Islamabad provides a Potential Model for Emulation in India and across Asia

An event that springs to mind from the bloody standoff in Islamabad between Pakistani troops and a large group of Islamist rebels is the seizure of the shrine of Mecca 28 years ago by a large group of homegrown fundamentalist tribesmen and students in revolt against the Saudi throne

Both assaults were staged by young Islamist fundamentalists, both rose up against the pro-American affiliations of their rulers and both bitterly resented the collaborative relations between the overly mild clerical establishment and governing regime.

In Islamabad as in Mecca, the radical rebels could have seized a television station or a government facility and raised an international uproar. However, the Saudi and Pakistani radicals chose to lay their plans in important mosques, where they recruited worshippers to their cause, held covert meetings under cover of prayers, and stored their weapons caches for the coming battle in cellars under the shrines or long-disused chambers.

In those secret places, the rebels trained recruits for combat and prepared their battle positions for confronting government forces.

Both revolts were doomed to be routed by government forces, but not before severely jolting the regime. Their leaders were resigned to martyrdom for the sake of sparking broader uprisings of the faithful that would eventually bring down the Saudi throne in Riyadh and the rule of Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad, respectively.

The Pakistani president ended the standoff by crushing the revolt. But he would have preferred to avoid the showdown altogether because of the steep price he must now pay for the triumph, both personally and politically.

Whether he likes it or not, Musharraf will have to crack down on the hard core, pro-Taliban elements which backed the Red Mosque rebellion. This means sending Pakistani forces after them in the unruly northwestern provinces bordering Afghanistan in the full knowledge that these forces cannot be trusted to go all the way to subdue the radicals. The army, government, security forces and religious establishment are all deeply riddled with sympathizers of the radical cause, who were hard to convince even of the necessity to storm the Red Mosque after a week of bloody fighting.

The event has therefore jammed Musharraf in an impossible bind of having to fight the radicals, while also appeasing them.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counter-terror experts say appeasement will have to come in the form of handouts of extra powers and cash to the elements in opposition to his pro-American policies in the government, army and the Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI].


Threat of radicalized foreign and nuclear policies


Greater radical influence over the Pakistani government’s foreign, domestic and security policies will have serious consequences for the country’s relations with the United States and encourage kindred extremists in neighboring India, the entire subcontinent.

Washington is liable to find President Musharraf less responsive to the demands of their alliance.

At home, the extremist Muslim factions will be granted more say in the legal and education systems, for use as primary platforms for reshaping society and government institutions. They will take advantage of Musharref’s need to placate them and bring calm to the country by demanding the expansion of Islamic law to civil areas and the immediate introduction of religious studies, including radical teachings, in state schools.

Their method for extorting these concessions from the Pakistan president is simple: As long as he goes along with their demands, they will refrain from proclaiming the dozens of jihadis killed in the Red Mosque uprising, including their leader Abdul Rashid Ghazi, martyrs. If he prevaricates, they will be declared holy martyrs and held up as shining models for emulation by young Pakistanis.

This threat is very real and Musharraf will do his level best to prevent its fulfilment.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counter-terror sources note that Pakistan’s religious medressas have always served Taliban and al Qaeda as hothouses for breeding Muslim terror networks for India, Kashmir, West Europe, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and other Far East countries. The expansion of radical Islami studies to Pakistan’s state schools will enlarge the pool for the recruitment of terrorists.

The radical Muslims of next-door India and the Muslim communities of other countries will push for the same concessions as those granted their brethren in Pakistan. In this way, the seizure of the Islamabad mosque threatens to spread as a tactic for grandstanding martyrdom in other places and, in particular, igniting radical Islamic fires in India and across Asia.

Musharraf may even find himself facing demands for a more aggressive nuclear policy. Pakistan’s possession of nuclear arms thus becomes a potential world threat should the Muslim extremists gain enough power to seize government.

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