Pakistan's concession to religious extremists - be it freeing global terrorist Hafiz Saeed or bowing down to Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who had exhorted his supporters to violence across the country - will advance it to a more challenging situation in coming days, says an expert.
Washington Post's foreign correspondent, Pamela Constable, in an analytical piece titled 'Pakistan is making concessions to religious extremists. What's the cost?', writes, "In the past ten days, two dramatic events - the government's capitulation to a violent protest by radical Muslims and the release from the house arrest of an anti-India militia leader - have crystallised the sway that hard-line Muslim groups increasingly hold in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state whose military leaders claim to be fighting extremist violence." Constable emphasised that freeing of Saeed came as no surprise as he already enjoyed a celebrity status in Paksitan despite being a United Nations-designated terrorist.
"The freeing of Hafiz Saeed, an Islamist cleric accused of masterminding a deadly rampage in Mumbai nine years ago, came as no surprise. Although denounced as a terrorist by the United Nations and the United States, Saeed enjoys a large following in Pakistan as a fiery champion of Muslim rights in Kashmir, the disputed border region with India," she said. She added, "He has been repeatedly detained and released by the courts, a sign of Pakistan's often contradictory efforts to secure at once domestic Muslim loyalty and international support."
Constable pointed out, "Unlike Saeed, Rizvi is not associated with armed militant groups. His movement is built around reverence and love for Muhammad as Islam's final prophet," adding, "On Friday night, just days after the angry protests subsided, Pakistani Muslims everywhere jubilantly celebrated Muhammad's birthday, thronging streets hung with dazzling lights and gathering around tents where devotees recited chants glorifying him."
The expert further stated that the movement led by Rizvi was so harsh that it convinced people to execute blasphemers. "Rizvi's movement is also harsh and extreme in its views. It has built a cult around a man who assassinated a provincial governor for religious reasons, believes blasphemers should be executed and crusaded against Ahmedis, a small religious minority that follows a later prophet," Constable wrote.
The author further suggested, "The protests were raised against a change in the electoral laws that softened requirements for candidates to avow Muhammad as the final prophet - a move Rizvi's group suspected was aimed at increasing the political participation of Ahmedis." The journalist went on to quote the Pakistani leaders and commentators, as saying, that strengthening the fanatical Muslim groups would weakens the civilian authority, which would posess conflicts and increasd military intervention.
"It is the abject surrender of the constitutional government to a lawless mob whose leaders seek to gain power through the facade of religion," the article said. "Others suggest that the episode signifies a growing confluence of interest between hard-line religious groups and the military, whose leaders have vowed to stay out of politics but are known to be unhappy with the ruling party and its top electoral rival, the movement led by cricket legend Imran Khan," it added.
Constable concluded by saying that the policy of appeasement seemed to have backfired. "Both Saeed and Rizvi fielded candidates in the October race to fill Sharif's seat in Parliament - and both won far more votes than expected. Now, the successful protests have put Rizvi's group in a position to challenge Sharif's party on its home turf and play a central role in next year's polls," she wrote.