Short Cuts: Rise of extremism in Pakistan might worry US

Jamia Hafsa protests
Young boy at a Jamia Hafsa demonstration in January (Photo via Flickr)

As the US would not have enough problems on its own, one of its closest allies in Southern Asia is groaning under growing troubles. Lately, Pakistan has seen a rise of extremism on several fronts: In Islamabad, students of the controversial Jamia Hafsa seminary, which is closely tied to the Lal Masjid, the Red Mosque, have spread fear and violence.

Mobs of students, which included a high number of females, abducted a woman they accused of running a brothel, occupied a children’s library and threatened to deliver suicide attacks against the government in case it wanted to intervene into their actions. Last weekend, their spiritual leader, Red Mosque-Cleric Abdul Aziz continued the course of extremism as he put the Fatwa on Pakistan’s female Tourism Minister Nilofar Bakhtia for hugging her instructor after a paragliding flight – an act Mir Aziz called “obscene”. Mr Aziz also announced a Sharia-crusade against immorality in Pakistan and claims having the support of Waziristan Taliban fighters.

In this region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, tribal clashes recently escalated. At the same time, fights between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the north-western region around Parachinar killed around 40 people and left 400 Sunni shops burned down, fueling the heat between majority Sunnis and minority Shia Muslims, who make 15 percent of the 160 million Pakistanis.

Yet, it is unclear why the Musharraf-government does not react to the violence. Mr Musharraf is currently planning on how to secure his re-election – a reason why his rival ,former premier Benazir Bhutto might be allowed to return to the country in exchange for support instead of building her own campaign. As far as his handling of terrorism in the Warziristan region is concerned, Mr Musharraf repeatedly has averted critique.

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