North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pakistan in crisis

The deliberate shooting a few days ago of a 14 year old Pakistani girl by a Taliban group has been well covered by the world's media. Besides the act itself, which shines the spotlight on Islamic extremists' archaic and violent view of women, education, and development, the shooting emphasizes the internal tensions of this nuclear armed country.

Malala Yousafzai

The story is straightforward as it is painful and sobering. Malala Yousafzai, a school student from Mingora, a town in the volatile Swat District of Pakistan, was known for her education and women’s rights activism in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban has at times banned girls from attending school. In early 2009, 11-year old Yousafzai emerged through a blog she wrote for the BBC detailing her life under the Taliban regime, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls. The following summer, a New York Times documentary was filmed about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region. Yousafzai began to rise in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television, and taking a position as chairperson of the District Child Assembly Swat. She has since been nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize by Desmond Tutu, and has won Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize.

Mingora is one of the largest cities in the Swat valley, once a tourist attraction itself called "the Switzerland" of Pakistan.

On October 9, Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus. In the days following the attack, she remained unconscious and in critical condition, and today was flown to the UK for further treatment. Immediately after the shooting, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility, saying that the incident should serve as a warning to other children who participate in “secular-minded” activities. “She was pro-West, she was speaking against Taliban and she was calling President Obama her idol,” Since then, the Taliban group has reiterated its intent to kill Yousafzai and her father, Ziauddin.

Hakimullah Mehsud, one of the main leaders of this Taliban group that has claimed responsibility for shooting Yousafzai. Mehsud was reportedly killed in January 2012 from a US drone strike, but the Taliban deny the claim, and no concrete proof has been obtained by the US or Pakistan intelligence services

Perhaps the most welcome surprise out of this shooting was a visceral response from much of the country. A group of 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan have issued a fatwā against those who tried to kill her, and there have been mass demonstrations against the extremists that threaten the increasingly fragile Pakistani institutions and government. The demonstrations are a reminder that there is still a sizable portion of the population that aspires for a responsible, tolerant and compassionate society.

Click on picture for full image
Schoolchildren in a Mingora school offer prayers for Yousafzai's recovery. Note that both boys and girls are in this class in contrast to Pakistan's Islamic madrassas

Children of all ages and beliefs are increasingly at risk from the extremists in the country

Young Pakistani girls in particular facing an uncertain and limited future if the nation does not address its strident Islamic factions

The size of the demonstrations, however, gives this observer hope that the country's majority could be sufficiently sobered regarding their future to demand a new approach.

Still, the larger questions, while bubbling closer to the surface after this shooting, remain.

Does Pakistani's military continue to cling to geopolitical positions such as striving for the high elevation land of Kashmir, thus diverting its assets from confronting lawless tribal areas.

Tribes embedded with or sympathetic to Islamic extremist Taliban or Al-qaeda groups control much of the western mountainous spine of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan

Will Pakistan's notorious intelligence services remain suspect as collaborators or sympathizers with the Taliban.

Pakistan’s ISI chief Lt Gen Zahir-ul-Islam

Will the Pakistan government crack down, or can it, on notorious madrassas - schools run by Islamic extremists that create an ever ready pool of young Islamic warriors.

Can moderate Islamic leaders successfully counter the increasingly strident and powerful extremist factions.

Lots of images of hardline clerics calling for protests and revenge, very difficult to find images of moderate Islamic leaders ...

And how close are Islamic extremists to accessing Pakistan's nuclear weapons.


Teatree said...

For a more detailed account of this incident, Teatree suggests the following at the UK Telegraph

Teatree said...

A BBC article on October 17, details a further threat against the media from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)for coverage critical of the group ...

Teatree said...

Well, Teatree offers another article - an opinion from a Pakistani himself in a Pakistani newspaper.\10\21\story_21-10-2012_pg3_3

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