The Muslim world has now witnessed several instances of a former dictator being exiled under threat of prosecution or actually being forced to appear in court to face charges arising from illegal actions performed while dictator. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia has fled to Jedda, in Saudi Arabia. Sayf al-Din Gaddafi is awaiting trial in Libya. Hosni Mubarak and his sons Gamal and Alaa are facing trials in Egypt. This kind of outcome is rare. No one from the old Apartheid regime in South Africa was ever tried, despite their brutality, though they sometimes had to confess their crimes in order to avoid being prosecuted. But that former dictators are being replaced by parliamentary elections, and are mostly facing the music in a court of law, is a sea change in the politics of the Arab and Muslim worlds.
It is so odd that Musharraf went back to Pakistan, where he would have been impeached by parliament had he tried to stay in office in August of 2008 after he had been forced into relatively free and fair parliamentary elections. Musharraf had high-handedly dismissed the supreme court justice Iftikhar Chaudhury in 2007, and then dismissed the whole supreme court later that year because they stood in the way of his becoming a civilian president (the Pakistani constitution says that the president must have been a civilian for two years before assuming office, and Musharraf wanted to go straight from his uniform to a presidency for life). I treated the Musharraf years and his ouster by thousands of angry protesters in my book, Engaging the Muslim World. Dick Cheney was Musharraf’s biggest backer.
Musharraf had been army chief of staff and made a coup against the then elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, whose Muslim League may well win the coming election. Given the reestablishment of the power of the Sharif family in Punjab, it just seems weird that Musharraf thought he’d be able to just to come back and run for office as if nothing had happened.
Musharraf has been barred by the courts and election officials from running for president, and several serious charges have been brought against him. Where will his case be decided? Ultimately, before the Supreme Court, by Iftikhar Chaudhury and his colleagues, whom Musharraf had tried to dismiss summarily. I saw this coming as soon as he announced his return. Why didn’t he? Was he given assurances by someone high in the Pakistani government, who then reneged on them?
Musharraf had by fiat jailed or exiled large numbers of people, including human rights activist and feminist Asma Jahangir, so he is now getting a taste of his own medicine.
In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak has been sent back to Tora Prison as he prepares to face new charges in a retrial for his past crimes.
One can argue about how democratic are the governments that replaced the dictators. Pakistan has been plagued by corruption and poor governance, and a seeming inability or unwillingness to get a handle on the security problem. But its civilian government, elected in 2008, served out a full 5-year term for the first time in Pakistani history. The Pakistani judiciary has emerged since 2007 as one of the more upright of the country’s institutions, and is clearly promoting a rule of law. Moreover in Pakistan, unlike in Egypt, the forces of political Islam did not come to power after the overthrow. Political Islam parties such as the Jama’at-i Islami typically get only 3 or 4 percent of the vote, and their biggest tallies have been no more than 15%. While Taliban bombings and other forms of insecurity plague the country and especially harm Shiites, Christians, Ahmadis and Sufis, the government is gradually fighting back against the far-right Muslim vigilantes.
Jack Serle writes at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Pitch Interactive have visualised every CIA drone strike and every casualty in Pakistan.
A new interactive graphic, which uses the Bureau’s drone data, has brought a fresh perspective to the CIA’s nine-year drone campaign in Pakistan.
A team of developers has pulled together every known drone strike and casualty from data provided by the Bureau and New America Foundation. This data has been represented in an interactive timeline which allows the viewer to see how the campaign builds over time, as well as the number of people killed.
Pitch Interactive, a California-based commercial web-development studio, has produced the interactive as part of a pro-bono programme.
The project, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, aims to capture the scale and human cost of the drone war in Pakistan through its visual representation of the CIA’s covert Pakistan drone war from the first event in 2004 to the latest strike.
Wesley Grubbs, who leads the team at Pitch Interactive, told the Bureau that the team set out ‘to cause people to pause for a moment and say “Wow I’ve never seen this in that light before”.’
The visualisation uses an average of the casualty data collected by the Bureau’s Covert Drone War project, combined with data collected by New America Foundation which tallies the number of high value targets reported killed in the strikes.
The CIA drone campaign in Pakistan has received much attention in recent months. The debate intensified after last month’s Senate confirmation hearing for new CIA director John Brennan, a leading architect of President Obama’s drone strategy.
Earlier this month Ben Emmerson QC, UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, added to the debate after stating that Pakistan did not support the drone strikes. His statement was made following a visit to the country as part of a UN investigation into the legal and ethical framework of drone strikes. Emmerson also said CIA drones had killed 2,200 people in the country including at least 400 civilians, according to Pakistan authorities.
But despite the public debate that has played-out over recent months, Grubbs believes the full scope and consequences of the drone war are still obscured. ’We feel that drone strikes are a very hot topic right now but we feel people are being misled,’ he said.
Alice K. Ross writes at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:
The Pakistani government estimates at least 400 civilians have been killed in drone strikes – a figure close to the Bureau’s own findings.
In evidence to Ben Emmerson QC, UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that CIA drones have killed at least 2,200 people in the country including at least 400 civilians. This is close to the Bureau’s low range estimate of 411.
The figures were disclosed to Emerson as he made a three-day visit to the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which compiled the figures, said a further 200 of the total dead were likely to be civilians too.
The US drone campaign in Pakistan… involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.’
Ben Emmerson QC
The US has consistently denied this level of non-combatant death, most recently claiming civilian casualties were ‘typically in single digits’ for each year of the nine-year campaign in Pakistan.
The Bureau estimates that 411-884 civilians are among 2,536-3,577 people reportedly killed in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, based on its two-year analysis of news reports, court documents, field investigations and other sources.
Senior Pakistani government representatives met with Emmerson, who is investigating the legal and ethical framework of drone strikes.
In a statement released after his visit, Emmerson said: ’The position of the government of Pakistan is quite clear. It does not consent to the use of drones by the United States on its territory and it considers it to be a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
‘As a matter of international law the US drone campaign in Pakistan is therefore being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate government of the state. It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.’
Pakistan used the special rapporteur’s visit to mount a full-blooded attack on the justifications given by US officials for the drone campaign, particularly the claim that it is ‘unwilling or unable’ to tackle terrorist groups in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. The Pakistani government ‘made it quite clear’ to Emmerson that this suggestion was ‘an affront to the many Pakistani victims of terrorism’.
The US has claimed it has a right to carry out strikes on those who are plotting against the US and its interests, including troops fighting in Afghanistan – but officials said Pakistan bore the brunt of terror attacks, and aimed to tackle this through ‘law enforcement with dialogue and development’. Terrorism has cost Pakistan $70bn in the past decade, killing 7,000 soldiers and policemen and 40,000 civilians, the government disclosed.
‘Interference by other states’ harmed Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts, the officials complained.
Emmerson said: ‘Pakistan has also been quite clear that it considers the drone campaign to be counter-productive and to be radicalising a whole new generation, and thereby perpetuating the problem of terrorism in the region.’
Drone strikes are undermining public confidence in Pakistan’s democratic process, they added. This is particularly problematic in the context of upcoming elections scheduled for May.
Emmerson said: ‘It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other States.’
A group of maliks (tribal elders) from North Waziristan, the Pashtun tribal region most often hit by drone strikes, told Emmerson civilian drone deaths were a ‘commonplace occurrence’, particularly among adult men, who were often killed ‘carrying out ordinary daily tasks’. Traditional Pashtun forms of dress and the custom of adult men carrying guns makes it hard to distinguish between civilians and members of the Pakistani Taliban.
‘The Pashtun tribes of the [tribal] area have suffered enormously under the drone campaign,’ said Emmerson. Civilian deaths in drone strikes were contributing to radicalisation of youths in the region, officials and maliks told him.
The Guardian reports that Ben Emmerson, the UN’s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, says that the Pakistani government has given no tacit consent to US drone strikes according to a search of government records. Therefore, he concludes, the strikes are likely illegal in international law.
US drone strikes according to Pakistan government statistics:
Number of US drone strikes on Pakistan’s tribal belt since 2004: 330
Congressional authorizations for attack on Pakistan: 0
Number of people killed by the strikes: 2,200
Average number of people killed per strike: 6.6
Number of people wounded by the strikes: 600
Average number of people wounded per strike: 1.8
Number of known non-combatant civilians killed: 400
Further number of suspected non-combatant civilians killed: 200
Average number of innocent civilians likely killed by each strike: 1.8
Percentage of those killed that are likely innocent civilians: 27
The United States has threatened unilateral third-party sanctions against companies and countries initiating big economic enterprises with Iran. The Pakistani stock market lost a few points on fears that the US Department of the Treasury will come after Pakistan for its defiance.
Pakistan, a country of 180 million, is the sixth largest in the world and it faces a severe energy crisis. It has few hydrocarbons of its own. It has enormous potential for solar and wind, but has not developed alternative energy sources– and lacks both the investment capital and the know-how to make quick strides in that area. The energy crisis is so bad that major urban populations suffer with frequent electricity outages (try running a factory that way) and brown-outs. In the punishing summers, the brown-outs or ‘load shedding’ can be deadly to certain populations, including the elderly and infirm. There have actually been electricity riots in large cities such as Lahore.
The original plan for the pipeline had an Indian leg. Whether India will in fact join in is now in doubt. But Iran may calculate that energy-hungry India won’t be able to resist hooking into the pipeline once it reaches Lahore, only 60 miles from the Indian border. Because severe US sanctions on Iran are just made up by the US congress and the Department of the Treasury and have little international backing, it is likely that they will increasingly be defied by an energy-hungry world– I.e. Pakistan’s defection on this issue, and China’s refusal to cooperate, are probably bellwethers for other countries not deeply beholden in some way to the US.
That Pakistan needs the gas, and can’t get it on such favorable terms elsewhere, is inarguable. But the two countries are calling the pipeline the ‘Peace Pipeline’ and it seems likely that the Zardari government is seeking it in part in hopes of improving relations with Iran at a time when America is disentangling itself from the region. Pakistan may want Iran’s help with stabilizing Afghanistan as the US leaves, and may want to avoid an India-Iran (Shiite-Hindu) alliance against (Sunni) Pakistan. Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party is facing elections soon, and he may want to signal his independence from the US, which is extremely unpopular in Pakistan, in part because of its drone strikes and violation of Pakistani sovereignty. It is also possible that the civilians around Zardari are attempting to firm up relations with Iran as a way of offsetting the alliance of some hard liners in the officer corps with Saudi Arabia and with elements of the Taliban.
The USG Open Source Center translates an interview on the issues around the pipeline by Ikram Sehgal (former military officer and now head of a private security firm), appearing on the Geo TV satellite station in Urdu:
“(Begin live relay) (Unidentified anchor) The Iran-Pak (IP) gas pipeline project has been formally inaugurated by the presidents of Pakistan and Iran. We have been joined by analyst Ikram Sehgal to discuss the project. Sehgal, do you think the project will help Pakistan overcome the energy shortage?
(Sehgal) It is a major as well as positive development because Pakistan is an //energy-starved// country. Due to the shortage of energy, our factories were getting closed and services were being suspended. Unemployment and price-hike were increasing, which could lead to eruption of anarchy in the country. I had been a critic to this government but it is their //very brave// and //courageous// decision. It was also necessary. Also, Iran is our good neighbor. We have got the gas at good rate. It is necessary that the project has positive effects on other areas as well. Obviously, the United States is not happy with it, but we will have to convince it that we direly needed the project for being an energy-deficient country. India imports oil from Iran but there are no sanctions against it. The United States has also signed energy pact with India, under which the later can import nuclear equipment from several countries. The United States must realize that if anarchic situation develops in Pakistan and peace and stability is disturbed within the country, it will have effect on the region. Hence, the United States should take long-term view of the project.
(Unidentified anchor) Sehgal, do you think the upcoming government would also be able to bear the US pressure on the project?
(Sehgal) Since the entire nation is united on the project, there would be no issue for the coming government. Also, the next government will not have to face such level of pressure. The incumbent government should be lauded for initiating the project. (end of live relay)”
The News Int’l reports from Pakistan that the clashes may have had their origins in upcoming vote inside the steel workshops’ union. One of the factions was seeking votes by posturing as more Muslim than the other, and hit upon the stratagem of being hard on the Christians to underline their credentials. One of them, a Shahid Ali, is alleged to have begun the campaign on Friday by accusing his former friend from the rival faction, the Christian Sawan Masih, of having committed blasphemy. That accusation in turn helped spark the rampage on Saturday in which 170 homes were set aflame and a similar number of Christian families had to flee Some reports suggest that the two had been drinking buddies and that Shahid Ali made the charge while drunk.
A spokesman for Pakistani President Asaf Ali Zardari said, “The president said that safeguarding the rights of all citizens — Muslims and non-Muslims alike — was one of the main responsibilities of the government and it would continue undertaking every effort for the protection of their rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. He said that such acts of vandalism against minorities tarnish the image of the country.”
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said that each affected Christian family would be granted 200,000 rupees in cash and that their homes would be rebuilt by the state. Sharif also threatened to pursue terrorism charges against the rioters. (His generosity to the victims is admirable, but the tendency of governments to use terrorism laws to punish simple criminality really should be resisted).
Pakistan has seen a great deal of violence against religious minorities in recent years, and major attacks and bombings against the Shiites.
Pakistan, a country of roughly 180 million, is 97 percent Muslim. It is the 6th largest country in the world. It is so populous that that means there are 5.4 million Hindus and Christians, about 2.7 million each. In other words, there are as many Christians in Pakistan as in the whole country of Slovenia or of Jamaica.
Pakistan has elections coming up, and it is interesting that the rhetoric and actions of the politicians of both major parties suggest that they think a platform of tolerance will do them more good than a Muslim hard line.
The headlines this week were full of stories from the Muslim world about Muslims attacking the Muslim religious Right, whether the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the Jama’at-i Islami in Bangladesh. The rise of the religious Right in politics is producing a backlash throughout the region. Part of the backlash comes from secularists of Muslim heritage. But a significant part of it comes from believing Muslims, who oppose the sectarian and authoritarian approach of the religious Right parties, or who are uncomfortable with some of their stances toward longstanding Muslim religious practices, such as spiritual visits to the shrines of Muslim saints (a practice condemned by Wahhabism, Salafism, Talibanism, and other religious-right currents).
Nationalism plays a role in Muslim “anti-Islamism,” since many on the religious Right in the Muslim world have pan-Muslim concerns.
Thus, the Jama’at-i Islami in Bangladesh opposed the 1971 secession of that country from Pakistan. In that bloody struggle, Pakistani troops committed atrocities and some Jama’at leaders were accused of aiding them. A vital youth movement of critics of the Jama’at has been demonstrating for months demanding trials for those accused. The sentencing this week of leading Jama’at figure Delwar Hossein Seyedee for his role in 1971 atrocities satisfied the critics of the Muslim religious Right in that country, but provoked Jama’at riots that left dozens dead.
In Egypt in the past few months we have seen Muslim crowds attack and sometimes burn provincial headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is not clear who exactly is behind these acts, but that they are of Muslim heritage is certain.
The Jama’at-i Islami in Pakistan still suffers reputationally for having allied with coup-maker Gen. Zia ul-Haq in the 1970s and 1980s, and Tahir al-Qadri’s Sufi-based Mizan ul-Qur’an is attempting to supplant it. (He has reinvented himself as a relative liberal, condemning violence and terrorism of the al-Qaeda/ Taliban sort, while the Jama’at, though not itself for the most part violent, has been reluctant forthrightly to condemn these tendencies). Many Pakistanis vote for parties opposed to the religious Right. The Urdu-speakers of Karachi support the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which is secular-minded. Most Pakistani Pushtuns voted for the National Awami Party, a party of Pushtun sub-nationalism that opposes the Taliban and the religious Right.
I don’t like the term “Islamism,” which was promoted by French scholars in preference to the American “Muslim fundamentalism,” since they thought the latter too Protestant in inspiration (it has no exact counterpart in French, where “integrisme” is sometimes used by analogy from ultramontane, hard line Catholicism). I think “Muslim fundamentalism” is better because, as the Chicago University project on fundamentalisms showed, it allows us to see the phenomenon in the context of similar movements in other religions. Moreover, I think the term is confusing because it is too close to “Islam” per se, and I don’t agree with figures such as Gilles Keppel who see the “Islamists” as unusually “pious,” implying that they are the real Muslims. Secular-minded Muslims who are nevertheless believers, and Sufi mystics, are also “pious,” and I don’t think social scientists should be deciding who is a better Muslim.
“Political Islam” has been proposed as an alternative, but if it implies the fundamentalist groups, it is also inadequate. In Egypt the Wasat [Center] Party and now Abdel Moneim Abou’l-Fotouh’s Strong Egypt are a form of relatively liberal political Islam to the left of Muhammad Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. Sufis are entering politics (many in Egypt supported Wasat).
That is why I suggest the usage, “Muslim religious Right” for righting, fundamentalist religion in politics. It seems to me to fit the major such movements, such as the Jama’at-i Islami and the Muslim Brotherhood, and it allows us to put religious politics in the Muslim world on a spectrum– from secular, to religious but liberal or progressive, to traditionalist (Sufis), to, well, the religious Right. We see the same spectrum in the US, with secular (many Unitarians), religious but liberal (the National Council of Churches), traditionalist (many Catholics, Lutherans) to the religious Right (2/3s of evangelicals, many Pentecostalists, etc.). In the US, the groups on the left of the spectrum vote for the Democratic Party on the whole, whereas those on the right tend to vote for the Republican Party. In Egypt, the groups on the left support the National Salvation Front coalition, whereas those on the right support the Freedom and Justice Party (Muslim Brotherhood) or Nur (Salafi).
Secularism, forms of ethnic nationalism, tribalism, and the religious Left and Center all serve as countervailing forces to the religious Right parties in the Muslim world, the politics of which is becoming more polarized along these lines. But the resulting struggles look familiar if compared to those in the most religious of the industrialized democracies, the United States.