Mosque Battle may signal end of `Mullah-Military' Alliance

( LatWp ) - In the fire-singed prayer hall of the Red Mosque on Thursday, pinpricks of sunlight filtered through hundreds of bullet holes in the corrugated tin roof while soldiers in combat boots stood at attention.

Just days ago, the mosque was a haven for radical Islamic fighters. By Thursday afternoon, it was a showpiece for the military's might. In between, Pakistan may have seen the most dramatic signal yet of a fissure between the two forces that have controlled this country for the past quarter century.

The alliance between the military and the religious establishment has long had a stranglehold on power here, with each side using the other to advance its own aims and cement its own influence. But the showdown at the Red Mosque, which lasted nine days and cost more than 100 lives before army commandos declared victory over extremist fighters, demonstrates that the so-called mullah-military alliance may be fast unraveling.

``By all measures this military action represents the most crucial blow yet to the mullah-military alliance in Pakistan,'' said Najam Sethi, a prominent political analyst. ``I wouldn't say that the Red Mosque action has broken the nexus between the madrassas and the military in Pakistan, but it has caused a major dent.''

Both sides now seem emboldened to step up the fight.

The government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who also leads the army, was encouraged by its ability to oust the Red Mosque fighters with minimal civilian casualties and, so far, a relatively muted public response.

In an address to the nation Thursday night, Musharraf promised to devote more resources to combating extremism--particularly near the border with Afghanistan, a relatively lawless zone where the government has taken heavy criticism for fostering militancy.

``After this operation, terrorism and extremism has not ended in Pakistan,'' he said. ``But it is our resolve that we will eliminate extremism and terrorism wherever it exists.''

Meanwhile, the other side's rhetoric was equally severe.

``God willing, Pakistan will have an Islamic revolution soon. The blood of martyrs will bear fruit,'' Maulana Abdul Aziz, a former cleric at the Red Mosque, said at the funeral of his brother, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was killed in the siege. ``Our struggle will continue. There are many Ghazis living to be martyred.''

Many in Pakistan, particularly moderates, question how willing or able Musharraf's military is to take on religious hard-liners. Extremists at the Red Mosque, located in the heart of Islamabad, were relatively easy and obvious targets compared with the dozens of shadowy groups that operate across miles of rugged, remote terrain in the country's west. Also, motivations remain in doubt.

The military and religious hard-liners have relied on each other since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. With extensive U.S. backing, the Pakistani military used the extremists to help beat back Soviet forces in Afghanistan, making Pakistan a key player in a crucial Cold War battleground. The militants also came in handy in battling Indian army forces in Kashmir.

In return, the hard-liners were given a strong influence in Pakistani society. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Pakistani military officially dropped support for the Taliban government in Afghanistan and other extremist groups. Unofficially, most analysts believe that, at the very least, segments of the military have played a double game of taking U.S. counter-terrorism aid while allowing militancy to continue, especially in connection with Afghanistan.

But recently, the radicals have turned their attention back to Islamabad, carrying out attacks against Pakistani government targets. Instead of working with the military, radicals are increasingly fighting against it.

The Red Mosque embodies the transformation. It was once a favorite of the nation's establishment--including its military--and a prime location for recruiting fighters to join the jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

But Ghazi and Aziz, who took over the mosque from their father in 1998, radicalized it and aligned it with anti-government groups. Their campaign this year to undermine Musharraf and establish a theocracy in Pakistan prompted the military crackdown.

Asked if the army had violated the mosque's sanctity, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said the radical fighters had already done that by stockpiling a massive arsenal and using the compound to launch attacks against Pakistani security forces.

``This,'' Arshad said, ``is not a mosque.''

Uzbek-Korean JV names volume polyethylene output in 2020
Uzbek-Korean JV names volume polyethylene output in 2020
Benefits provided for Uzbek entrepreneurs likely to be extended
Benefits provided for Uzbek entrepreneurs likely to be extended
Uzbekistan, Turkey to work on approving agreement on preferential trade
Uzbekistan, Turkey to work on approving agreement on preferential trade
Loading Bars
Azerbaijan shows footage from Nadirkhanli village of Kalbajar district (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Africa’s COVID-19 death toll tops 80,000, reports WHO
French online newspaper publishes article about January 20 tragedy
Memory of victims of January 20 tragedy honored in Azerbaijan’s Shusha city (VIDEO)
Turkish Foreign Ministry honors memory of Azerbaijani martyrs of January 20, 1990 tragedy in Baku
Turkish Ministry of National Defense talks January 20, 1990 tragedy in Baku
Azerbaijan confirms 897 more COVID-19 recoveries
Iran unveils amount of saved money by major mining companies
Anniversary of January 20 tragedy marked in Azerbaijan's Shusha
Events of Jan.20, 1990 divided life of Baku citizens into "before" and "after"
Kazakhstan bans import of Azerbaijani tomatoes
Review of Georgian exports to China
Azerbaijani troops hold several events in connection with January 20 tragedy (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Georgia increases wine exports to Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan becomes Georgia's second export partner
Kazakhstan reports decrease in mutual trade volume with Vietnam
Geostat reveals data on China's exports to Georgia
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for January 20
Turkey mobilized to support Azerbaijan in post-war period, says ambassador
Uzbek-Korean JV names volume polyethylene output in 2020
Container shipping rates surge in Georgia
Passenger transportation volume by road surges in Kazakhstan
Georgia may lift restrictions on international flights
Georgia sees decrease in electricity consumption
January 20 events of 1990 aimed to strangle Azerbaijan’s fight for independence – historian
Turkmenistan’s Mary State Power Plant names production indicators of 2020
Iran dismisses having any 'secret talks' with Biden's team to bring US back to JCPOA
New geopolitical reality following Karabakh war to make contribution to GDP growth in Azerbaijan - Economy Minister
Iran to commit to JCPOA obligations - if Europe, US return - FM Zarif
Commerzbank deepens partnership with Microsoft
Central Bank reveals volume of property appropriated by Georgian commercial banks
Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome starts launching works for 2021
Azerbaijani Kapital Bank’s total assets increase as of 2020
Carnations blooming today along with khari bulbul in Azerbaijan – Turkish FM
Exports of Iran's steel products declines
French ambassador to Azerbaijan talks about January 20 tragedy
Turkmen carpet weaving enterprise reveals production volume
Iran may cancel additional protocol on nuclear deal - Foreign Policy Commission
Azerbaijan keen to develop relations with Turkey, Pakistan in almost all spheres
Azerbaijani people honoring memory of 20 January tragedy victims (PHOTOS)
Caspian Shipping Company’s marine flotilla reveres memory of January 20 martyrs (VIDEO)
Armenians destroyed mausoleum of outstanding Azerbaijani poet in Shusha - monitoring results
Azerbaijan's State Service for Property Issues unveils amount of transfers to state budget
Supply of Indian manufactured vaccines to neighbouring and key partner countries
Azerbaijan progresses with cotton yields in 2020
EU's Michel calls on Biden to form new transatlantic pact
Jewish community in Azerbaijan revere memory of victims of January 20 tragedy
India to gift 2 mn doses of Covid-19 vaccine 'Covishield' to Bangladesh
India, Japan sign Memorandum of Cooperation to help promote movement of skilled workers
Georgia reports 469 new COVID-19 cases for Jan.20
UK ambassador to Azerbaijan makes statement on January 20 tragedy
Benefits provided for Uzbek entrepreneurs likely to be extended
Share of domestic exports up in Georgia
Azerbaijan discloses number of mandatory health insurance services in 2020
Azerbaijani president, first lady visit Alley of Martyrs on 31st anniversary of 20 January tragedy (PHOTO)
India, Oman Hold Discussions On Bilateral Cooperation
Turkmenistan's Turkmengas to buy chemical products via tender
Uzbekistan, Turkey to work on approving agreement on preferential trade
Azerbaijan’s Kapital Bank reveals 2020 net profit
EU Delegation mourning victims of “Black January” tragedy - statement
Copper ores and concentrates top export goods in Georgia
Azerbaijan holds minute of silence to honor January 20 victims (PHOTOVIDEO)
Modi gets SOS message for vaccine from Caribbean nation that stood by India
Black January means symbol of struggle for independence - Charged ’Affairs of Azerbaijani Embassy in Ethiopia
Iran’s South Pars Gas Company beats new record on export
First Vice- President Mehriban Aliyeva shares Instagram post on 20 January tragedy (PHOTO)
Uzbekistan’s Central Bank to place bonds on republican currency exchange
Georgia sees decrease in external merchandise trade
Turkmenistan's Mary region opens tender for construction
Turkmenistan signs contract for aircraft purchase from French Airbus
UK inflation rises a little more than expected in December
Largest share of mortgage loans falls on Uzbekistan’s Samarkand region
Article on Black January tragedy of Azerbaijani Consul General in LA published
EU4Business supports expansion of Georgia’s biggest digital creative agency to global markets
Кazakh Electricity Grid Operating Company to buy construction materials via tender
Azerbaijani oil prices continue to grow
Phased COVID-19 vaccination continues in Azerbaijan - Ministry of Health
Kazakh Embassy extends condolences to Azerbaijan on 20 January tragedy's anniversary
Number of Uzbek banks raise dollar rate
EBRD names loans volume provided for Uzbekistan during COVID-19
EBRD, State Electricity System of Georgia implement new energy project
Uzbekistan names start date for vaccination against COVID-19
Azerbaijani Ministry of Agriculture holds meeting on results of cotton growing dev't (PHOTO)
Azerbaijani company reveals growth in 2020 total insurance revenues
Aide to Azerbaijani president shares post on Twitter on anniversary of 20 January tragedy (VIDEO)
As always, on Day of National Mourning, we mourn with Azerbaijan - Turkish Embassy
Iran, Cuba joint COVID-19 vaccine to begin new phase of testing in Havana
Iran, Iraq discuss transit operations
Electricity generation potential of Iran's Kerman Province announced
Russia's Gazprom increases purchases of natural gas in Turkmenistan
Azerbaijan applying innovations for agrochemical soil analysis
Turkic Council commemorates heroes of Azerbaijan on occasion of 20 January tragedy anniversary
Azerbaijan to ease the health protocols for Iranian transit and export trucks
Azerbaijan’s Consulate General in Los Angeles produces short film on Black January tragedy
Iranian currency rates for January 20
Azerbaijan issues data on lending to communications, transport sector for 11M2020
European oil majors to prioritize large-scale developments in two regions
European oil majors to increase green investments to 16-17% of total spending
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources discusses proposals for plastic bags
Iran's export transportation costs doubles
All news