Could the cartoons bring down President Musharraf?


by Sunny
17th February, 2006 at 1:58 am    

Pakistanis are notorious for arriving late to parties, though only slightly lesser than Indians. So it is with little suprise we find that when rabid fanatics in other parts of the world have burned some foreign embassies in self-righteous anger and gone back home satisfied, the Pakistani brothers suddenly realised they were falling behind in the “we’re angry too you mofos” stakes, and started rioting.

It could be that they were protesting against horribly bad KFC/McDonald’s food, but there’s no excuse for Pizza Hut dammit.

Jokes aside, it feels as if there are troubles ahead for Pakistan. Though the country regularly features protests organised by religious groups, lately they’ve been getting bigger and more frequent. The people are really angry.

1) The earthquake. The magnitude overwhelmed authorities and led to much criticism. The government was inefficient in distributing supplies and gaps were usually filled by outside agencies.

2) The USA effect. The US military’s presence so near to the border is always an issue. They built up goodwill during the earthquake, only to mercilessly squander it by accidentally bombing a village and killing eighteen people.

3) Social unrest. Although the economy is doing well, unemployment is still an issue; there are serious problems in the Baluchistan province; and General Musharraf no longer seems to command the attention he did.

Coming to the cartoon protests. Most western bloggers forget that almost all protests in the Muslim world are orchestrated – either by religious parties or the government. The Daily Times reports:

Intelligence sources told Daily Times that the chain of violent incidents was orchestrated by a group of trained young activists of religious organisations. Activists belonging to the student wing (sic!) of Jamaat ud Da’wa (formerly known as Lashkar-e-Tayba), Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba and Shabab-e-Milli of Jamaat-e-Islami gave the destruction a professional touch.

There have been a lot of religious protests in Pakistan of late, and they have been getting bigger and more destructive. Most of the property being destroyed doesn’t even relate to the cartoons. They’re just cars, motorbikes, cinemas, restaurants etc.

I received this from a friend just recently back from Pakistan:

Suddenly, considering it their birth right to protest, Pakistanis have jumped on the bandwagon .In their dangerous mindset, the more anger they will show, the closer they would get to the prophet. I am sure some political powers (mainly Jamat-e-Islami and Lashkar-e-Tayyabbah) would have declared the dead people as “shaheeds”. Appalling! Sad! and down right pathetic.

You know before partition, when people of the sub-continent used to protest against the “White Sa’ab” or the government, they would break public parks, roads and all the government property, just to give the government the signal that they hated being ruled by an outside power. The attitude was probably not right even then, but at least held some reason behind it.

Today, Pakistanis go out and break their own property if something goes wrong in any part of the world. Down right ignorant bunch of fools they are. In Peshawar, in their quest to find a Danish office, they ended up at Telenor mobile company and burnt the office where their own country men worked. The biggest tumor in Pakistan today is illiteracy, and sadly the ever so corrupt politicians en cash this illiteracy to strengthen their governments.

Pakistan can be an unstable place. The intelligence services already underestimated the recent protests.

Musharraf has used previous protests to consolidate his own position with the US (“Do you really want these people in power?”), as other Middle Eastern countries like Syria do.

As everywhere else, the religious parties want power but are being held back by the military. So using every controversy as a pretext, they’re happy to flex their muscles and see how much damage they can do.

But if the riots get out of hand or spread then the President could be severely weakened, and eventually brought down.


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Filed in: Pakistan,Religion,South Asia






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  1. Siddharth — on 17th February, 2006 at 8:14 am  

    Sunni and Shia have regrouped and will be kicking off their worldwide tour in Pakistan. It has been announced they will be playing all their old hits such as ‘I Love You Babe’ and ‘You give me Fatwa’ at Faisal Mosque in Islamabad in mid 2006.

  2. Jay Singh — on 17th February, 2006 at 10:48 am  

    I don’t think that the riots will present a threat – I think that they present an opportunity to Musharaff. They will help him stay in power because he can say – we still need danda rule.

  3. mellow — on 17th February, 2006 at 11:01 am  

    Sunni and Shia have regrouped and will be kicking off their worldwide tour in Pakistan. It has been announced they will be playing all their old hits such as ‘I Love You Babe’ and ‘You give me Fatwa’ at Faisal Mosque in Islamabad in mid 2006.

    The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire !

  4. Bijna — on 17th February, 2006 at 11:06 am  

    > They built up goodwill during the earthquake,
    > only to mercilessly squander it by accidentially
    > bombing a village and killing eighteen people.

    I am sure that is the al-Jazeera version.
    Now read this:

    http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htterr/articles/20060215.aspx

  5. Jay Singh — on 17th February, 2006 at 11:08 am  

    Where is Raz? It would be good to hear his take on it.

    This is a good comment piece from a quick google search of Pakistani newspapers:

    The firestorm waiting to erupt

    THE fury we are seeing across the country may have been sparked by the Danish cartoons. But only the complacent and the foolish (admittedly, no shortage of both kinds in the higher echelons of the Islamic Republic) will think it is about the cartoons alone. The way it has acquired momentum, and not a little touch of anarchy, stems from causes altogether different.

    Pakistan these last few years has become an explosive dump of anger and despair. Circles close to the ruling establishment or the farce of democracy flourishing under the banner of the Q-League will not concede this, their self-interest not allowing them to do so, but the rest of us are aware, even if dimly, of what is happening.

    All is not well with Pakistan. There is too much unrest in unexpected places and too many flashpoints from north to south.

    In a democracy where regular elections are held, anger and frustration are vented through the ballot box. You get fed up with one party, you vote in another. What do you do in Pakistan where the choice is between one general and another or between a civilian government pushed around by the military and outright military rule?

    +++++

    Ayaz Amir sees it as symptomatic of the democratic gap in Pakistan.

  6. Fe'reeha — on 17th February, 2006 at 12:12 pm  

    THE fury we are seeing across the country may have been sparked by the Danish cartoons. But only the complacent and the foolish (admittedly, no shortage of both kinds in the higher echelons of the Islamic Republic) will think it is about the cartoons alone.
    Agreed but not where Ayaz says that people are taking out their anger at the failure of democratic process in their country.

    Let’s not forget, in Pakistan, as in most other countries,(in cartoon saga), the protests have been by a certain group. It’s a group which would use just about anything for their own political gains.
    Yet, the pent up emotions have been there.
    Understanding Pakistan’s public is, by no means, an easy task.
    A country which was made in the name of religion Islam, uses the concept of Islam ruthlessly in about everything. Result is, a four-dimensional society, which is divided first on the basis of class-system, yet has different interpretation of Islam in every sector. So somehow, the religion Islam has been divided in class interpretations, where everyone considers themselves the “perfect Muslim”.

    The four classes would be the high class, the middle, the feudal and then the poor masses. Feudal Lords have imposed their own interpretations by using the “local mullah” as their agent.
    Political parties use it to their own advantage, and poor masses are too engrossed in their daily ends meet, that they do not give a damn about democracy or religion. However, they are the ones most valuable in “jalsas” and “protests” for they can be used as easy fodder.
    It’s the middle class, whose only refuge is but in Islam.
    The middle class has been appalled for sometime by the break through of a non -Islamic trend in their country.
    Under the Nawaz Shareef’s government (who was toppled by Musharraf), actresses on TV were made to wear duppattas (stole) on their heads not even in News programmes but also in fiction dramas.
    The result was a girl swimming wearing a duppatta, sleeping in bed wearing a duppatta. The concept of Islam was so distorted that even husbands and wives were shown sleeping in separate beds just to cater to the idea of “family TV”.

    October 12, 1999, Musharraf arrives and he slashes all the hypocritical media policies. For the first time in Pakistan, there are a huge number of channels, and these channels can actually say something against the government, and lo and behold! these channels are showing miss world contests, skimpy outfits, mujrahs and bars from inside.
    This “open-ness” has taken Pakistan by storm. This “outgoing” element was always there, it never had a vent to come out. Now it is out, and the higher class is happy.
    However, its the feudalism which is afraid of media invasion lest their slaves understand what being a free human is all about, and the middle class, who suddenly are finding themselves caught up between these new demands of times. They cannot tell their suppressed wives to “behave properly” because media is showing an outgoing western attired educated wife, who is going on with her life duties and taking no nonsense from her husband.
    Suddenly women like Asma Jehangir, who were literally labelled as whores by the conservative male chauvinist groups are being shown on every channel.
    And more than that the “economic” factor. There is such a vast difference of class in Pakistan, that engulfing this gap is beyond legal efforts.
    So the anger is in the air. At being middle class, being poor, being suppressed and being suddenly in a very “non-Muslim” environment.
    Note the areas of protests. Peshawar, with its Pathan population always has been the most backward area, and now being under the governance of MMA, progression is unlikely (I am not really sure changing clothes and attitudes is really progression though), and then the other place is Karachi.
    Karachi in particular has MQM hold. A party which works on blackmail and fear mafia, for them protests are integral to survival.
    Hence, the country is in chaos.

  7. Bijna — on 17th February, 2006 at 12:13 pm  

    > But if the riots get out of hand or spread
    > then the President could be severely weakened,
    > and eventually brought down.

    I trust the USA will use “any means necessary”
    to prevent Pakistan’s nukes of falling into the
    hands of Sharia people.

  8. Jay Singh — on 17th February, 2006 at 12:22 pm  

    Fe’reeha

    That was a really interesting post, thanks.

  9. Sunny — on 17th February, 2006 at 12:52 pm  

    Excellent analysis as always Fe’reeha.

    It looks as if the president has woken up from his slumber finally and ordered a crackdown:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4722712.stm

    But is it too late? Hmmmm… I think it’s an ominous sign of things to come.

  10. raz — on 17th February, 2006 at 2:12 pm  

    Typical. Whenever Pakistan starts to make progress, these mullah retards try and drag the country back down into the gutters with their medieval mindset.

  11. Sunny — on 17th February, 2006 at 2:41 pm  

    Note: PM of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz is going to be speaking at LSE in March, in case anyone is interested.

    http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/LSEPublicLecturesAndEvents/newsletter/20060216_1340.htm

  12. Geezer — on 17th February, 2006 at 2:42 pm  

    Nothing will happen as the majority still back Musharaf. Even the calls for a national closure of shops were ignored hence the anger displayed by the extremists. Most Pakistanis have no part in these rallies organised by the fringe extremist parties who literally shot themselves in the foot especially when property belonging to ever day people came under attack. The national press has also blasted the demonstrations with detailed accounts of the destruction they.

  13. raz — on 17th February, 2006 at 3:31 pm  

    Geezer, good point. There are something like 170 million people in Pakistan – the numbers involved in these riots is minor on a national scale. But the amount of noise (and damage) they cause is immense. The best thing to happen is that the vast majority of Pakistanis have been outraged by this senseless destruction of property and business which hurts no-one but Pakistanis themselves. Hopefully Musharaff will start taking a tougher line with these jahil fools.

  14. Rohin — on 17th February, 2006 at 4:06 pm  

    Hmm…offending religion?

  15. Bikhair — on 18th February, 2006 at 4:37 pm  

    Fe’reeha,

    Pakistan is the Ummah on acid, for sure.

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