Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Inside rebel Pakistan cleric's domain

Descriptions of how this militant Islamist lives give us reason to wonder how Pakistan can contain all the conflictive elements that clamor for a place in Pakistani society.

Associated Press

"Long-haired militants with assault rifles and walkie-talkies guard the approach to the stronghold of Maulana Fazlullah, the radical cleric whose mission to spread fundamentalist Islam has provoked a bloody showdown with Pakistan's government."
"...a sprawling seminary beyond state control, [is] the new front line in Pakistan's faltering campaign against Islamic extremists."
"Six years after President Gen. Pervez Musharraf joined the U.S.-led war onterror, pro-Taliban militants are gaining sway across a swath of the country's northwest near Afghanistan."
"Officials said Saturday that Fazlullah's followers killed 13 captives - six security personnel and seven civilians - in apparent retaliation for an assault on Fazlullah's stronghold"
"Jehangir Khan, a local resident, said he saw six beheaded bodies, with notes attached reading: "It is the fate of an American agent. Whoever works for America will face the same fate."
"Fazlullah's demands: hostilities would cease if Shariah,or Islamic law, was adopted and the government released Sufi Muhammad, Fazlullah's father-in-law who was jailed in 2002 for having sent thousandsof volunteers to Afghanistan during the U.S.-led invasion in 2001."
"Muhammad had been head of the banned pro-Taliban group Tehrik Nifaz-e-Sharia Mohammedi - or Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law. After his arrest Fazlullah became the new chief. The group has re-emerged this year in Swatand Malakand, another impoverished conservative region near the Afghan border."
"The seminary has yet to open for religious studies but often draws thousands of worshippers at Friday prayers, residents say. Sirajuddin claimed some80,000 devotees had gathered for prayers Fazlullah led during the recent religious holiday of Eid ul-Fitr."
"As well as marshaling armed militants and enforcing Islamic law, Fazlullah has used his FM station to urge schoolgirls to wear all-covering burqas and has forced several development organizations to close their offices,accusing them of spreading immorality for using female staff, residents say.
"That has irked authorities, but Sirajuddin said tensions in Swat had risen in the wake of the Pakistani army raid on the pro-Taliban Red Mosque in Islamabad - which had launched a freelance, Islamic anti-vice campaign similar to Fazlullah's own efforts to dispense Islamic justice. More than100 people died in the July assault on the mosque and neighboring girls' seminary.'The situation in the whole country, particularly here, has changed because of Lal Masjid,' Sirajuddin said, referring to the Red Mosque. 'This situation is the reaction to Lal Masjid.'"

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