There’s trouble brewing in Pakistan — big trouble, the kind that comes when state religion begins to scuffle for power with secular government. And to scuffle more adroitly.
President Musharraf has his hands full; many consider his ability to survive so far quite remarkable. Despite his maneuvers against MMA, the large and powerful Islamist party (these were the people who raised such a brouhaha about women running in marathons, even women in burqas were suspect) seems to be winning the war for hearts and minds. According to Adnkronos International,
|Pakistan’s federal government has decided to conduct a major operation against religious leaders who last year asked people not to say the funeral prayers of any soldier who died in fighting rebels in South Waziristan, along the Afghan border. However, there is tension in the capital Islamabad, where law enforcement agencies are on high alert to clamp down on influential clerics, but the fear of fierce retaliation has to date prevented them from proceeding.|
Don’t forget that Pakistan is the same place where there were riots over the alleged desecration of the Koran at Gitmo; it’s the same country that raised money for a bounty on the head of the Danish cartoonist(s) who’d dared to draw a picture of Mohammed; and this is the cultural sink which practices an interesting form of Islamic divorce: throwing acid in the face of one’s wife and then waiting for her to die of the burns. Costs about fifty cents.
In Pakistan, abuse of women has been estimated at 80% or more. In the rural areas, honor horrors like the gang rape doled out to Mukhtar Mai are common. That’s why the fact that she is still alive even though she fought back against an entrenched system makes her survival seem so miraculous. We cannot help but admire those who manage to transcend brutal limits and even improve the lives of those around them in the process.
Many Pakistanis admire the Taliban. The “rebels” on the Afghan border are largely composed of Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. How they might feel about these people when the fundamentalists took over and the music died could be another matter. For the moment, influential clerics have the stage and they’re using it to good effect:
|In an attempt to clamp down on this campaign against the army, the two leading clerics at the Lal Masjid, Maulana Abdul Aziz and Maulana Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, are already under siege. Last week, Pakistan’s interior ministry issued a notification in which it termed the two brothers Maulana Abdul Aziz and Maulana Ghazi Abdul Rasheed as “Badmash Basta Alif” or high-level hoodlums. However, security agencies have not conducted any raids to arrest them.|
These two brothers run two schools, one for girls and one for boys. When the police tried to take on the girls’ school many of the students were hurt and the public outcry forced Musharraf to back off.
Pakistan has made some strides in moving toward the 16th century but it has a long row to hoe. After all, this is the country of the madrassas that the Saudis funded, this is the black hole American Islamists come to learn their terror training, this is the country of origin for the families of the “British” men who bombed the London trains. It is the land of the treacherous atomic scientist, A. Q. Khan, and it is the source of much of the trouble for India, its sworn enemy.
Maybe that’s the problem. A country which divides itself because one group thinks itself better than the other may not ever be at peace with itself. It must move toward ever more rigid interpretations of the deeply-imbedded sense of superiority which led to partition in the first place. Consider where the American South might have gone culturally had it won its attempt to sunder The Union. A pyrrhic victory, indeed.
Afghanistan has its problems and sorrows. A country which depends on opium as a large part of its GDP is on shaky ground. But Afghanistan got a full taste of the Taliban flavor of Islam and they’re not going back there any time soon. Their elections and the stance they have taken on education for girls, on alliances with the West — just to name a few good decisions since the American invasion – place their feet firmly on the road to modernity.
Poor Pakistan has not had the room to make that decision. And this crowded, easily-led-to-hysterics populace has no space in which to think about the consequences of its reactive stance on trivia. Those who cannot distinguish between the frivolity of a cartoon and the seriousness of radioactive weapons are in real trouble.
Considering the global reach of what would, in an earlier time, simply have been a small, far-away country, we’d best pay attention to what they’re doing. The Danish government takes their reactive lunacy seriously. So should we.
Hat tip: Counterterrorism Blog.