Lal Masjid farce is over but it could have devastating results.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
Not far from Lahore, across the international border at Wagah, in the Indian town of Amritsar shines the Sikh holy shrine of Golden Temple. More than twenty years ago, a bearded fundamentalist had established himself there. He would use the temple as a base to spread his virulent version of religious bigotry.
Just as General Pervez Musharraf, as well as his predecessors, backed the Lal Masjid mullahs all these years to strengthen their respective dictatorial regimes, that bearded fundamentalist in the Golden temple too was initially supported by a powerful Prime Minister - Mrs. Indira Gandhi, democratic India's first dictator. Just as Mr. Musharraf would later do, she too sent her army into the holy hideout to finish off her former ally once he became an all-destroying Frankenstein. Just like Abdul Rashid Ghazi, Jarnail Singh Bhidnranwale too was killed. All that had happened on June, 1984 when General Zia-ul-Haq and the intelligence agency ISI were actively building close relationships with the mullahs of Lal Masjid.
As it happened, Operation Blue Star, the bloody assault by the Indian army on the Golden temple to flush out Sikh terrorists, turned out to be a complete success. Around 492 terrorists were killed. But its consequences were devastating. Within five months Mrs. Gandhi was dead; murdered by her Sikh bodyguards. In the ensuing decade, India's soul was irreversibly scarred as it battled the atrocities of Sikh terrorism that took thousands of innocent lives.
Now let's fast forward to 2007. Operation Silence, the bloody assault by Pakistani rangers on the Lal Masjid to flush out Islamic terrorists, has also been a success. Around 160 terrorists were killed. But the consequences could be equally devastating.
Would Mr. Musharraf and his supporters realize that the past has a frustrating habit of repeating itself in the future? Be it Amritsar or Islamabad; Mr. Bhindranwale or Mr. Ghazi; Sikh terrorism or Islamic terrorism; bullet-scarred Golden Temple or bullet-scarred Lal Masjid; Operation Blue Star or Operation Silence; Indira Gandhi or Pervez Musharraf; assassination…and another assassination?
However, it is not only Mr. Musharraf who is living on borrowed time. His actions have dumped Pakistan too in a delicate situation. Every minute of his continuation as the country's President could bring more chaos and tragedy to the nation.
The hard fact is that Mr. Musharraf is ruling this country as his own man since the 1999 coup and has failed spectacularly in all the fancy posts he glowed in - that of CEO, General and President. He could not weed out corruption as promised. He was never interested in bringing genuine democracy. He exiled a Prime Minister, forced a President to resign, and dismissed a Chief Justice. Most importantly, he could not free Pakistan from Islamic terrorists. That the Lal Masjid farce went on dangerously for all these years is a clear proof of his willful incompetence in dealing with religious extremism. What Mr. Musharraf really achieved was to bring disrepute to the fair name of his army, once the country's only holy cow. But enough is enough now. The dictator must abdicate - for his sake and for Pakistan's.