Like Iraq and Iran, Pakistan's present is an upshot of
Cold War rivalries. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, an energetic socialist who came to
power in the seventies, was feared by the U.S. and overthrown and executed by
General Zia ul-Haq, whom the U.S. preferred and cultivated as a partner in
driving the Soviets from Afghanistan in the eighties. The U.S. and Pakistan
backed jihadists in Afghanistan while Zia promoted Islamism and militarism at
home, riding an anti-Indian current. Z.A. Bhutto, Benazir's father, would seem
to have been a better prospect to those like myself who think the U.S. Cold War
policy would have won out over the Soviets much sooner had we simply supported
democracies, even when leftist governments came to power. But Bhutto's devotion
to democracy was unclear and he played the Islamist card himself when the 1977
election was approaching. Some say he rigged the vote in that election but I
have not formed an opinion on whether that is true or just propaganda from the
other side. Zia used the allegations, in any case, to have Bhutto arrested and
eliminated. I think Bhutto would have led to a more stable Pakistan now than
Zia, and I don't think he would have become a Soviet ally. Like Allende in
Chile, like Mossedegh in Iran, like lumumba in the post-Belgian Congo, among
others, Bhutto was a man whose devotion to the working class cast him as a
threat from the left, a friend of the Soviet idealogy, and he got the axe with
U.S. blessings (Jimmy Carter), although I have not studied this coup enough to
opine that the CIA was involved in planning Bhutto's overthrow. The present
Pakistani swing into hard line Islamist politics is attributed to formative
years under Zia, by many writers. But the same phenomenon is seen throughout the
Muslim world, and the movement is really nothing new. Personally I think it is a
reaction to the U.S. always trying to push these countries around, under
colonial regimes, in the Cole War and now in the War on Terror, as well as the
perrenial oil-related manipulations. Through it all the U.S. cultivates the rich
and the military at the expense of human rights, education, health care, small
farmers and the working people in general, preaching democracy while supporting
dictatorship. For this site's page on the Cold War click
here. For this site's page on U.S. Policy in the Muslim world
New York Times 1/11/11
Pakistanis in their 20's and 30's are more hardline on religious law than an older generation
By Carlotta Gall
Their energetic campaign on behalf of the killer has caught the government flat-footed and dismayed friends and supporters of the slain politician, Salman Taseer, an outspoken proponent of liberalism who had challenged the nation’s strict blasphemy laws. It has also confused many in the broader public and observers abroad, who expected to see a firm state prosecution of the assassin.
Instead, before his court appearances, the lawyers showered rose petals over the confessed killer, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, a member of an elite police group who had been assigned to guard the governor, but who instead turned his gun on him. They have now enthusiastically taken up his defense.
may seem a stark turnabout for a group that just a few years ago looked like the
vanguard of a democracy movement. They waged months of protests in 2007 and 2008
But the lawyers’ stance is perhaps just the most glaring expression of what has become a deep generational divide tearing at the fabric of Pakistani society, and of the broad influence of religious conservatism — and even militancy — that now exists among the educated middle class.
They are often described as the Zia generation: Pakistanis who have come of age since the 1980s, when the military dictator, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, began to promote Islam in public education and to use it as a political tool to unify this young and insecure nation.
Today, the forces he set loose have gained such strength that they threaten to
overwhelm voices for tolerance in
“Over time, Pakistani society has drifted toward religious extremism,” said
Hasan Askari Rizvi, a political and defense analyst from
“The lower level are listening to the religious people,” he said.
Mr. Minallah studied law at Islamic University in
But under General Zia in the 1980s, the government began supporting Islamic
warriors to fight the Soviet occupation of
That change is now no more apparent than among the 1,000 lawyers from the
Their leader is Rao Abdur Raheem, 30, who formed a “lawyers’ forum,” called the Movement to Protect the Dignity of the Prophet, in December. The aim of the group, he said, was to counter Mr. Taseer’s campaign to amend the nation’s strict blasphemy laws, which promise death for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
In interviews, Mr. Raheem and six of his colleagues insisted they were not members of any political or religious party, and were acting independently and interested only in ensuring the rule of law.
All graduates of different Pakistani universities, they insisted they were liberal, not religious conservatives. Only one had religious training. They said they had all taken part in the lawyers’ protest campaign in 2007 and 2008, and that they were proud that the movement helped reinstate the chief justice.
Yet they forcefully defended Mr. Qadri, saying he had acted on his own, out of strong religious feeling, and they denied that he had told his fellow guards of his plans in advance. He was innocent until proved guilty, they said. They have already succeeded in preventing the government from changing the court venue.
In their deep religious conviction, and in their energy and commitment to the cause of the blasphemy laws, they are miles apart from the older generation of lawyers and law enforcement officials above them.
“I felt this is a different society,” said one former law enforcement official when he saw the lawyers celebrating Mr. Qadri. “There is a disconnect in society.”
The former security official, who has worked in fighting militancy and who requested anonymity because of his work, said that within just four hours of the killing, 2,500 people had posted messages supporting Mr. Qadri on Facebook pages.
Mass rallies championing him and the blasphemy laws have continued since then.
This conservatism is fueled by an element of class divide, between the more
secular and wealthy upper classes and the more religious middle and lower
classes, said Najam Sethi, a former editor of The Daily Times, a liberal daily
newspaper published by Mr. Taseer. As
Besides his campaign against the blasphemy laws, it was Mr. Taseer’s wealth and secular lifestyle that made him a target for the religious parties, Mr. Sethi said.
“Salman had an easygoing, witty, irreverent, high-life style,” he said, “so the anger of class inequality mixed with religious passion gives a heady, dangerous brew.”
Government officials, analysts and members of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the secular-leaning party to which Mr. Taseer belonged, blame the religious parties and clerics who delivered speeches and fatwas against Mr. Taseer for inciting the attack. On Monday, Mr. Qadri, who confessed to the killing, provided a court with testimony saying he was inspired by two clerics, Qari Hanif and Ishtiaq Shah.
The police say they are now seeking the clerics for questioning, but with the growing strength of the conservative movement on the streets, religious leaders — even those who incite violence and terrorism — are nearly untouchable to the authorities and are almost never prosecuted.
The blasphemy law has been condemned by human rights groups here, who say it has
been used to persecute religious minorities, like Christians, and on Monday,
Pope Benedict XVI
dark presence in the background is the military establishment, which has
sponsored the religious parties for decades, using them as tools to influence
politics and as militant proxies abroad. The military also has a heavy influence
on much of
“Democracy has brought us a media that is extremely right-wing, conservative,” Mr. Sethi, 62, said. “Most are in their 30s and are a product of the Zia years, of the textbooks and schools set by the Zia years, which are not the sort of things that we were taught.”
“The silence of the armed forces is ominous,” Mr. Sethi added.
Indeed, whether on the military or civilian side, the government has failed to act forcefully on the case at every stage, the former security official said. Whether through fear or lack of policy, it has done little to challenge the ideology behind the attack or the spreading radicalism in Pakistani society.
“The entire state effort has been on the capture and kill approach: how many terrorists can you arrest and how many can you kill,” the former security official said. “Nothing has been done about the breeding ground of extremism.
“Unless the government does something serious and sustained,” the official warned, “we are on a very dangerous trajectory.”