Situation in Pakistan
Delivered in Plenary - 11th July 2007
I have been a critic of Pakistan’s government for some time. From the toleration of nuclear proliferation by A. Q. Kahn, to the appalling treatment of religious minorities. I have also been sceptical at times as to the real determination of President Musharraf, ostensibly our ally in the war on terrorism, to really stamp out radical Islamist Jahadis and stop youngsters, including EU citizens, being educated in the hardline Deobandi madrassas.
We now witness the bloody storming of the Red Mosque, where armed Islamists were holed up with women and children. Musharraf stated the militants were linked to al-Qa’ida. So why was this matter allowed to fester since January as the security forces ignored the illegal occupation of land, the stockpiling of weapons and the abduction of women into the mosque complex? Was this in order to engineer a bloody showdown? Or to demonstrate the risk posed by extremists and prove the President’s anti-terrorist stance to the West, which has been more critical recently, with claims now that the all-powerful Pakistani Military Interservices Intelligence Agency has been secretly helping Taliban forces regroup in the border areas with Afghanistan?
It is also alleged that Abdul Aziz, the cleric leading the Red Mosque militants, had family links to the ISI. For sure this crisis is a welcome distraction for President Musharraf, under pressure now for dismissing his Chief Justice, attempting to justify five more years in power and keen, of course, to retain the pervasive influence of the Pakistani army.
The EU should rightly fear instability in an Islamic state with nuclear weapons, and I now call on President Musharraf to allow two former civilian secular Prime Ministers to return from exile and campaign in democratic elections against dangerous extremists and help build a tolerant and democratic country that can survive President Musharraf.