From Attack on Lahore shrine raises concern about sectarian violence in Pakistan, by Issam Ahmed, July 2, 2010:
Thousands of Pakistanis took to the streets on Friday demanding better security for places of worship and a crackdown on extremists following twin suicide bomb attacks at the country's most famous Sufi shrine that have raised concerns about an increasingly sectarian cast to the country's violence.
But some analysts said it would be a mistake to characterize the recent spate of attacks as sectarian, given the one-sided nature of attacks thus far.
"We don't see violent attacks coming from the other groups. They are coming from one community," says Rasul Baksh Rais, head of political sciences at the Lahore University for Management Sciences, adding that the militants are finding themselves increasingly unpopular for carrying out such strikes.
"Punjabi militants are sectarian in origin, and when they find themselves unable to attack government or security targets, they will lash out at other sects," says Ashaar Rehman, the Lahore editor of Dawn, a leading Pakistani daily.
The extremists in Punjab are integral to Pakistan as it currently exists.
When the Indian subcontinent was maneuvering for independence in the 1940's, Muslim leaders demanded their own state. Possibly intended as a bargaining position, suddenly the wish was granted and Pakistan owed its existence to Islam.
But, it was a trap. Having called attention to the differences between Muslims and Hindus in India, with an eye toward ensuring Muslim representation in political processes, the situation was now exasperated by international boundaries dividing places like Punjab, and by significant Hindu and Muslim minorities facing the choice of relocation or being on the "wrong" side of a line; the Hindu ruler of Jammu and Kashmir chose to hook his Muslim majority realm up with India following an invasion by Pashtun tribal militias.
Immediately, there were simmering hostilities. Though Pakistan is the world's sixth most populous country, India's numerical superiority is perceived as a threat - a powerful Indian military thrust could cut Pakistan in half, fairly quickly isolating the bulk of the population from ports along the coast.
Consequently, it has been the de facto policy of Pakistan's government to support and promote Islamic militants - both for a proxy war against India in Punjab and beyond, and to provide strategic depth stretching across the Durand Line into Afghanistan - real "boots-on-the-ground" infringements which have sparked border skirmishes between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
This situation was intensified as Pakistan became more militantly Islamic supporting the jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980's, under the rule of Islamist Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, a general who seized power and became Pakistan's sixth president.
Closely intertwined with Pakistan's officialdom - especially the military and Pakistan's military intelligence - the Islamic militant movement took on a life of its own, and gained momentum, even after the Soviets left Afghanistan. Skipping forward to today (and down in the article):
"The government must crack down on all terror being committed against all sects," said Fazl-e-Kareem, a prominent Barelwi scholar, to a crowd of some 2,000 people. The Barelwi sect accounts for the majority of Sunni Muslims in Pakistan, and its traditions and beliefs are closely associated with Sufism.
Others were keen to point out what they called government hypocrisy. "This is all the fault of the Deobandi extremists whom the government continues to support," says Muhammad Saleem, a businessman and member of the Sunni Tehrik, a Islamic political organization affiliated with the Barelwi sect.
"They pay the salaries of Jamat-ud-Dawa but fail to protect us," he added, in reference to the provincial Punjab government's lack of action against the charitable arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was officially proscribed by a United Nations Security Council resolution but remains a legal organization in Pakistan.
The result is that Islamabad is now hostage to its own policy, threatened to be roasted over the Islamic militant fire that its politico-military elite have been stoking.
From Hiding In Plain Sight, by Ahmad Majidyar, July 2, 2010:
Pakistan's Punjab province is not usually cited among the areas in danger of imminent takeover by terrorists, but that will likely soon change. On July 1, suicide bombers had no problem launching a triple attack on a famous Sufi shrine in Lahore, its bustling capital city. At least 35 were killed and over 175 injured in the assault. In fact, it was only the latest in a string of terrorist attacks that have rocked Pakistan's densely populated heartland over the past year. Last month, Taliban gunmen torched 50 U.S. and NATO supply trucks headed for Afghanistan just outside Islamabad in northern Punjab. And the problems are likely to get worse in Punjab before they get better.
While U.S. and Pakistani military strategists focus on the terrorist threat in Pakistan's tribal areas, the Taliban and al Qaeda are expanding into Punjab and teaming up with local terrorist organizations such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, the alleged recruiter of Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.
Punjab is an attractive refuge for the Taliban for two reasons. First, the area allows a convenient strategic retreat as the Pakistani military recaptures key Taliban strongholds in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan and mulls a further offensive into North Waziristan, the key power base of Pakistani Taliban groups, the Afghan Taliban's Haqqani network, and al Qaeda. The Taliban has reason to think of Punjab, home to nearly half of Pakistan's 20,000 madrasas, many of them incubators for radicalism, as an accommodating new home.
The second reason is that militants know that in Punjab, with its dense cities and a population of more than 90 million, they can hide in plain sight, safe from U.S. drone strikes, which according to CIA officials, have killed more than 500 militants, including high-profile Taliban leaders, in the past two years. After all, with the international community already harshly criticizing drone strikes in which a dozen Pakistani civilians are killed, al Qaeda calculates correctly that the White House would never risk hundreds of civilian casualties by ordering a strike in the heart of Rawalpindi.
Rawalpindi, or "Pindi" as it is called, is home to many key government and military institutions, including Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence (ISI).
Suicide attacks in Punjab doubled in 2009 from the previous year, and this year will likely be deadlier. In a March interview with Rediff.com, Qari Hussain Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban's deputy commander, promised, "A new series of suicide attacks will take place soon" and said, "The focus would be on Punjab, where policies are made." Al Qaeda's al-Jihad Punjab group claimed credit for the March 8 assault on the Special Investigation Agency in Lahore, as well as a series of attacks there in May that killed 80. In some villages, the extremists openly demand Islamic law, ban video and music shops, and urge the local population to prepare for an Islamic revolution, the same process that preceded the Taliban's seizure of Swat.
The Pakistani government's willingness to turn a blind eye to militancy exacerbates the problem. The Punjabi-dominated Pakistani Army is unwilling to fight its brethren. In a June 24 interview with the BBC, Pakistani Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas ruled out a Waziristan-style military operation in Punjab. "There needs to be a political decision to crack down on the jihadi organizations," he noted. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League runs the provincial government and openly courts the terrorist groups for political support.
In Urdu and Persian, "Pakistan" means "Land of the Pure", and Pakistan's desire to be purely Muslim is generating serious blowback. Once a nation is defined by the purity of its ideology, no one is safe, as there is always someone to accuse others of not being pure enough.
In Islam, a person who is not Muslim enough is takfir, an apostate, and the penalty for this is death.
Skipping down in the article:
The fight in Pakistan will not end when the U.S. and Pakistani armies expel terrorists from the border regions with Afghanistan. For Pakistani leaders, violence in the tribal areas is an irritant; they seem not to realize that the same type of militancy in Punjab threatens to rock Pakistan to its very core. Barring effective action in Islamabad, Washington must plan for a greater terrorist threat emanating from Pakistan over the horizon.
The only thing bloodier than Islam's borders is Islam's interior; either Pakistanis deal with their militancy problem now by renouncing Islamic militarism and ending jihadism within Pakistan's borders (and elsewhere), or the militants will take over in a bloodbath, and an infidel world threatened by a land of pure, militant and nuclear-armed Islam will be forced to destroy Pakistan in self-defense.
As final commentary, I offer a blog post entitled "Be the Change" which I copied completely, as is; there is a moral to it both real and immediately applicable:
It was a 13- 15 year old girl, standing on a narrow walkway by a crowded pharmacy right opposite Ashfaq manorial Center, waiting for her mother to return with the medicines. I spotted two men, probably masons, they had their tools in their hand, walking towards this girl, their unfriendly gaze, fixed on her. She panicked, and tried to press herself to the wall so to give these men space to pass by her without getting near to her while they kept walking with broad chests, dead center of the aisle. As they walked closer, and were about to pass by her, I moved quickly forward them from the opposite side, looking at these men right in the eye, there was anger on my face. I was truly going to retaliate only if they would have made one wrong move, but as soon as they saw me approaching them from the opposite direction their posture suddenly changed, they suddenly moved their eyes downwards, they walked away from the girl and quickly past me, while i continued to follow them with my angry gaze.
in the mean while the girl's mother too was back from the medical story, and now they were walking away to get a rickshaw for their next destination.
if you may have realized, i am not at all a well built person, actually i am quite skinny, and was no match for these culprits, but what scared them was the feat that if i could have raised alarm, and the shop keepers and passers by would probably have beaten the crap out of him.
people keep asking me how they can bring a change in the society, i tell you, It takes not much to do so, if you want to see a change, the next time you spot a man gazing a women, ask him out loud what his problem is. If you are a men looking at this culprit alone will be enough to get him back to his senses. Be the change you want, feel and take the responsibility of the society you are a part of, and you will see the change coming.