Even as President Pervez Musharraf’s dismissal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry continues to shake up Pakistan, Islamists along the fractious border with Afghanistan are extending their territory and evading government efforts to bring them to heel.
In Lahore on May 6, tens of thousands turned out to greet Chaudry, who critics say was ousted for refusing to support Musharraf’s bid to extend his military rule.
But bloody street fighting erupted in Karachi six days later in advance of Chaudry’s speech before the Karachi Bar Association, taking the lives of 48 opposition party members.
Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif claimed that the killings were “masterminded” by Musharraf and his allies in the Muttahida Quami Movement, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports.
Egypt’s Al Ahram Weekly says that the MQM is the party of ethnic north Indians who immigrated to Karachi after 1947, and were involved with “communal wars” there that left “thousands” dead in the 1980s.
The newspaper quotes experts who say MQM involvement in the killings in Karachi threatens to revive violent ethnic politics even as Musharraf deepens undemocratic rule.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that while most Pakistanis are “liberal,” they lack effective leadership and economic support, enabling Islamists to put down roots.
The Taliban and al Qaeda are leveraging high unemployment to create alliances further into the country.
According to the Monitor, police are ready to go after Islamists “anytime,” but are unable to take action due to the stress of dealing with the grassroots protests that followed Chaudry’s dismissal.
An op-ed from the libertarian Independent Institute in California predicts that U.S. support for Musharraf will result in an Iranian-style revolution in Pakistan, resulting in the world’s first nuclear-armed Islamist state.
“Ousted PM says Musharraf ‘masterminded’ Karachi killings”
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, May 29, 2007
“Musharraf all alone”
Al Ahram Weekly, May 24, 2007
“Pakistan losing territory to radicals”
Christian Science Monitor, May 29, 2007
“Pakistan Is Going Down the Road of the Shah’s Iran”
The Independent Institute, May 29, 2007