Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lal Masjid: That Troublesome Credibility Issue

In Pakistan, the traditional sense of respect that accompanies age and apparent scholarship in Asian societies was conflated with various Islamic traditions to create an authority structure.

Per the workings of this authority structure, whenever someone who was old and steeped in Islamic scholarship asked someone who was young in Pakistan to do something in the name of Islam, the younger person would automatically assume that the elder was speaking in the best interests of Islam and do their bidding.

Crucial to maintaining this illusion of credibility, was a public display of piety and Islamic values. Without a believable display of this nature, it was impossible to exercise any such authority.

All the Mullahs are now sitting on the sharpest part of the divide here. They have to make an overt show of piety otherwise they will lose their authority among the faithful.

That is where Musharraf has taken a big hit. By acting publicly against the proponents of Islamic piety, he has degraded his claim to being a good muslim. People may have been keen to look the other way on his other minor indiscretions (for example, in his autobiography, he published a photo of himself that seems to have been taken seconds after he came out of the black blanket that wraps the Kaaba Sharif, etc... normally you would be hanged for that... but I guess if you are the only nuclear armed Islamic state, you get privileges? I suppose...). People might even buy into the idea that it is okay to sell out a bunch of Arabs/Chechens/Uigher/Afghans... (after all, who cares, Pakistan can't be sacrificed for a bunch of refugees). People can be understanding in ways we can seldom appreciate.

However this Lal Masjid thing has no way of sitting well, a fight between the Jihadis and the Pakistan Army will erupt and even if the Jihadis don't seize control of the government or the nuclear weapons, they are going to give the Army such an intense thrashing that the Army is going to turn on Musharraf and tell him "You don't pay us enough to take this kind of crap!".

Please understand the difference here, the Indian Army is a fighting army (a retired national security personality once succinctly said "they are paid to die"). But the Pakistan Army (by contrast) is a very finely tuned military machine. Over the past sixty years it has specificially engineered for the purpose of raping, pillaging, land-grabbing, drug smuggling, money laundering and other important things. This fighting and dying reduces the Army's ability to do what it was designed for. No Pakistani Army commander wants to do this, it takes too much out of his "me-time" at the local massage parlour.

It will not be entirely surprising if the Army tells Musharraf that he is "not worth their time".

At that point a sane person would take the hint and leave. Only the fantastically stupid would cling to memories of the glorious days of old.

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