Lal Masjid endgame

NO SOONER than the Pakistani government put its foot down over the bothersome Lal Masjid issue did it fizzle out in a farcical sort of way. Indeed, had the endgame not entailed gunfire, teargas and unfortunate loss of life, the antics of the self-styled moral police could even provide for rare comedy in Islamabad’s otherwise serious political climate in the run-up to the general elections.

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Published: Fri 6 Jul 2007, 9:40 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:53 AM

For General Musharraf, the end to the months-long standoff with the Lal Masjid clergy brings much-welcome appreciation from international circles and more importantly, more or less total support from within Pakistan.

And even though the course of the confrontation had seen visible soft corners for the hardliners from within the ruling party, the president’s resort to use of force after trying all possible alternatives should do well to counter Pakistan’s negative extremism-abetting image abroad.

It is important for Islamabad now to leverage the momentum to provide for a sustaining front against the scourge of extremism. For some time now, various hardline elements have been exploiting the peace and love embodied in Islam for purely political and material gains. And pretty much by geo-political accident (and also occasional official grace), Pakistan has stood right in the centre of the storm for the length of its duration. For its leaders counter these threats in a way that all parties affected by it are satisfied is unprecedented, and needs to be kept from running out of steam.

The Lal Masjid endgame must therefore be followed by new openings on other flanks. Now that the threats and convictions of the so-called moral-police have been exposed as empty and artificial – especially since the leader was caught escaping in a burqa while boys and girls were left to fight and die – there is going to be strong support from an already fed-up public as well as the international community.

Again to General Musharraf’s liking, this may just prove the initiative that could restore enough of his fast depleting domestic credibility to survive the turbulence that is bound to come with the elections. More so if this army-chief can put an end to a genie that has plagued Pakistan since the previous uniformed president let it out of the bottle. The world beyond watches with interest.

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