Red Mosque, a Milestone in Pakistan's Crisis

General Parveze Musharraf, Pakistan's president, is known for his talent to compromise with different sides at the same time. After coup-de ta against Navaz Sharif in 1999 and seizing the power in Pakistan, he satisfied Iranian regime by turning his face on Abdol Ghadir khan, father of Pakistan nuclear project, who passed the sensitive technology to Mullahs. This event was three years before September 11 and did not raise flag in the U.S. intelligence community.

Also, Musharraf was one of the major supporters of Taliban in Afghanistan. After September 11 and collapse of central power in Afghanistan, he continued his support for Taliban, of course less obvious and only in Afghanistan. It was an agreement that did immune his regime inside Pakistan to the rising wave of fundamentalism in the Middle East. Certainly, this mutual agreement between Musharraf and Taliban, was not a pleasant gesture to the newly elected president in Afghanistan from a head of state in neighboring country who claimed to be a U.S. ally in fight with Al-Qaeda. For this, Karzei could not hide his dissatisfaction for Musharraf's act in many occasions. But the Red Mosque event, as a milestone, changed the whole situation for Musharraf and his regime. Red Mosque clash most likely will affect Pakistan's political future and ends Musharraf's stability.

Musharraf tired hard to avoid any harsh clash with Islamic fundamentalists in Red Mosque, but the outcome was inevitable because religious fanatics already were decided to play an influential role and not to be a part of Taliban's deal. Taliban facing a done deal incident now had to choose and take a side. Being angry with recent Musharraf's policies, Taliban chose fundamentalists. For the first time Pakistan was witnessed series of suicide bombing, and most importantly not in a factional-tribal conflict but against central power. A message also, sent to Musharraf through the shooting on his airplane around the airport which reported immediately by media and denied by government later. Taliban broke the tie with Musharraf and ended years of cease fire with Pakistan's regime.

The implication of Red Mosque event can be viewed in many ways. In short term, the central focus of Taliban's fight plan might shift toward south from Afghanistan, which eases pressures on allies temporarily. However, in long term it'll bring more obstacles to U.N backed forces in Afghanistan. Since Pakistan has several nuclear bombs, even the imagination of a fundamentalist regime in Pakistan would be a nightmare for west.

Over all, despite of emergence of a rival Islamic regime, Iran will benefit out of any possible regime change in Pakistan at the moment. Firs of all, Iran will be looked more moderate than those in Pakistan who will practice Taliban's model. This can help Iranian regime to play as a mediator. Secondly, Iran can complete its nuclear projects with receiving more help form a possible fundamentalist regime in Pakistan. Also, in such a situation, Iran will ask for more leniencies in dead-end negotiation with west on its uranium enrichment standoff.

The question that how Pakistan's president will deal with the aftermath of Red Mosque incident depends on how organized and powerful Islamist can mobilize their forces in next couple of month. Also, it will rely on the fact that if Musharraf can utilize his talent and bring those fundamentalist leader and Taliban back on the negotiation table.

Mojtaba Bahari
July 27, 2007