NIGHTWATCH: Pakistan Arrests Musharraf, Peace Talks Maybe?

08 Wild Cards

Peace Talks and Security. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Thursday said his government is sincere about holding peace talks with the Taliban. He made the statement in response to the interview by rebel chief Hakimullah Mehsud who complained no serious steps had been taken to open a dialogue. Speaking after a security meeting in Peshawar, Sharif said progress was being made on the issue of opening negotiations.” Sharif provided no details, however.

Pakistan: Musharraf update. Pervez Musharraf was arrested one day after having been granted bail.

“We have put General Musharraf under house arrest in a case involving a military operation on an Islamabad mosque,” Muhammad Rizwan, a senior official of the Islamabad police told reporters. “We will present him before a court on Friday.”

Comment: The latest charges stem from a prolonged violent standoff in 2006 and 2007 that was centered on the Red Mosque in Islamabad. Two extreme imams who were brothers, their armed militant supporters and students at the collocated school complex defied the government and called repeatedly for its violent overthrow and replacement by an emirate applying a severe interpretation of Sharia.

The imams encouraged the students and armed militants to destroy property, kidnap people, abuse women in public, and attack government buildings. Using the Red Mosque as a base, they also supported armed insurrection in the tribal agencies of northwest Pakistan.

Some 6,000 students attended the two madrassahs in the complex, which allegedly also trained militants

The standoff culminated in early July 2007 after a militant attack on the Ministry of the Environment building. Army special forces and paratroopers executed the operation to end the standoff which resulted in the death of one of the imams and 100 others, including 50 armed militants. Some 600 male and female students were held hostage, and were rumored to be in danger of execution when troops stormed the complex

Of all the things of which Musharraf has been accused, his handling of the Red Mosque insurrection least justifies his arrest. His arrest on this issue indicates some powerful political, judicial and religious interests want satisfaction, want to prevent his departure from Pakistan and are working hard to find a charge that will keep him in Pakistan. This charge will not stand.