Battle for Lal Masjid: Soldier Killed; Students Wounded

Posted on July 3, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, Politics, Religion
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Adil Najam

Once again (here, here and here) the situation is tense around the Lal Masjid in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. More tense than it has been before. So tense, in fact, that it seems like a real battle this time. Fire has been exchanged, one soldier of the Pakistan Rangers has been killed and a number of madrassah students wounded.

According to The News:

A Rangers man was killed and two wounded in shootout between Lal Masjid students and Rangers. The incident caused tension in the locality in Islamabad resulting in closure of shopping centres and shops. The incident also caused traffic jam in the area. Federal Minister of Interior Aftab Sherpao has demanded the mosque administration to hand over persons involved in the firing over the law enforcement agencies to authorities. A girl and several security men have been wounded in the firing incident, which were transferred to hospital. Emergency has been declared and alert announced at all hospitals in the federal capital. An official of Rangers talking to the media has said that the students of Lal Masjid started the firing. Talking to Geo News Federal Minister of Interior Aftab Sherpao has said the government doesn’t want bloodshed but it would not tolerate such incidents of lawlessness. He demanded hand over of the people involved in the incident to the authorities.

Dawn’s breaking news adds:

A soldier was killed and at least a dozen people were injured in clashes between security forces and students from Islamabad’s Laal Masjid Tuesday, officials said. “One Ranger is dead,� Colonel Mashallah from the paramilitary Rangers force told AFP outside the Laal Masjid in Islamabad. Two policemen were also wounded. An AFP correspondent saw eight injured girls at a local hospital who were brought in from the seminary attached to the mosque, four of whom were unconscious. Officials said more were coming in.

An AP story published in USA Today adds more:

Shooting broke out at a radical mosque in Pakistan’s capital Tuesday after militant students clashed with security forces deployed to contain their activities. One paramilitary soldier shot in the clash died later in hospital, doctors said. Reporters also saw several female students being taken to a hospital, apparently suffering from the effects of tear gas fired by police. The battle broke out after male and female students from the mosque, some of them armed with guns or wooden poles, rushed toward a police checkpoint near the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in Islamabad. Police fired tear gas to hold them back and, as the students retreated, an Associated Press photographer saw at least four male students, some of them masked, fire shots toward the checkpoint some 200 yards away. Gunfire was also heard from the police position.

A man used the mosque’s loudspeakers to order suicide bombers to get into position. “They have attacked our mosque, the time for sacrifice has come,” the man said. An hour later, dozens of students were patrolling the area around the mosque, and sporadic shots were still heard. There was no sign of police moving in on the mosque… Hundreds of police and paramilitary rangers have taken up position near the mosque in recent days. President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said last week that he was ready to raid the mosque, but warned that suicide bombers from a militant group linked to al-Qaeda had slipped into the building.

By way of context, note this from today’s Dawn (written before this current incident):

In a bid to tighten noose around the Lal Masjid administration, the government on Monday reinforced the Rangers force deployed near the mosque with another two wings, each with 500 personnel and lodged them in apartments recently vacated by the Punjab Constabulary near Aabpara. A senior security official, however, told Dawn that the government had no intention of conducting any raid on the mosque and its seminaries. “But the forces deployed near the mosque will take stern action against Lal Masjid students if they take law in their own hands or attack any massage centre or CDs shop,� he added. The official said the number of Rangers deployed near the mosque had now gone up to 1,500 and they were being supported by 500 police commandos.

…Sources said that Lal Masjid also had reinforced its brigade by calling more activists from other areas and seminaries. The sources said they had reports that the Lal Masjid brigade had advanced weapons, wireless systems and special masks to be used in the event of a gas attack… Meanwhile, the local administration has directed government offices and other people to vacate all buildings close to Lal Masjid and the building of the environment ministry has already been vacated for the safety of its employees. Both the security forces and the Lal Masjid brigade have taken positions and made bunkers. The mosque’s students have also blocked a road with electricity poles.

All of this protends that the ‘battle for Lal Masjid’ may already have begun. The folks in the mosque seem more eager to fight than the government. The government also has much more to loose, especially with its domestic and international popularity being as shaky as it is today. The folks at Lal Masjid and its two affiliate madrassahs – Hafsa and Faridia – will declare victory no matter what happens.

One hopes that whatever happens will happen with no more bloodshed than has already happened. One hopes, of course. But oneis not really hopeful. Khuda khair karey!

Photo Credit: AP Photo by B.K. Bangash.

162 responses to “Battle for Lal Masjid: Soldier Killed; Students Wounded”

  1. The sunset of Baby Pinky
    The daugter who remained for a short period in the lape of her mother, supporter as pillar of PPP and dream of Pakistanis often remained under the threat of the corrupt and unloyal politicians and bars. but she reacted those all with her couragious and sympathetic views and showed them not be bitter to her.the daughter of the east in her hole life gave the lesten of justice and a hand of blessing over deserving. we all the Samo family along with the team of Knowledge Centre and indus school larkana pray to Almighty Allah to award her Paradise.

  2. Zakir Hussain says:

    it was a misserable event, occured at the religious place. which caught the lives of many leaning students, and preachers. The attack over Lal Masjid is an open threat to Islam.which shows the graet controversy and a hidden hand of Amrican to holocaust the Pakistan.

  3. Rafay Kashmiri says:

    Just went thru 150 comments of the Blog lal Masjid
    strong majority of them pure demagogy in hidden
    Islamophbia, calling the contestors as terrorists as if
    seculars and communists can not be terrorists ?

    Nearly all of them took defence of this diabolic Govt.
    and their touts asking them to finish ” them”.

    Lal Masjid’s tragedy was triggered by the provokation
    came from left seculars, because they had the media
    and the govt ( infiltrated by leftist) behind them.

  4. basit says:

    I guess we can never really be sure of the inner machinations of the army/ISI

  5. Imran says:

    The army president knows that his hands are on guns while he said he was in the line of fire. Is he a muslim ?

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