Friday, July 13, 2007

Lal Masjid: The Politics of Confrontation

In politics a confrontation is useful.

For example, the present state of affairs with the Lal Masjid and the Islamist anger is not entirely without its uses.

The war on terror now has a new and visible front line, the streets of Pakistan. What was originally on the periphery of the American global vision is now center stage. Even if the US "withdraws" from Iraq, as long as Pakistan keeps boiling, no American President can ever call off the War on Terror. Do you see where I am going?

Musharraf is even more indispensible now. Having fired the first shot in the war against Islam in Pakistan, he is now in the thick of the fight. The Americans cannot abandon him now even if it is a huge pain in the ... to actually support him. The more Pakistan boils, the more Musharraf gets whatever he wants, F-16s, UAVs, you name it, he gets it... after all if the US doesn't support him, someone else might cause him to lose his war on Islam in Pakistan.

The Mullahs are even more indispensible to Musharraf now than they were in the past. In this confrontation he needs someone to keep repeating that he is a good muslim. If some high ranking Mullah can be "induced" to do that, he will be able to show everyone else that they are wrong. From the Mullahs perspective, indispensibility in this age of modern irreligiousness is a good thing.

When one talks like this it becomes easy to lose sight of one thing. The ability to choreograph violence is limited. No state, not even a highly militarised, jihadized state like Pakistan can be maintained at this level of conflict. Beyond a point society cannot support the weight of so many contradictions and even the slightest provocation boils over into bloodletting on a serious scale. This is the flaw in all conflict economic models, they work only as long as the conflict remains controllable, if the conflict becomes uncontrollable, the economic activities associated with the conflict become unsustainable.

The problem with dictatorships is that everything looks great until it catastrophically collapses. So yes Musharraf's "Pakistan" looks like it will "make it through" this confrontation in one piece until that is.. it doesn't.


At 9:01 PM, Anonymous Vivek said...

Hi maverick,

Agree with you that Musharraf has become even more indispensable for US as a result of the Lal Masjid episode.

Fortunately for Musharraf, approval ratings of Bush are falling everyday. Slowly but surely, even the most hardened Bush supporters are realizing that the US is in an unwinable situation in Iraq. The GOP in the US simply cannot be seen failing in both the major fronts in GWOT. The Bush administration will do everything in its power to help Musharraf because he has been successfully portrayed as the lone wall between pakitani nukes and jihadis.

With the setting in of the lame-duck phase of the Bush Presidency in the coming months, this maintenance of status quo in Afghan-Pak region will become even more imperative for the US.

Meanwhile, friends of Bush and Mush in western media will continue to put on a "Secular Army Vs Islamist-Jihadists" spin on the coming insurgency (if it happens) in Pakistan. Reciprocally, the liberal/Democratic media will continue to ask for more accountability in Pakistan's role in the GWOT.

Of course, all this is under two big presumptions.
1) Musharraf lives.
2) A large scale attack does not happen on the US mainland.

What do you think?


At 11:56 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Vivek,

Right now every risk management type in several different countries is looking for ways to keep this entire situation to a low boil.

Given the sheer numbers of persons involved there may be no way to actually do that.

Yesterday at a meeting with some friends over dinner I mentioned that a flashpoint can emerge in a deterrence relationship even all other indicators point towards stablity. A flashpoint like this emerges when one side cannot determine what the other side really thinks about deterrence issues or if one side deliberately precipitates a short/rapid escalation to achieve an internal political rearrangement.

Curiously enough, Musharraf talked to his officers at the National Defence University after the "conclusion" of an "exercise" called **Flashpoint**.

From Ijazul Haq's recent interview it seems that the Army is under the impression that the Mullahs will control the situation developing in the madrassas. This may be part of some "separation of church and state" pact between the Mullahs and the Army. You may recall that in an earlier post I had spoken about some unwritten unspoken pact being broken? - Ejaz ul Haq is now suggesting that somehow this pact still holds. I get the feeling that the Army-Mullah combine does not know what will happen if the Mullahs cannot control the students and "Flashpoint" may be their attempt at a resolution of this control problem.

Please understand all this stands independent of what approval ratings Bush or his policies may enjoy in the US. At this level of calculation, that stuff is not even peripheral. Whatever the US does - they have to ensure the security of their embassy and their intelligence officers inside Pakistan otherwise it won't matter who they support - they will have no leverage. Bush or no-Bush the US has to deal with that.

At 1:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi m,
will the lal-majid crisis ever blow into a full fledged insurgency?

At 8:49 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hello Anonymous,

I think that is likely given the circumstances.

There is already an insurgency in FATA, it is likely that this will spread to other parts of the country.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger A N said...

Hi Maverick,

The sequence of events that is transpiring now appear to follow the chronological prediction given in the following site:

The events predicted are quite horrendous. Would you like to comment?


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