Outside of Lahore, where Kipling cut his teeth as a cub reporter a century ago, a palace built by a local political dynasty in the 1990's has become the center of operations for Tablihi Jamaat. The eighty year old Deobandi sect owes its present popularity to recruiting Junaid Jamshed , the lead singer in Vital Signs,who now sings only devotional songs, and converting several stars of the national cricket team. Its influence in Pakistan's British Diaspora is such that it seeks to build the world's largest mosque adjacent to London's new Olympics site.So what is Musharraf doing about it as an electoral crisis looms?
Having appointed his intelligence chief as interim President, he's telling people to go to the movies and see Khuda Kay Liye
American media tend to convey the impression that Pakistan's main problem is bearded fanatics on the Northwest Frontier seizing the nuclear trigger from General Musharraf who ranks lower in popularity polls than Osama bin laden. Hence the State Department's enthusiasm for Benazir Bhutto as democracy's hope of salvation. Yet a religious takeover in Pakistan is hard to imagine without the military wanting one-- Musharraf has appointed the head of Inter-Services Intelligence to run the place while he stands for election.
We mostly recall ISI as the entity that ran the proxy jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan , using fronts like the Jamaat-e-Islami. But such groups were also political parties within Pakistan- the Jamiat was in change of education and information there in the 1980's. The results were disastrous. Whle giving rise to a new generation of fundamentalist who would have trouble following the action on "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?", free faith-based education in Pakistan saw the actually educated flee in droves -- there are over 20,000 Pakistani doctors in the US alone.
The culture of corruption civil and military envelops Pakistan like some vast Orientalist cliche'. The privatization of Pakistan Steel Mills in Karachi saw 75% of the shares in the roughly 4 billion dollar complex sold for $362 million in a 30-minute auction to a consortium including the PM's front company. Doctors, lawyers,teachers and merchants embroiled in the prevailing mix of patronage and bribery find relief in public piety and clandestine indulgence. The Afghan Taliban may be famous for burning video stores and flogging musicians, but Pakistan's pornography business is booming in Islamist strongholds like Peshawar and Quetta, and the state itself is identifying with pop music idols who have taken up the local equivalent of Christian Rock.
In the London Review Of Books , the ubiquitous, and egregious Tariq Ali writes :
"The persistent and ruthless missionaries of Tablighi Jamaat (TJ)...stress their non-violence and insist they are there merely to broadcast the true faith in order to help people find the correct path in life. This may be so, but it is clear that some younger male recruits, bored with all the dogma, ceremonies and ritual, are more interested in getting their hands on a Kalashnikov... Tablighi missionary camps are fertile recruiting grounds for armed groups active on the Western Frontier and in Kashmir.
The establishment has been slow to challenge the interpretation of Islam put forward by groups such as Tablighi. Musharraf advised people to go and see Khuda Kay Liye (‘In the Name of God’), a new movie directed by Shoaib Mansoor (who wrote and produced some of Vital Signs’ most successful music)...the ideas are limited to the good Muslim, bad Muslim stereotype. Jihadi violence is bad. Music is good and not anti-Islamic. Violence and rape in the badlands of the Pakistan-Afghan frontier are intercut with scenes in a post-9/11 United States, where an innocent Pakistani musician is lifted by intelligence operatives and tortured... The implication is that each side feeds on the other.