Pakistan: Taliban Follows Democracy’s Retreat

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.

PAKISTAN: Talibanization Strides and Stumbles

Fundamentalists blew up six music and video shops in the past month in northwestern Pakistan, an area bordering Afghanistan that experts say the Taliban have colonized. In Islamabad, an army of female religious students have also been attacking music and video stores, and kidnapped three women they say were running a brothel. The students also held two policemen hostage until the government released two imprisoned teachers who work at a banned seminary. A crackdown on jihad-preaching seminaries has faltered because of the religious right’s influence over the Musharraf government, which hasn’t even been able to prevent foreign students from illegally enrolling in the schools. In the North West Frontier Province, Afghan and Pakistani Talibs have established a parallel government with “Sharia courts, police forces, tax collectors and public offices,” Al-Ahram Weekly reports.