themselves peerless, and the Pakistani Army's defiance of their moral authority is something they intend to make the Army pay for.

The parting of ways may be invisible to all by the mind's eye, but it is unfortunately irreversible.

The Pakistan Army thinks only in terms of a physical battlespace and that is its achilles heel. This is why they failed to grasp that the situation in East Pakistan was beyond the point where military measures could contain it. Their grasp of the meat of the political dynamics is limited and hence they routinely rely on physical force to achieve something that can be achieved with minimal exertion in the psychological battlespace.

The Deobandi Ulema gain immeasurably by ensuring that the physical battle between the Jihadis and the Pakistan Army grows in magnitude but that they themselves do not emerge as the focal points of any confrontation. This requires the least effort on their part because the Pakistan Army with its blindspot for using sledgehammers and terror does most of the work.


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