ISLAMABAD - Despite repeated warnings by Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, under American pressure the government has begun a risky crackdown on extremist religious organizations as well as the essentially inactive remnants of banned jihadi organizations.
Over the past few days, more than 200 people in the northwestern city of Peshawar have been detained, while in the eastern province of Punjab about 100 members of banned militant organizations have been arrested. The banned extremist Sunni Muslim group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan - now known as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat - was among those groups targeted.
The crackdown is similar to the one in 2004-2005 following unsuccessful assassination attacks on then-president General Pervez Musharraf. Hundreds of jihadis were arrested, including heroes of the Pakistani establishment such as Ilyas Kashmiri and veteran jihadi Abdul Jabbar. The crackdown led to a split between the militants and the Pakistani military and made Pakistan very much a part of the Afghan war theater by 2007. Top guerrilla commander Ilyas Kashmiri's 313 Brigade is now an operational arm of al-Qaeda.
The crackdown is a joke until Pakistan's politico-military elite realize that they need to stop supporting the militants. Until this happens, the militancy is a fire that threatens to cook the goose of those who stoke it:
The latest crackdown sharpens the schism between the two largest Sunni sects and adds fuel to the fire of conflict between Shi'ites and Sunnis.
Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat is an anti-Shi'ite political party that wants to have Shi'ites declared non-Muslim through legislation in parliament. In the early 1970s, Ahmadis suffered this fate.
The only thing bloodier than Islam's borders is Islam's interior, and Pakistan's elite will, sooner or later, be declared takfir, overthrown and killed.
This process will be seen as purifying the Land of the Pure.
Following the twin suicide attacks this month in Lahore on a Sufi shrine in which more than 40 people were killed and nearly 200 injured, the Punjabi Taliban were brought into the spotlight. They are considered responsible for changing the dynamics of the Afghan war theater as they have vast expertise acquired while fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s and Indian forces in disputed Kashmir in the 1990s.
The Taliban originated in Pakistan.
Skipping down again:
Anti-Taliban sections of the government have tried to elicit support from Sunni anti-Taliban organizations. In the southern port city of Karachi in Sindh province, organizations from the Brelvi (Sufi) school of thought have seized some mosques previously operated by the pro-Taliban Deobandis. This has provoked serious tension between the country's two largest Sunni sects.
"We warn against any intrigues or conspiracies against Deobandi madrassas or mosques. Otherwise, we reserve our rights to strongly react," said a representative of all Deobandi schools, mosques and religious parties.
It will be interesting to see what happens when the Land of the Pure is eventually "purified". Until then, the purification process continues. From Suicide bomber misses target in Swat; five die, dated July 16, 2010:
They said that militants were on the run but the operation against them would continue till their elimination.
That'll be the day.
From US calls India-Pakistan talks helpful for region, July 16, 2010:
WASHINGTON: The United States welcomed Thursday's meeting of top diplomats from India and Pakistan, and said the healing process between the two neighbors would benefit all of south Asia.
"We certainly welcome this high-level meeting," said US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.
"It's expressly the kind of dialogue that we think will help to address and resolve issues of interest between the countries and have consequence in the region as a whole," he added.
Foreign ministers S.M. Krishna of India and Shah Mehmood Qureshi of Pakistan met in Islamabad, in the third high-level contact in a six-month thaw since New Delhi broke off peace talks after gunmen killed 166 people in Mumbai in 2008.
Again, certain elements of Pakistan's officialdom are behind the system that produced the militants that did the 2008 Mumbai attack and the more recent attack in Swat.
To be sure, a stable Indo-Pak peace would remove much of the perceived need for Pakistani support of militants for strategic depth against India. The trouble is, as these militants discover the meaning of Islam and jihad, they lose their focus on the infidels in India.