Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Law is the Law

Lethal force should always be a last resort.

While the operation around the Lal Masjid is now winding down the authorities in Pakistan and in Islamabad cannot be accused of having jumped to a violent conclusion. Indeed, they did try just about everything they could have in order to get Ghazi to come out peacefully. I would argue that they should have mounted a police action against the Jamia Hafsa and Lal Masjid three months ago, when the cane-wielding female fanatics occupied a children's library. Had Musharraf come down hard when they first stepped outside the bounds of the law, and ran roughshod over any concept of civilized conduct, we would not have been where we are today.

Now Ghazi, along with dozens of his supporters are dead. They had a chance to surrender, and instead they insisted on holding the city hostage and brandishing automatic weapons.

To quote the late Joe Strummer, they "fought the law, and the...law won." (sing it with me).

I won't speak about what Ghazi and his brother believed - it is to hard to say what degree of charlatanism characterized their outfit without observing it first hand. Their supporters, on the other hand, unfortunately failed to understand a core component of Islamic governance that enabled the Arabs and the later Muslim peoples to escape their backwards and illiteracy - the monopoly on force.

Before the arrival of Islam, the Arabs were separated into warring tribes, with the strength of a tribe's vendetta being the guarantor of the safety of its members and friends. The first Muslims were forced from Mecca because the Prophet's (peace be upon him) uncle, Abu Talib, died, and therefore was unable to protect them. This changed with the advent of Islam, with the Khalifas who followed Muhammad insisting on the disarming of all tribes and the consolidation of all forces into a unified command structure.

This is why the American-Ethiopian aggression against Somalia was such a setback for that country. For the first time in over a decade, Somalia had a chance to escape the domination of clans and armed gangs. With the defeat of the Islamic Courts Union, Uncle Sam got his way, and chaos once again triumphed in the Muslim world.

Back to the Lal Masjid. Without anyone's approval or consent, and without anything that can legitimately be considered provocation, Ghazi's followers attempted to create a parastate apparatus in Islamabad itself, arming themselves to the teeth and inspiring their female students to use their sympathetic position as women to blackmail the government - daring it to stand up to them. For far too long, it looked like their calculation of the government's cowardice was correct. Sometimes military dictatorships aren't ruthless enough.

The law is the law. These people broke it. If they couldn't be put safely in jail, then there was, in the end, only one option.

Now that Musharraf has put down this idiotic little rebellion, the country must now confront the next greatest threat to the rule of law:

Musharraf himself.

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