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

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




  2. Qudsia says:

    I hope the supreme court will now begin trial and a public trial of the religious thugs who had held the mosque hostage. They should also call those leaders who were instigating them to task.

  3. D_a_n says:

    @ Ashun…

    two observations on what you wrote…
    firstly…you said that the government should come up with its ‘own brand of Islam’…whatever that means but it has shades of ‘Deen -e- Elahi’ and in the present circumstances that is not only dangerous but divisive for obvious reasons….

    and then you say that this should be left open to debate…
    Im afraid that is a most naive view….do you seriously think that the Mullah is open for a ‘debate’ or anything near it?….The Mullah never wants debate…..the deobandi sickness that holds this country in its grip is built around not having the tolerance to debate even the slightest difference of opinion……

    the only contribution the Mullah brings to a debate is at the end…..most likely by blowing it up…!

  4. Ahsun says:

    lal masjid reaction by certain enthusiastic Muslims is basically the frustration gathered due to liberal/secular path that musharraf govt. is stubbornly taking Pakistan on.

    Pakistan is a Muslim country and Islam should be enforced here. If the govt. differs with the interpretation of Islam by the clerics, then it should bring out its own interpretation of Islam and leave it open to debate and then implement the points that have been mutually agreed upon.(Not like the ‘women rights’ bill that drew a dozen objections from ulema of all sects but still it was passed by our rubber stamp parliment.)

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