Temperature rising

"Temperature rising" Continued...

Issue: "Goodbye again," June 9, 2007

Kendal said Musharraf has "played two hands at once" since siding with the Bush administration in the war on terror, allying himself with the United States in exchange for military aid, while at home staking his political future to the pro-Shariah, pro-Taliban MMA in exchange for votes in the National Assembly. MMA was a minority coalition but has grown disproportionately powerful, reports Kendal, because under Musharraf it has come to hold the balance of power on almost any issue.

"As President Musharraf makes quid pro quo deals with the MMA to advance his agenda, which is to stay in power and in uniform, he empowers the MMA to advance its agenda, the Islamization of Pakistan," said Kendal. Six months ago Kendal published a WEA report titled "Musharraf's Maneuvering" that predicted persecution of Christians would escalate through 2007 as a result.

Christians, who make up 3 percent of the population, say the forecast is coming true more quickly than they imagined. The pastor who left Karachi two weeks ago said that when killings and bombings broke out last month, "local police took no action against those people who were using their weapons so openly and freely. As a matter of fact, the police [were] taking shelter from these gunmen, and the gunmen are part of the government."

In Charsadda, a district outside Peshawar in the North-West Frontier Province, local market stalls trading in "un-Islamic" commodities like videos, music-even haircuts-have been bombed or otherwise shut down. Girls have been ordered to stop attending school. "It is getting worse, no doubt," said the wife of a pastor who also has left the country. "Women especially don't feel safe going out, and even Christian men do not go out alone." In the North-West Frontier Province, where she is from and still has relatives, "the Taliban is taking a stronghold, and the government says it is doing something about it, but we don't see it. At the moment the government is not doing much because the religious people are getting too strong."

The rising strength of the Taliban in Pakistan has direct impact on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, despite efforts to win Pakistan's aid in routing both Taliban and al-Qaeda from the border region. Local newspapers say fears of "Taliban reprisal" are gripping northern provinces, including local and long-standing jirgas, or assemblies of tribal elders who traditionally rule by consensus.

At one recent jirga in the northern Mohmand region, a Karachi-based cleric named Shaykh Fazal Muhammad told the gathering of about 1,500 men-which included "armed and masked Taleban"-that the mujahideen lacked modern weapons, but were using suicide bombers to fight U.S. forces. One of the Taliban, a youth introduced as Umar Baacha (according to the Daily Times) said: "We will sacrifice thousand more lives to drive out the Americans from Afghanistan."


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