More Musharraf manoeuvres
The mullahs of Pakistan’s religious ‘opposition’ have started bringing their supporters onto the streets. This is no ‘velvet’ revolution or a ‘people-power’ demonstration in support of restoring democracy — the MMA has made it abundantly clear that theirs is a struggle against one man’s abuse of the military uniform. A clever attempt by the mullahs then, to drive a wedge between the Chief and his Army.
The General has responded in kind — by releasing Sajid Naqvi, a Shia sectarian extremist and MMA leader, Musharraf seeks to exploit the Achilles’ heel of the Islamist opposition. Naqvi’s release from the security of government custody leaves him exposed to the vengeance of the Sunni extremists (who hold him responsible for the killing of Azam Tariq last year) and sets the stage for a new round of sectarian killings in Pakistan.
Musharraf’s gambit will make it difficult for the MMA to launch public protests without risking sparking wider sectarian riots. And if there is violence, Musharraf can claim the moral high-ground and clamp down on all forms of protests by the Islamists. Either way, Musharraf wins.
But as the Daily Times warns, Pakistan needs to brace itself for another paroxysm of a Shia-Sunni sectarian violence. The Daily Times does not say so explicitly, but it is clear that this time round, the violence will be entirely due to Musharraf’s sins of commission.
If the government thinks it is finished with sectarian violence â€” and if the MMA thinks it is rid of its rabid fringe â€” they are both mistaken. The government should expect more violence after the acquittal of Allama Sajid Naqvi and take pre-emptive action against acts of terrorism coming from the direction of the disaffected Deobandis and Al Qaeda. The Sunni extremist fringe is quite large and is most outraged by the recent â€œclean-sweepâ€ of the grandees of the Banuri Masjid seminary in Karachi. Someone killed the apex leadership in the person of Mufti Shamzai after a carnage at the famous Shia mosque inside the old Sindh madrassa. After Shamzai, his lieutenant Maulana Jameel was also killed by someone who had carefully monitored his movements between South Waziristan and Karachi. It was after Jameelâ€™s murder that Abdullah Mehsud, an ex-Guantanamo Bay internee, caused the latest upheaval in South Waziristan by abducting the Chinese engineers from Gomalzam Dam.
Allama Sajid Naqviâ€™s life is in danger. So is that of the judge who acquitted him. The administration should take this well to heart. No one should be lulled into false assurance that since the MMA is standing behind Allama Naqvi the fires of sectarian violence will be finally doused. Jhangâ€™s Sunni extremists are in mourning. They showed their strength in Multan in October but were cut down. They are going to strike again to show that they wonâ€™t allow the Shia leader to live while the great Sunni leader, Azam Tariq, the greatest pupil of the Banuri Masjid seminary, lies dead. According to them, the revenge for the deaths of the Banuri Masjid greats is still in deficit. The government will ignore this not just at its own peril but also at the peril of the nation. [Daily Times]