Pakistan: sharia or “bloody revolution”?

At least nine were killed—including seven children—and more than 70 wounded July 13 in a bomb blast at at the home of a cleric Hafiz Riaz in central Pakistan, where children had gathered for religious education. Several houses were destroyed in the blast, on the outskirts of Mian Channu, 250 kilometers east of Lahore in Punjab province. It is not known if the blast was a terror attack, or if explosives the cleric himself had stored at the house accidentally detonated. (The Hindu, AKI, July 13)

Meanwhile hardline cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz demanded that sharia law be declared throughout Pakistan. “The rulers should announce Islamic sharia through the national assembly,” he said. “If they do not enforce sharia, there is risk of bloody revolution.” (AFP, July 11)

Despite efforts to return thousands of displaced persons from the Swat Valley, new fighting was reported there July 15, leaving one soldier and 17 Taliban militants dead. (PTI, July 15)

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  1. Bin Laden son slain in drone strike?
    A US missile strike in Afghanistan early this year is thought to have killed one of Osama bin Laden‘s oldest sons—Saad bin Laden, 27, and also a high-ranking figure in al-Qaeda. Unnamed “intelligence officials” told the Washington Post the attack occurred in late winter and that the younger bin Laden had not been the intended target. “He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said one anonymous official. (WP, July 24)

  2. Sufi Mohammad arrested
    Sufi Mohammad, the cleric who leads Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) and brokered the failed Swat Valley peace deal, has been arrested with his sons. They are being held incommunicado and interrogated at Peshawar Central Prison. (Daily Times, July 31)

  3. Baitullah Mehsud dead in drone strike?
    Of course the elusive Baitullah Mehsud has been reported dead before. Will a Taliban power struggle be next? From the Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 7:

    The probable killing of a top Taliban leader in Pakistan may open up a power struggle within the fractious insurgency that Islamabad could use to divide and conquer.

    Baitullah Mehsud unified more than a dozen militant factions two years ago, putting them under his umbrella as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). But as recently as late June, Mr. Mehsud faced a serious revolt within his own Mehsud tribe – one he put down by assassinating its leader.

    Now, indications are that Mehsud himself has been assassinated – done in by a US drone Wednesday. The US has not confirmed the killing yet, but Afghan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told BBC radio on Friday that it was “pretty certain” that Mehsud is dead.

    With Mehsud out of the picture, analysts say it’s possible the internal Taliban rivalries he managed to suppress will resurface.

    “I don’t think the TTP movement would remain intact” without Mehsud, says Roshtam Shah Mohmand, a former chief secretary for the Northwest Frontier Province. “I think no other leader would have the same charisma, appeal, popularity, and stature.”

    Insurgent leaders are reportedly meeting today to decide on a successor. How smoothly that process goes will offer clues about the real remaining strength of the movement…

    The names of several possible successors are circulating among Taliban watchers.

    Two leading candidates, says Mr. Mohmand, are Hakimullah Mehsud and Azmatullah Mehsud, both from the same tribe as Baitullah, and close lieutenants of his. Azmatullah operates out of South Waziristan, Baitullah’s home base, and Hakimullah operates further north, in Orakzai Agency. Another candidate receiving mention in the Pakistani press is Mufti Waliur Rehman.