The Battle for Lal Masjid Constinues: Another Blast in Islamabad, 12 Killed

Posted on July 27, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice
89 Comments
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Adil Najam

As the mosque formerly known as Lal Masjid was opened for Friday prayers again, things moved back towards mayhem. A major blast – possibly a suicide attack – rocked Islamabad right near the mosque, protesters went wild triggering police response, multiple people have been killed and the attempt to bring the Capital back to normalcy was again scuttled by extremists.

Picture from BBCPicture from BBCPicture from BBC
Picture from BBC
Picture from BBC
Picture from BBCPicture from BBC



New reports suggest that as many as 12 15 have already died and the number is expected to rise. According to a recent AP report:

Hundreds of religious students clashed with police and occupied Islamabad’s Red Mosque during its reopening Friday, demanding the return of a pro-Taliban cleric two weeks after an army raid to oust Islamic militants from the complex left more than 100 people dead. Pakistani religious students watch as a colleague paints a wall of the Red Mosque in Islamabad.

A large explosion went off in a market area about a quarter-mile from the mosque, and local media reported several people had died. Police say four people were killed and 30 wounded. On a road outside the mosque, protesters threw stones at an armored personnel carrier and dozens of police in riot gear. After the demonstrators disregarded calls to disperse peacefully, police fired tear gas, scattering the crowd. Earlier, security forces stood by as protesters clambered onto the roof of the mosque and daubed red paint on the walls after forcing a government-appointed cleric assigned to lead prayers to retreat.

The protesters demanded the return of the mosque’s pro-Taliban former chief cleric, Abdul Aziz — who is being detained by the government — and shouted slogans against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Later, a cleric from a seminary associated with the mosque led the prayers. “Musharraf is a dog! He is worse than a dog! He should resign!” students shouted. Some lingered over the ruins of a neighboring girls’ seminary that was demolished by authorities this week. Militants had used the seminary to resist government forces involved in the siege.

Friday’s reopening was meant to help cool anger over the siege, which triggered a flare-up in militant attacks on security forces across Pakistan. Public skepticism still runs high over the government’s accounting of how many people died in the siege, with many still claiming a large number of children and religious students were among the dead. The government says the overwhelming majority were militants. The mosque’s clerics had used thousands of its students in an aggressive campaign to impose Taliban-style Islamic law in the capital. The campaign, which included kidnapping alleged Chinese prostitutes and threatening suicide attacks to defend the fortified mosque, raised concern about the spread of Islamic extremism in Pakistan.

Militants holed up in the mosque compound for a week before government troops launched their assault on July 10, leaving it pocked with bullet holes and damaged by explosions. At least 102 people were killed in the violence. In an act of defiance to authorities’ repainting of the mosque this week in pale yellow, protesters wrote “Lal Masjid” or “Red Mosque” in large Urdu script on the dome of the mosque. They also hoisted a black flag with two crossed swords — meant to symbolize jihad, or holy war.

The crowd shouted support for the mosque’s former deputy cleric, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who led the siege until he was shot and killed by security forces after refusing to surrender. Ghazi was the public face of a vigilante, Islamic anti-vice campaign that had challenged the government’s writ in the Pakistani capital. “Ghazi, your blood will lead to a revolution,” the protesters chanted. Police stood by on the street outside the mosque, but did not enter the courtyard where the demonstration was taking place.

Islamabad commissioner Khalid Pervez said police forces did not want to go inside the mosque in case it led to a clash with protesters, but maintained the situation was under control. He said the reaction of Aziz’s supporters was understandable and predicted things would calm down. Over mosque loudspeakers, protesters vowed to “take revenge for the blood of martyrs.” In a speech at the mosque’s main entrance, Liaqat Baloch, deputy leader of a coalition of hard-line religious parties, the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, condemned Musharraf as a “killer” and declared there would be an Islamic revolution in Pakistan.

“Maulana Abdul Aziz is still the prayer leader of the mosque. The blood of martyrs will bear fruit. This struggle will reach its destination of an Islamic revolution. Musharraf is a killer of the constitution. He’s a killer of male and female students. The entire world will see him hang,” Baloch said. Pakistan’s Geo television showed scenes of pandemonium inside the mosque, with dozens of young men in traditional Islamic clothing and prayers caps shouting angrily and punching the air with their hands. Officials were pushed and shoved by men in the crowd. One man picked up shoes left outside the mosque door and hurled them at news crews recording the scene.

Maulana Ashfaq Ahmed, a senior cleric from another mosque in the city who was assigned by the government to lead the prayers, was quickly escorted from the complex, as protesters waved angry gestures at him. Wahajat Aziz, a government worker who was among the protesters, said officials were too hasty in reopening the mosque. “They brought an imam that people had opposed in the past,” he said. “This created tension in the environment. People’s emotions have not cooled down yet.” Security was tightened in Islamabad ahead of the mosque’s reopening, with extra police taking up posts around the city and airport-style metal detectors put in place at the mosque entrance used to screen worshipers for weapons.

Pictures from BBC.

89 responses to “The Battle for Lal Masjid Constinues: Another Blast in Islamabad, 12 Killed”

  1. rain says:

    @Adnan
    The report is an obvious fake, but you will only want to see what you want to see. So much easier to blame an international conspiracy than look for causes within, isn’t it? These “theories” do absolutely nothing to help solve our problems, if anything they only make the ignorant more ignorant and keep us from dealing with the real problems in our society.

  2. WASIM ARIF / OTHER PAKISTAN says:

    Terrible, what is happening to this pak watan?, I am growing more and more despondent by the day. Why cant we work together peacefully. Someone said why do the mullahs not issue a fatwa, the answer is that they too are complicit in this evil.

    How can anyone justify the furore and rash behaviour inside Lal Masjid, we must ask if that Masjid is no longer the house of ALLAH or is it now only the private fiefdom of Messrs Aziz and Ghazi (the former already burning in hell I hope!).

    We can build a better Pakistan, see http://www.otherpakistan.org

    Feimanallah

    Wasim

  3. Toryalai says:

    I read in news that US is going to link its future aid to Pakistan to the efforts/progress Pakistan will make in combatting terrorism/exremism.

    To Americans I would say for the first time your thinking with rationality. The US was responsible for creating Mujahideen and other successive extremist organisation in the Afghan war, now they should force Pakisatn to allocate more on the provision of education, to limit the numbers of madressahs and close the factories that only produce hateful mullahs and their taalibs who for the sake of 70 virgins in the paradise kill innocent people on the real and tangible earth!

    So US you need to do more to rid us of these fanatics!

  4. JayJay says:

    “…a young man came in front of his restaurant and shouted Allah-ho-Akbar before blowing himself up.” Source Daily Times, 28 July, on the suicide attack near the Red Mosque.
    If there is a God, He will be trembling with anger over the abuse of His name to kill His creature. So much violence in the name of Allah. What a weird ideology, that demands sacrifices of innocent civilians at the altar of the Allah. If Allah is Omni-potent, as believed by the faithful, he surely is capable of settling His scores without needing a human-bomb (or bum?) to kill fellow human in His name. What happened to the message of humanity which every religion is expected to preach? Surely, the Jihadis, through their anti-humanist tactics, have been successful in portraying a totally different, inhumane, violent image of Islam. If they keep themselves blowing up in the name of the “religion of peace and tolerance”, who will buy the mantra of peace anymore?

  5. Saad says:

    @Toryalai:

    Completely and utterly true. An entire generation of Pakistanis went through religious and militaristic indoctrination at the hands of Pakistan military. They trained them to kill in the name of God, so why act all surprised when they consider security forces; godless, thus liable to be killed.

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