Given the central role of the Wahhabi tradition in inspiring the Taliban and al Qaeda, it’s worth looking behind the scenes at the news that al Qaeda wanted revenge for the killing of Abu Laith al-Libi in Pakistan — in particular what exactly al Qaeda said about his death.
Pakistan: Now or Never?
The killing of the Pakistan army’s top medical officer this week was another reminder of the price being paid by the military in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Lieutenant-General Mushtaq Ahmed Baig was the most senior army officer killed by militants to date.
Geert Wilders doesn't do things by halves. The anti-Koran film that this far-right politician has been working on in recent months will be finished very soon. He doesn't know if any Dutch broadcaster will touch it because of the controversy it has already stirred up. So he has arranged to have "Fitna" put out as a webcast as well. That should ensure that the film can be seen all around the world and not just in the Netherlands.
One of the most influential Islamic seminaries in one of the world's most populous Muslim states has issued an important statement denouncing terrorism as un-Islamic. The statement is all the more interesting for the fact that it comes from an institution often linked in the media to the Taliban. But the seminary is hardly known to non-Muslims and the country is not an Arab state, not even a real "Muslim country" as such. So the statement, which was backed by several thousand Islamic scholars, looks like it will end up like the tree that falls in the forest with nobody around to hear it. It got some good coverage in its home country (like here and here and here) , but little anywhere else.
Reports last week in the New York Times and the Washington Post about CIA operations against al Qaeda inside Pakistan — with or without the permission of the Pakistan government — have got everybody asking what exactly is going on. Let’s rewind and look at what the United States asked for immediately after 9/11 when it demanded President Pervez Musharraf’s cooperation in hunting down al Qaeda.
An interesting thing happened in the Pakistani elections this week. A country where radical Islamism has been on the rise in recent years went to the polls and voted Islamists out of office. In North West Frontier Province (NWFP), the most "Talibanised" part of the country, an avowedly secular Pashtun party -- the Awami National Party -- emerged as the largest party by far. This bucks what seemed to be a trend in the Muslim world, i.e. the freer the election, the more chances the Islamists have. Think back to late 1991, when the Algerian military cancelled the run-off round of elections after the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) took a strong lead in the first round. In more recent years, elections in Egypt, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza have shown Islamists doing well at the polls. In a very different context, Turkey's "post-Islamist" AKP has gone from strength to strength thanks to the ballot box.
Scanning the U.S. media for reaction to the Pakistan election, two themes stand out. One is a U.S. desire to reach out to the newly elected political leaders in Pakistan and bolster a return to civilian-led democracy. The other is the U.S. need to shore up the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban – even if it means pursuing them aggressively inside Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas. One may turn out to contradict the other.
President Pervez Musharraf could hardly have found a better way of convincing the world about his commitment to holding a “free and fair” election in Pakistan – by letting his own allies in the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) be defeated at the polls.