Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Musharraf continues to lose support in Pakistan..

Our `ally' Musharraf continues to falter, as support for his regime in Pakistan continues to seep away.

The latest indication was the failed arrest of powerful Pakistani mullah Maualana Fazlullah.

A unit of ninety Pakistani police went to his home district of Swat in order to bring him in on terrorism charges, expecting that he'd only be able to command a few followers to protect him.

Instead, they were met by massive crowds protecting him, so the officers were forced to retreat.

What's even more indicative of the disaffection with Musharraf is that this incident didn't occur in Waziristan, the area that Musharraf essentially ceded to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP), an area that's been considered loyal and quiet for some time.

Fazlullah is the local leader of Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammad (TNSM, or The Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Laws), an armed militia that fought in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban. Police say he commands thousands of followers, is stockpiling weapons, and reportedly has growing links to Al Qaeda.

To show how this problem spreads westwards, The five Muslim terrorists the British sentenced to life for plotting terrorist attacks in the UK received jihad training in Malakand, a district next door to Fazlullah's.

Part of the problem, as in Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Iran and other jihad friendly locales is money. being a jihadi pays better than most other jobs in the area.

In Swat, 49 percent the 1.5 million residents live below the poverty line and 61 percent are illiterate, but jihad clerics like Fazlullah have access to cash from wealthy backers, some of them in places like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Fazlullah, for instance, has been able to summon hundreds of volunteers – who only receive meals in exchange – to help build his new madrassah in Mingora, the city of 175,000 where he lives. Situated along the Swat River, the large religious school will someday offer poor students of this city, which has no university, a free education in Fazlullah's brand of jihadi Islam. It's supposed to end up costing around $2.5 million...and that money isn't come from Fazulah's local Muslim flock.

Perhaps, as I suggested on these pages, if we had been more decisive with the Musharraf regime and insisted that he cooperate with us actively to purge the al Qaeda/Taliban/Islamist threats within his country or face the consequences, we might not now be faced with the scenario of an Islamist regime toppling a US `client' from power and gaining control of a nuclear arsenal.

So far, most of Pakistan's military is not calling for Musharraf's resignation...but if they decide at some point that Musharraf is too much of a liability, or if more Islamist views start increasing among the military, especially at the rank and file level, Musharraf is pretty much history.

Another endgame scenario, of course involves an `election by proxy' a common enough solution in countries like this involving the security forces looking the other way while an assassin assists the - ummm - political transition, as it were.

Tragic, yes, and a nice state funeral is called for, as a new, more Islamist friendly regime comes into power...

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