Monday, January 26, 2004

Islamisation, extremism and the Christians of Pakistan

Date: Monday 26 January 2004
Subj: Islamisation, extremism and the Christians of Pakistan
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal



On 6 June 2003, the WEA RLC produced a News & Analysis posting entitled "Pakistan: Islamisation or dictatorship or both?" That posting examined the relationship between Pakistan's President Musharraf and the Majlis Muttahida-e-Amal (MMA) - an alliance of six anti-West, pro-Taliban, pro-sharia, Islamic parties that hold the balance of power in Pakistan.

In August 2002, Musharraf amended the Constitution by decree (the Legal Framework Order) to give himself vastly increased powers. The October 2002 elections however, resulted in a hung parliament. Musharraf's military-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Quid-e-Azam (PML-Q) won the most seats, but all opposition parties opposed Musharraf's constitutional amendments.

During 2003 the MMA managed to strike a deal with Musharraf; to support the LFO in exchange for his acceptance of their Islamisation package. That package contains 17 points - seven are modifications of the LFO, ten relate to the Islamisation of society. (Link 1)


In late December 2003 the Pakistan Parliament passed the Seventeenth Amendment Bill, which asserts the validity of the Legal Framework Order (LFO), modified in accordance with the demands of the MMA. The amendments made by the Seventeenth Amendment Act and the modified Legal Framework Order, have now been incorporated into the text of the Constitution.

On 1 January 2004, General Musharraf secured a vote of confidence in both houses of parliament and four provincial assemblies, meaning he will remain in power until late 2007, and as military chief until the end of 2004.

Musharraf's success on both counts was due to the support of the MMA. So what has this cost in terms of quid pro quo with the MMA? Details of any deal are proving extremely difficult to find. However, some things are self-evident. President Musharraf's dependence upon the MMA severely limits his ability to deal with Islamist extremism and terrorism, and this puts Musharraf in a hard place. He must appease the U.S. for military aid, and he must appease the mullahs and the MMA for regime survival. This seriously compromises security for Christians in Pakistan. Ultimately it also compromises Musharraf's own security.


Reuters reported on 16 January 2004 that the car bomb that exploded outside the Holy Trinity Cathedral/Bible Society complex in Karachi on 15 January "was a fertiliser bomb very much similar to what was used in the U.S consulate". The U.S. Consulate in Karachi (1 km from the Holy Trinity Cathedral) was bombed in June 2002. That attack was attributed to Al-Almi, a splinter faction of Harkat-ul Mujahideen, a group fighting in Kashmir. (Link 2)

TIME magazine reported in the 26 January issue that the militant Islamist group Jaish-e-Muhammad (also fighting in Kashmir) was behind the 25 December 2003 assassination attempt on Musharraf, and that this group is also linked to the June 2002 bombing of the U.S. consulate in Karachi.

Regarding the assassination attempt, TIME magazine comments (and we can apply this to the Bible Society bombing as well), "That Jaish-e-Muhammad has the capacity to launch sophisticated attacks on the President, possibly with insider help, is a situation partly of Musharraf's making. The government in Islamabad has long coddled militant Islamic groups, encouraging them first to help drive the Soviets out of neighboring Afghanistan and later to torment Indian troops in the part of the disputed state of Kashmir that is under Indian control.

"Under pressure from Washington, he (Musharraf) banned various militant organizations in January 2002, but he left their leaders largely unfettered and allowed the organizations to reconstitute under new names. Pakistan's intelligence services, which had helped build up the ground and infiltrate its fighters into Indian-controlled Kashmir, were hesitant to crack down, even after Jaish-e-Muhammad began unleashing religious terrorism within Pakistan." (Link 3)

Compass Direct ( ) reported on 23 January that Pakistani Christian teenager, Zeeshan Gill (16), was kidnapped for more than two weeks in November 2003 by Islamist militants training fighters for jihad in Kashmir. Zeeshan was taken to Jamia al Qasim al Aloom Islamic school (madrasa), beaten, forced to recite the Islamic creed, and threatened with death. He escaped home to his mother and they have fled into hiding.

Compass Direct reports, "According to Joseph Francis of the Lahore-based Center for Legal Aid and Assistance Settlement (CLAAS), the Gill family's dilemma is not unusual among Pakistan's tiny Christian minority." Joseph Francis told Compass Direct that CLAAS lawyers represented another boy who had been kidnapped as a minor. It was ordered that he be released from the madrasa. Shortly after his return to his mother, he was re-kidnapped and sent straight to Kashmir. No one knows his whereabouts.

Until the Pakistan government stops supporting the Kashmir jihad, dismantles the terror networks and cuts off their lifelines - madrasas and funds - the Christian community will remain at great risk.

Unfulfilled Promises: Pakistan's Failure to Tackle Extremism
16 January 2004

The International Crisis Group has released a detailed report analysing and condemning Pakistan's lack of action against extremist Islamist organisations and madrasas. (Link 4)

The ICG report notes that the Pakistan government appears to be "more concerned about appeasing a valuable ally [MMA] than tackling the threats of terrorism and extremism in earnest."

The ICG accuses the government of refusing to invoke anti-terrorism laws against the leaders and members of banned militant Islamist organisations or dismantle their infrastructure. Hence when these groups are banned, they simply re-surface with new names and continue operations.

The government's failure to reform the jihadi madrasas is rooted in two issues - government support for the Kashmir jihad, and government dependence on MMA support for regime survival.


The ICG reports details the links between the mullahs, the MMA and the madrasas and comments that "to appease the clergy and to gain the religious parties' support for the LFO, President Musharraf placed madrasa reform on the backburner".

"President Musharraf's MMA allies have categorically rejected, with a public campaign, government reforms of madrasas and any proposed laws to regulate their functioning, including curricula and finances." (ICG p 9)

Not only has madrasa reform gone on the backburner, but the issue of terrorist financing has been sidestepped altogether.

ICG reports, "Within Pakistan, the jihadi madrasa also continues to play a central role in promoting sectarian hatred and violence." And, "Sectarian tensions are bound to increase so long as the jihadi madrasa is allowed to preach religious intolerance." (ICG p 10)


Excerpts from ICG report page 16, under the heading "Strategies of Regime Survival" and subheading "Appeasing the Mullahs": "President Musharraf's pledges in 2002 to confront and eliminate Islamist extremism were compromised by his desire to obtain MMA support for controversial constitutional amendments and indeed his presidency. Now that the MMA has played a pivotal role in giving the LFO constitutional cover and helping Musharraf gain a vote of confidence to extend his presidency until 2007, the military-run government may be even less likely to risk taking effective action against the religious alliance and its many extremist offshoots.

"The quid pro quo for Musharraf's deal with the mullahs might never be officially revealed but can be gauged, at least partially, through the MMA's demands. Even prior to the December 2003 agreement, it had insisted upon official support for Islamisation in return for acceptance of the LFO and Musharraf's dual hats of president and chief of army staff. In June 2003, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain admitted that the government had accepted ten MMA demands for Islamisation, in addition to pledging government funding to 8,000 madrasas. The ten included legislation in accordance with the recommendations of the Council of Islamic Ideology; restructuring the economy, education and media along Islamic lines; ensuring rights for women in accordance with Islamic injunctions; and giving Islamic subjects equal importance with other fields of study in all educational institutions."


On Sunday 18 January the MMA launched a "mass contact campaign" for the enforcement of its 17-point Islamisation programme, which it describes as "the only solution to the country's many problems".

MMA chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad said that Pakistan had to come out from under American influence, that "Kashmir Solidarity Day" should be celebrated nationwide on 5 February. Ahmad read out the MMA 17-point Islamisation package and said, "We want to enforce true Islamic system in the country and the 17 points covers all aspects of Nizam-i-Shariat [Islamic law] whose implementation would establish Nizam-i-Mustafa [Islamic system] in the country." (Link 5)


The ICG report comments on the shari'a bill passed by the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Assembly in June 2003, which pledges to impose "Allah's rule on earth through His pious men".

"Under another proposed law, yet to be presented to the provincial parliament, the MMA government intends to set up a hasba (accountability) department and ombudsman's offices at the provincial, district and local levels to ensure the enforcement of Islamic laws. Each ombudsman will have under his command a hasba force, a Pakistani version of the Taliban's vice and virtue police."

The ICG notes that, "The MMA's policies in the NWFP have encouraged extremists in other provinces and at the centre to follow suit." The report then details cases of Islamist groups in Baluchistan, the Punjab, Lahore, and Karachi, illegally enforcing elements of Islamic law, primarily in relation to depictions women in advertising, not only with impunity, but support from the national government.

"After the MMA's support for the Seventeenth Amendment, Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali emphasised that his party, the PML-QA [Musharraf's military-backed party], and the MMA are 'natural allies', and that both 'favour...implementing [a] complete Islamic system in the country'."

Elizabeth Kendal


1) "Pakistan: Islamisation or dictatorship or both?"
WEA RLC News & Analysis, Elizabeth Kendal, 6 June 03

2) Police link Karachi church bomb, consulate blast.
By Aamir Ashraf , KARACHI (Reuters), 16 Jan 2004

3) TIME. 26 Jan 2004
The Monster Within. By Tim McGirk in Islamabad,9171,1101040126-578991,0

4) Unfulfilled Promises: Pakistan's Failure to Tackle Extremism
Asia Report N°73
16 January 2004

5) MMA launches mass contact campaign
HiPakistan 18 January 2004