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The Malakand Division War Begins

The nation of Pakistan begins its greatest test in decades as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani declared war against takfiri terrorists in the Malakand Division in a national address this evening.

Gilani called on Pakistanis to unite behind their army and government in a war to “completely eliminate” militants who have reaped havoc and death in the once tranquil greater Swat area.

The prime minister’s speech is part of an aggressive public relations campaign by the Pakistani state to rally public support for a full-fledged war against the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan in Swat.  The campaign centers around using Islam to de-legitimize the militants.

Around a week ago, a news anchor close to the military-intelligence establishment read the following Qur’anic verses — unprecedented on his program — at the end of a segment on Swat:

And when it is said to them: “Make not mischief on the earth,” they say: “We are only peacemakers.”

Verily! They are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not.

(Surah al-Baqarah, Ayat 11 & 12)

Immediately, I realized that the verses were probably offered to him by elements of the state security apparatus and signaled the start of a campaign to take away the Islamic legitimacy of the takfiri terrorists.

Today, the Pakistani government began airing public service announcements on private and government television channels, broadcasting the same Qur’anic verses.  As the bullets and mortars fly and hundreds of thousands flee their homes, the war of ideas begins.

Islamic scholars from all backgrounds — Ahl-e Hadis, Barelvi, Deobandi, Jafri (Twelver Shia), modernist, and Islamist — including Muhammad Rafi Usmani, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, and Khalid Masud, have come on television to speak out against the violent methodology of the militants and their campaign of terror against Pakistanis.

Generations ago, four young men told the Muslims of India: “The issue is now or never. Either we live [and establish Pakistan] or perish for ever.”

Pakistan faces the same choice today: to live or perish forever.

There is no question as to how the takfiri terrorists will respond.  The will begin hitting Pakistani cities tomorrow.  The battlefield will not be contained to the Malakand Division.

But as for the Pakistani people, we will learn of their decision — and fate — soon.

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Taliban Whipping of Girl Roundly Condemned

The Taliban whipping video has been broadcast on Pakistani television channels, generating a great deal of outrage inside Pakistan. Both the prime minister and president have condemned the act.

Surprisingly, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry took suo moto notice on the case. He has summoned several leading bureaucrats to present themselves before an eight-member bench on April 6th.

As I wrote last month at World Politics Review:

“[The rule of law movement] provides an opportunity to strengthen the Pakistani state, improve the judicial system’s responsiveness, and resist creeping Talibanization….

“…Islamabad must now curb the spread of social Talibanization elsewhere by demonstrating that civil justice can also be speedy and effective. It should leverage the popular, national demand for the rule of civil law by bolstering the reform of the judicial system and ensuring the judiciary’s independence.”

Kudos to Samar Minallah, sister of lawyers movement leader Athar Minallah, for bringing this crime to light.

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Victory for Civil Law in Pakistan a First Step

Here’s an excerpt from my latest external piece, published at World Politics Review:

A movement led by black-coated lawyers achieved a defining victory for the rule of civil law in Pakistan on Monday with the restoration of illegally deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. This highly popular movement provides an opportunity to strengthen the Pakistani state, improve the judicial system’s responsiveness, and resist creeping Talibanization.

You can read the remainder of the article here.

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Editor:

Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

For Media and Consulting Inquiries:
E-mail // Tel: +1(202) 713-5897

On Twitter:
@PakistanPolicy

On the Radio:
Arif Rafiq regularly appears on the John Batchelor Show Friday nights from 09:30-10:00pm Eastern Time. Tune your dial to 770AM in New York or 630AM in DC. The show appears on affiliates in other cities. Listen live online at WABCRadio.com.
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