Friday, July 20, 2007

Pakistan and Its Prostitutes Part II: The Ghazi Brothers, the Red Mosque, Globalization and Power

In a prior post I discussed some of the complexities for the rule of law in systems in which there was a divergence between formal rule of law (grounded in the state and the state system as a political community) and substantive rule of law (grounded in religion and the religious system as a coherent social and political community), and its incidental effects on and the role played by, globalization in the development of both systems and their interaction. See Larry Catá Backer, Rule of Law as Form or Substance: Pakistan and Its Prostitutes, Law at the End of the Day, June 23, 2007. For that purpose I focused on the work of the Ghazi brothers, and the so-called Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) in Islamabad Pakistan. For a profile of the Lal Masjid, see Syed Shoaib Hasan, Profile: Islamabad's Red Mosque, BBC News, July 3, 2007. I suggested that where there is a divergence between formal and substantive rule of law regimes--as is the case in a Pakistan in which formal rule of law is vested in the state apparatus but substantive rule of law is exercised by the masjid society--there is likely to be an explosion.

And so it should come as no surprise that the Lal Masjid continued to assert its rule of law framework for behavior within the geographic area within which it could project its power. "In speeches after Gen Musharraf openly announced his support for the war on terror", the mosque has been the centre of calls for his assassination." Syed Shoaib Hasan, Profile: Islamabad's Red Mosque, BBC News, July 3, 2007. And it should come as even less of a surprise that the Pakistani State eventually eventually sought to destroy the Lal Masjid--and neutralize the Ghazi brothers. The Pakistani State first sought to arrest ceratin members of the Lal Masjid. "The government wants to detain a number of people who are on a wanted list, and also a number of foreigners whom it says are inside." Pakistani Soldiers Storm Mosque, BBC News Online, July 10, 2007. Eventually, after unsuccessful surrender negotiations, "Abdul Rashid Ghazi was killed in the crossfire as he tried to surrender to the Pakistani forces, an interior ministry spokesman said. " See Jenny Booth, Cleric Killed in Final Assault of Red Mosque, The Times (U.K.) Online, July 10, 2007 ('' The raid began after the failure of the latest attempt by political and religious leaders to persuade the militants to lay down their weapons.").

What made the eventual attack on the Lal Masjid so interesting from a rule of law perspective is the way the state acknowledged the sovereignty of the community of fighters it was seeking to neutralize. Thus, Pakistani military officials used the language of war to describe the situation. "Those who surrender will be arrested, but the others will be treated as combatants and killed," said Major General Arshad." Jenny Booth, Cleric Killed in Final Assault of Red Mosque, The Times (U.K.) Online, July 10, 2007. And indeed, the diverge of rule of law communities vying for control of Pakistani territory was echoed by the surviving Ghazi brother. "Days after he was caught fleeing Islamabad's Red Mosque in a burqa, its captured chief cleric gave an incendiary funeral oration at the village burial of his slain brother, predicting the bloodshed would drive Pakistan toward an "Islamic revolution." Brother of Slain Cleric Predicts "Islamic Revolution" in Pakistan, International Herald Tribune (Asia Pacific), July 11, 2007. And indeed, the divergence in rule of law states lying below the surface of Pakistani life for a number of years has now surfaced with full force into violent warfare between the two legal regimes. Where both formal and substantive rule of law regimes lived together in uneasy co-existence, the raid and the resulting deaths have now raised the stakes. Co-existence is off the table.

Still, there appeared to be little reason to upset the balance. The state had the Lal Masjid substantially contained. Other than raids on foreigners, mostly Chinese workers who were accused of engaging in "loose morals" businesses, and the habitual declarations of ties to fundamentalist and political Islamist elements, the Lal Masjid was mostly concerned about the preservation of its compound. And leaving the Ghazi brothers alone minimized the likelihood that fundamentalist elements would cease to acknowledge the formal power (if that) of the rule of law state. Plus, because they were publicity hungry, they were easy to monitor. But what makes sense within Pakistan, could have disastrous consequences abroad. And in this case, the internal focus on Chinese foreigners as purveyors of loose morals in Pakistan might have raised the ire of another rule of law state--the People's Republic of China. Global commerce, free movement of capital and enterprises, local prejudices, internal politics and the fight for internal dominance between religious and political rule of law systems thus collided with lethal effect. More interesting, perhaps, is the connection to global commerce in general, and Chinese penetration of Pakistani economic life in particular. It seems that the Chinese connection might have been the precipitating cause of the raid.

After weeks of free rein in the city attacking fellow Pakistanis, the squads of self-appointed enforcers of strict Shariah, consisting of armed male and female students, raised the stakes, and selected a foreign target. On June 23, the seminarians entered a Chinese-run health care center, which is often a euphemism for sex parlor, and kidnapped seven Chinese people, including five females whom they believed to be prostitutes. Within Pakistan, and indeed much more widely among people who have followed these events closely, this incident, along with the killing two weeks later of three Chinese people in the western Pakistani city of Peshawar, is believed by many South Asian diplomats to have precipitated the decision by President Pervez Musharraf to lay siege to the mosque, mounting a rare, direct confrontation with the forces of radical Islam in his country.

Howard W. French, Letter From China: Mosque Siege Reveals Chinese Connection, International Herald Tribune (Asia Pacific), July 12, 2007 (reporting that "top Chinese leaders had followed [events] closely, and had been giving direct instructions to the country's diplomats in Islamabad."). The events at the Lal Masjid may now affect Chinese rule of law framework as well. "Beyond the very real issue of the problems such things might cause abroad, there is an issue of growing importance in China itself, one of information and candor and an ability to accept criticism, or more to the point where the events of Pakistan are concerned, to promote and accept self-criticism." Id. It will unclear who will successfully project power within Pakistani territory. What is clear is that the issue now has also acquired a global character beyond the usual "West versus Islam" framework. The repercussions will be a long time coming. To formal and substantive rule of law regimes, Pakistan will serve to deepen a transnational element to domestic rule of law discourse.

No comments: