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From a Monday, November 5, 2007 entry on Informed Comment, Juan Cole's blog
Urdu Press Blames US for Crisis
While Gen. Musharraf maintains that he was forced to make his most recent coup by the threat of Muslim extremism, many of Pakistan's Urdu newspapers have a different interpretation. They suggest in their editorials that the Bush administration's pressure on Musharraf to move in an uncompromising way against Muslim fundamentalists sharpened the contradictions in Pakistani society and provoked the current crisis. That is, they think it is America's fault for denying to the Pakistani government the option of compromise and so pushing the country toward polarization and the coup. Below, the USG Open Source Center translates or paraphrases three such editorials.
'Pakistan: Urdu Press Roundup on Latest Situation in Swat, Tribal Areas 4 Nov
Pakistan -- OSC Summary
Monday, November 5, 2007
The following is a roundup of excerpts from editorials on the situation prevailing in Swat and Federally Administered Tribal Areas, published in the 4 November 2007 editions of three Urdu dailies:
Jang[:] Editorial Criticizes Delayed Action by Government
Maintaining that the government remained a silent spectator when the Taliban leaders were organizing their followers, the editorial states "The situation in the Tribal Areas is at such a point that the holding of a roundtable conference comprising of influential people from the area; elite, social figures; and leaders of political and religious parties, particularly the people linked with Tableeghi Jamaat [Tablighi Jama'at, a quietist Muslim group aiming at bringing fallen-away Muslims back into the fold], can yield positive results. Blood is being spilled in this area, both of the militants and the security personnel -- the blood of Pakistani citizens and Muslims. An attempt should be made to stop this bloodshed. For this, we should not hesitate from using well-established and in-vogue practices."
Jinnah[:] Editorial Sees Islamic World Facing 'Internal Disruption' Due to US Policy on Terrorism:
Asserting that the situation in the Tribal Areas has been brewing up for quite sometime, and the United States has been seeking to create internal disturbances in the country as a result of its war on terrorism, the editorial comments: "All energies need to be harnessed to establish peace in a haven like Swat to shatter the designs of the enemies of the country. The dialogue process should be moved forward on the basis of the four-point proposal of Maulana Fazalullah [an extremist leader whose father, Sufi Muhammad, is in prison for joining the Taliban to fight the Americans in 2001] so that the spilling of the blood of Muslims can come to end. This bloodshed is not in the interests of the country or the nation."
Islam[:] Editorial Calls for Ending Cooperation With US on War on Terrorism
Holding the cooperation of the government with the United States in its war on terrorism responsible for the situation in Tribal Areas, the editorial says "The fire that broke out in Baluchistan has now reached Swat, and the indications are that it will continue to spread. It must be contained at this point. We should tell the United States that we can offer no more sacrifices, and that it should fight its war on its own. The United States has plunged us into a 'quagmire' where the security and integrity of the country are at stake, not to speak of the holding of elections. How can elections be held at a time when explosions are taking place all around? How will the people be able to leave their homes and vote? The war of the United States, due to which the entire nation is in the grip of bomb blasts and suicide attacks, cannot be fought at the cost of the country's integrity." '
From a Monday, November 5, 2007
entry on Informed Comment, Juan Cole's blog
Fundamentalist Leader Qazi Hussain brands Musharraf a Traitor
Qadi Hussain Ahmad, the leader of the fundamentalist Jamaat-i Islami called Sunday for massive protests against the coup of Gen. Pervez Musharraf. He was speaking to a crowd of 20,000 near the major Punjabi city of Lahore. I just saw Qazi Hussain on Aljazeera condemning Musharraf as a traitor, saying in English, "This is clear treason." The Jamaat-i Islami is still largely a cadre organization rather than a mass movement, though it did win a lot of votes in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and Baluchistan. It has in the past organized demonstrations as big as 80,000 in the southern port of Karachi, though for a city of Karachi's size (9 million), that isn't actually all that impressive. That the Jama'at got 20,000 to rally near Lahore strikes me as a bad sign for Musharraf. What is really significant, however, is that Qazi Hussain is the only major party leader openly calling for mass resistance against Musharraf, a stance which will help the popularity of his party even if (as seems likely) he winds up in jail over it.
Newsday says that Pakistani dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf seems likely to make his coup stick. Newsday argues that the major opposition leader in the country, Benazir Bhutto of the Pakistan People's Party, is protesting orally but not threatening to hold rallies. Hundreds of opposition figures have been arrested, and Pakistan's satellite and local television and radio stations are firmly under military control, as are the newspapers.
The Newsday article unwisely ignores Qazi Hussain and the signs of widespread resistance (marked by "preemptive arrests") of party and human rights leaders. The leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (N), loyal to exiled leader Nawaz Sharif, is under arrest, as is prominent human rights campaigner, Asma Jahangir (a woman).
What middle class people in Pakistan think about all this is apparent in two editorials in the Frontier Post in the Northwest Frontier Province, which condemn Musharraf for not cracking down earlier and harder on Muslim extremists and also condemn him for not using constitutional means to achieve his goals.
Benazir Bhutto is flying to Islamabad on Monday, having condemned the mass arrests, and having called for early elections.
Musharraf may postpone parliamentary elections, scheduled for January, for "a year." (Past military dictators in Pakistan have "postponed" the elections "for a year" many years in a row).
See the important string of live-blogging posts by Barnett Rubin at our Global Affairs site. Rubin is in Islamabad. He points out that Musharraf has been invoking the need to fight Muslim extremism as a pretext for his coup. But in fact, he made the (further) coup because the Pakistani Supreme Court had unanimously decided that he was ineligible to run for president, and he hasn't cracked down on the radio station of Fazlur Rahman in the north (one of the Pakistani clerics who trained the Taliban and who denies that al-Qaeda exists). He has cracked down on civilian Supreme Court justices, on lawyers, and other distinctly secular, middle class forces in Pakistani society (along with officials of the Jama'at-i Islami, the Pakistani equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has not for the most part been violent).
In fact, the Muslim extremists are in the tribal areas, and in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and the hardscrabble towns and villages of northern Punjab. If you were worried about the extremists, you'd declare martial law in the NWFP and the tribal areas. Instead, Musharraf is said to be planning to give in to the demand in these northern areas that sharia or Islamic canon law be implemented! This is a defender of secularism?
Down in Lahore and Faisalabad, no one could get more than a few hundred people even to protest Musharraf's frontal assault on the Red Mosque last summer. But Musharraf didn't make his coup in the NWFP, he arrested hundreds in Lahore and elsewhere in the deep Punjab, which is mostly traditional, conservative, Sufi, Shiite, or mildly reformist. There are extremists from the eastern and southern Pakistani Punjab, but they are a small fringe. That is why it is significant that Qazi Hussain of the Jama'at-i Islami could rally 20,000 persons near Lahore. When the Punjabis get excited about something in Pakistan, there is sometimes a political earthquake.
If Bush and Cheney are ever tempted into extreme measures in the United States, Musharraf has provided a template for how it would unfold. Maintain you are moving against terrorists and extremists, but actually move against the rule of law. Rubin has accepted the suggested term of "lawfare" to describe this kind of warfare by executive order.