Pakistani Army Moves In Takes Faridia

Pakistani Army Moves in
Takes Faridia Seminary
Standoff at Red Mosque

Pakistani troops took the Faridia Seminary attached to the Red Mosque on Friday. On Saturday morning, the army continued to move in on the mosque itself, amid sounds of explosions. The clerical leader there, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, has been talking about fighting to the death, and told the seminarians with him during Friday prayers that he had “written their wills.” Do they have Kool-aid in Pakistan?

Pakistani troops also removed walls and barriers in front of the women’s seminary attached to the mosque, in what could be a preparation for a rescue mission.

Pakistan’s exiled civilian politicians, such as former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, appear to view the current turmoil in the capital as an invitation to defy the military government by returning to Pakistan to contest the elections scheduled for this fall. Some high Pakistani officials are now saying that Ms. Bhutto would not be arrested on her arrival in the country, contrary to earlier threats issued by Gen. Musharraf.

The proliferation of madrasahs or Muslim seminaries in Pakistan, which offer K-12 and college-level education, is enabled in part by the government’s refusal to spend money on opening and supporting new civil schools throughout the country. Last I knew, half of the Pakistani budget went to the military, and spending on education was something like 2%. For its first few decades of existence, Pakistan spent %50-%60 of its budget on the military. In the 2006-2007 budget, “defense” was $4.2 billion of the $21.7 bn. federal budget. Moreover, the military has tended in recent years to spend beyond its budget allocation. And, expenditures, procurements and programs actually military in character were spread through the rest of the budget, and the true total dedicated to the military is likely actually higher. Both the Pakistani public and the international donor agencies had demanded reduced proportions of military spending in the budget, so, presto, things were reclassified as not military. Sherry Rahman observes:

‘ When parliamentarians or donors read the allocation for defence over the next fiscal year, it will not include the military pensions, which now run into 35.6 billion rupees. Nor will the defence outlay include Rs 1.4 billion demanded separately for the combatant accounts of the defence division which include the Maritime Security Forces and others with dotted line or direct reports to the military, Rs 40, 723 million in salaries for defence production, Rs 7.2 billion spent on the civil armed forces, Rs 3.7 billion for the Pakistan Rangers, Rs 1.5 billion for the Frontier Constabulary, Rs 359 million for the Pakistan Coast Guards, nor the one billion rupees set aside for military schools, cantonments and other residuals. The Atomic Energy Commission too, which falls under the control of the Strategic Plans Division, has been allotted separate funds, yet the two billion rupees demanded this year is charged to civilian expenses under the cabinet division.

For a developing and relatively poor country, giving the military this enormous proportion of the national budget is criminal (the same is true for India, by the way). With regard to the proportion of Pakistan’s GDP devoted to education, at around 2% it was in the bottom 12 of the 187 countries in the world in 2004-2005.

It was alleged that the plane of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, came under small-arms fire as it was taking off from Islamabad.

Video from Friday:

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