Jul 11, 2007

Stratfor: Red Mosque Fallout Could Derail Election Schedule

Stratfor on Red Mosque fallout.

The much-anticipated Red Mosque operation in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Monday was in its final stages. Security forces were cleaning up and trying to fully secure the mosque/madrassa complex. Intense fighting between security forces and the militants lasted about four hours. At least 40 militants and roughly six security personnel reportedly were killed. Dozens were wounded on both sides, and some 50 militants were arrested. As of the writing of this piece, however, there is not much information on the fate of the women and children the militants were holding hostage.

After the dust settles and more information becomes available regarding casualties and damage to the mosque, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government likely will face the wrath of radical and Islamist militant forces in the country. This likely will involve a significant wave of attacks against government, military and Western targets throughout the country. There also could be assassination attempts against Musharraf and other key government and military officials.

Meanwhile, there already are indications that the government is going to engage in anti-terrorism and counterinsurgency operations elsewhere, especially in the North-West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas. A militant reaction to the Red Mosque operation or a sweeping government action against jihadist forces -- or both -- is likely to lead to significant violence and unrest. The United States likely will be watching the situation closely and will be ready to act should the situation arise. In such a situation the government could move to impose some form of emergency rule.

The imposition of emergency rule could allow the government to get a handle on the militancy in the country and even lead to the capture or elimination of al Qaeda-related high-value targets -- albeit after a long and bloody campaign. But it would further complicate the political situation because the parliamentary and presidential elections slated for the fall would have to be postponed. This could create political unrest in addition to a militant insurgency.

Even if Musharraf decides against imposing emergency rule, the fallout from the Red Mosque operation could still cause a delay in the elections. At the very least, parliament could be dismissed, which would allow Musharraf to continue as a president leading a caretaker government for some time before new elections could be held. But this will only allow him a limited amount of time to conclude ongoing back-channel talks with his political opponents to secure his own political future.

In the wake of the Red Mosque operation, Musharraf will need not just the support of the Pakistan People's Party, whose secular ideology he shares, he also will need the support of some of the more pragmatic Islamist elements to help counter extremists and militants. Here is where Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam -- the largest component party of the Islamist coalition Mutahiddah Majlis-i-Amal -- could play a role.

But this depends on whether the president will be able to press ahead with the elections and deal with the militancy at the same time. Musharraf no longer has the luxury of dealing with them separately.[Stratfor]


Awais said...

The Red Mosque stand off has worked for his advantage. Not only as you mentioned, helped him in delaying the elections but the saga took the eyes of the world off of The Balochistan floods as this would've exposed the political and economic condition of the people of the province. Furthermore, the people of Pakistan seemed to have forgotten about the Chief Justice issue and the recently held APC was pretty much ignored as well.

RS said...

Thanks for visiting and for the insighful comments.
I only flagged a Stratfor report and this is not my personal view.