The Pervez Musharraf government has only itself to blame for the disturbing developments in Pakistan. Police, army and paramilitary units have laid siege to the Islamabad mosque where militant students had taken shelter in the wake of clashes that killed many on Tuesday. The violence erupted after a month-long standoff between the authorities and the Taliban-style movement based at Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, near the parliament. The mosque and two religious schools attached to it — one for men, the other for women — have recently been the focus of several confrontations with the Pakistani authorities. Apparently, the kidnapping of some policemen by religious hardliners running a vigilante anti-vice campaign and demanding observance of strict Islamic law provoked these. The government’s initial hesitation to crack down on the militants and enforce law and order may have had to do with fears of provoking more violence, which could have led to more casualties.
Still, that’s no excuse for letting the situation get out of hand the way it happened. This underlines President Musharraf’s tenuous grip on the security situation, as he desperately tries to distract people’s attention from growing domestic problems. For an astute general like him, President Musharraf was surprisingly myopic to have missed the kind of neon writing that’s been on the wall for a while now. For the Red Mosque events indicate the increasing Talibanisation in Pakistan.
Unfortunately, Pakistan lacks a modern education system that could prevent impressionable Muslim youth from being sucked into those madrassas that champion the use of violence in the name of religion, as the increasing instances of suicide terrorism show. Of late there have been a series of suicide blasts in Pakistan and pro-Taliban militants keep threatening suicide attacks unless Islamabad stops supporting foreign forces in Afghanistan. India naturally has a vital interest in seeing that nothing happens in Pakistan that could lead to an aggravation of the jehadi threats from Pakistani territory directed against this country. Especially since such jehadi communes could possibly even prompt extremists to get their hands on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.