November 5, 2007
Stanley Kurtz: 'Is an Islamist Coup Possible in Pakistan?'
This is the $64,000 question that Kurtz reveals is surprisingly being ignored by the media:
Granted, Musharraf’s emergency does replay a long-standing Pakistani pattern of anti-democratic military coups. And massive public opposition could, as before, prompt the military to (partially) restore democracy.Buttressing this argument is this eye-opening piece in the Washington Times today:
Yet this well-practiced Pakistani pattern is now playing out in a decidedly novel environment. Pakistan’s government has never faced armed, independent, organized, and territorially based Islamist opposition on today’s scale. That is likely to give Pakistan’s recurring political history a radical new twist.
In calmer circumstances, a stable democracy guided by a secular middle-class might have headed off the specter of Islamist radicalism. Today, however, given the size and strength of the Islamist threat, and given the unique social role of Pakistan’s army, a military government may be the only real bulwark against the potential disaster of a nuclear-armed al-Qaedastan.
It would have been better if the power-sharing deal between Musharraf and Bhutto had held. If such a deal can still be rescued and genuinely made to work, that would certainly be welcome. Yet contrary to the claim that terrorism was just an excuse, I fear that Musharraf’s invocation of the state’s critical vulnerability was all too valid.
But insofar as the crisis was provoked by the growing strength of the extremists, it was their new offensive in the Swat Valley — a scenic area known as the Switzerland of Pakistan — that prodded Gen. Musharraf to drastic action.Terrorist attacks against military installations have increased dramatically over the last few months. This coordinated assault by the Islamists had to be dealt with.
Fighting began in the former princely kingdom north of Islamabad about two weeks ago when a suicide bomber linked to a group sometimes described as "the Pakistani Taliban" attacked a truck in the valley's main town, Mingora, killing 20 soldiers and wounding 30.
The military responded with a major operation against the militants, sending helicopter gunships against targets throughout the valley and surrounding the headquarters of the group's leader, Maulana Fazlullah.
Fighting since then has killed as many as 100 militants and 30 to 50 security forces, despite two short-lived cease-fires. In one of the most gruesome incidents, militants publicly beheaded six captured soldiers, a police officer and seven civilians "and then paraded [the bodies] in front of local residents to scare them," said Badshah Gul Wazir, home secretary of the North-West Frontier Province.
There is little doubt that Musharraf's coup also addressed the political trouble he was in. But tamping down terrorism appeared to have been the primary reason for the State of Emergency despite what most in the western media are saying.