The Horrifying State of Affairs in Pakistan, Abetted by the US: A Glimpse of Our Future?
Pakistan is rapidly hurtling into the abyss of oblivion. Hardly a day passes by without a bomb explosion or suicide bombing in some part of the country. What possible excuse could there be for the murderous attack on a masjid as happened on December 4 that killed more than 40 people in Rawalpindi, we are asked. The coordinated attack by suicide bombers followed by armed men shooting worshippers during Friday prayers when the masjid was full was particularly gruesome.
As if the war in Waziristan that had already spread to other areas of the NWFP and the adjoining tribal areas was not bad enough, Musharraf perpetrated another outrage by attacking the Lal Masjid-madrassa compound in Islamabad in July 2007. Run by two imams, with long ties to the government and several ministers, they became embroiled in a dispute over growing immorality in the capital, especially prostitution. Girl students from the madrassa took it upon themselves to clean up the filth because the government had refused to do so. The girls’ action was taken as a great affront by the regime as well as the secular elite. How could government-paid imams demand an end to prostitution when the ruling elites regularly patronize their dens? Several weeks of negotiations between the clerics and government emissaries fell apart because Musharraf did not want a peaceful resolution. He insisted on a military showdown to establish the “government’s writ” and to prove he was in charge. The Americans also demanded crushing the militants.
On July 11, 2007, Musharraf ordered his commandos to attack the Lal Masjid. In the weeklong attack, more than 1,400 students, most of them girls, were brutally murdered. Phosphorous bombs were used to burn people to death. The overwhelming majority of girls belonged to Swat; they were from poor families and had found the madrassa-masjid complex a useful place to educate their daughters and to provide them a roof, being too poor even to feed them (madrassas in Pakistan do not charged fees; Muslim philanthropists often contribute toward such expenses as part of their Islamic duty).
The Lal Masjid attack sent a shockwave throughout the country, particularly in Swat. While the secular elites, including Benazir Bhutto, then still “languishing” in her luxury apartment in London or commuting to her palaces in Dubai, applauded the commando raid and the killing of hundreds of innocent girls, ordinary Pakistanis were horrified. The Americans, too, applauded the killings. The result was catastrophic for Pakistan.
Bombings and suicide attacks immediately escalated. If one can establish a turning point in Pakistan’s tortuous history, the Lal Masjid saga must stand out as the one that pushed the country over the brink. Battle lines became so clearly drawn that only the blind could fail to see. The ruling elites have never cared for ordinary people or their children but hitherto it was reflected in lack of services. Now the elites had embarked on a killing spree. The reaction was swift and strong. There has been no turning back since. Soon Musharraf was engulfed in a political crisis that forced him out of office following a British-American brokered deal that facilitated Bhutto’s return to Pakistan. Corruption cases against Bhutto, her even more corrupt husband Asif Zardari, and thousands of other thieves and criminals, totaling 8041 people, were withdrawn under what came to be called the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). Critics dubbed it the National Robbers’ Ordinance.
Before the January 8, 2008 national elections were held, Benazir Bhutto was shot dead in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.