Lal Masjid Operation: A factual analysis of its background, the operation itself and the aftermath


The Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) Operation was carried out by Pakistani armed forces against clerics and students of Lal Masjid, Islamabad, Pakistan in July of 2007. The operation divided opinions among Pakistanis at home and abroad.

Very few people outside or inside of Pakistan received accurate information on the Operation as their primary source of knowledge was the Pakistani or International media. Therefore several of the opinions lack hard factual basis, are contradictory to one another or simply going against eye-witness accounts. In this article we analyze a discussion by the Grand Mufti of Pakistan Mufti Rafi Uthmani (DB) who was at Islamabad at the time of the operation. We shall attempt to scrutinize his claims and those of the media using hard evidences and endeavor to separate fact from fiction.

The following is an English translation of his speech that he gave sometime after the operation. (The original in Urdu can be found here)

Speech begins here:

“Respected Elders and dear brothers, I know that you are eager to know what happened at Lal Masjid and that you are sad and frustrated at this bloody game. Whole of Pakistan is frustrated.

The details are more or less in front of you; via newspapers, radio and televisions. But we have one complaint with the media that they did not elaborate on the Truth (of what happened) in the manner that Truth should be elaborated. They are not clarifying what is obvious. They are leaving doubts, and the media has adopted a hostile attitude. Hostile attitude towards ulema and religious circles such as adopted towards an enemy nation. This is a worrisome situation.

We can only complain of this situation to Allah (SWT). We are without power, army and weapons; and to use arms against your own government is not permissible either. In this situation, except that we repent for our sins to Allah, this is the first step, because all the problems that come upon us are the fruit of our own doings. In our own Pakistan the widespread disobedience to Allah that is prevalent, from the government offices to the lower echelon. In this situation no matter which punishments befall us are not unexpected. We had rainstorm and killer winds. Half the country was being destroyed by them but this second problem arose.

I am repeating again that Prophet (SAW) foretold of these fitnah. That there will be a time that there will be fitnah after fitnah, one after the other, and the next one bigger than the previous. On 12th May, a blood game was played, of innocent blood. Whole world watched, TV broadcasted it, everyone watched. The killers’ faces were even shown . None of them were ever caught. As though it wasn’t a crime.

Background and the demands of Lal Masjid clerics

The people of Lal masjid made good demands. They are requirements of our emaan and religion. But they method they chose to pursue them was against the methods of the elders and the scholars. Everyone tried to tell me that. But what was their crime? What was the wrong method they adopted?

They captured a children’s library. That was wrong. They had captured a woman who ran a brothel. This capture was wrong. To complain against that brothel and to strive for its closure, using permitted and lawful methods, was absolutely correct. But they say that we, the people of the neighborhood, used to take complaints to the authorities but they were not stopping the brothel and it was running. The people of the neighborhood were worried, the decent people were worried. Many men used to come there in the night to commit Zina. One girl came and told her tale that she was deceived in being taken there and then forcibly she was molested, her photos were taken and she was blackmailed that if she told her parents these photos will be published. She was continuously blackmailed and called up again and again to commit Zina. She was helpless. She took her plea to Jamia faridiya/Jamia Hafsah.

But despite all this we say that their act of capturing Aunty Shamim was wrong. This was not their job. If the government wasn’t capturing her they should have gone to the newspapers etc. But this job was beyond your responsibilities. This would have spread fitnah, started fighting and the government would be reared to adopt a harsh tone; and the people whose hands the government is in you all know. As a result the blood that would have been shed was shed.

Illegal actions of the Lal Masjid clerics

So their mistake was that they called Aunty Shamim and made her repent and confess; then sent her back. Not one slap, not one cane, not one needle pinched into her, not one thorn inserted into her body. (This leaked WikiLeaks cable, sent on 25th April 2012 by Peter Boddle to Washington asserts that police had refused to shut the brothels down, despite frequent complaints and a signed petition by all the 40 families of the area)

Second thing they did (was bout) that the massage center, co-massage center, and who does the massage on entire body? Chinese women. Who gets the massage? Muslim men of Islamabad…while naked. This is the massage. The center was there. So this was against the law, the constitution of Pakistan, against our religious values; it was a crime from every angle. Those who gave a license to this center they had also committed a crime. But their (Lal masjid people) crime was that they captured the Chinese women, clad them in burqa and then returned them. This was a mistake. So how many mistakes?

Police arrested their men, they arrested some policemen. This was fourth mistake. The mistake of the police aside, but this was their fourth mistake. How many mistakes? They brought Aunty Shamim without torture they returned her. Brought Chinese women from the massage center and returned them without physical abuse. Police arrested their students; they arrested their students (policemen) so their students would be released. How many crimes? Three. Fourth crime was that they captured the library. These four were crimes, we admit. We are not going to make an explanation. We kept telling them that you are doing wrong. You don’t have a right to do this. Government within a government, federation within a federation, taking the law into your hands, is not permitted in Sharia.

Did the Wafaq-ul-Madaris and Ulema play their role?

What is interesting, this is good so that this matter is clarified. The world is saying today, our writers and columnists are also saying and the journalists too ‘look the madrasahs got maligned, the image sent to the world about them, are madrasahs like this? They spread such anarchy, they stock arms, they are oppressive, they are violence-mongers, and they are extreme separatists ’. A TV person asked me, I replied I am astonished you are saying this. Do you know this or not? That these five points (mistakes) of jamia hafsah were called wrong by all or not? The madrasahs registered with Wifaq-ul-madaris, in thousands, it was the most prominent among them. There were about 10,000 male and female students in jamia hafsah and its branches. Almost. But wifaq-ul-madaris, just because of this reason, removed them from the board, because wifaq-ul-madaris does not agree with this anarchy. It does not support such separatism; does not condone this violence. And the affiliation got cancelled. The students kept applying and calling. Teachers kept applying and their groups kept visiting us that please save one year of our students from being wasted, but we said no.

The operation was at jamia hafsah, but since the operation was being done by maulana Abdul Aziz and he was the head of this (jamia faridiya) as well, so we also cancelled the affiliation of jamia faridiya and refused to include their students in the annual examination. Wifaq ul madaris published their announcement repeatedly, and all this that I am telling you, was explained in it.

So is this not proof that Wifaq ul madaris does not permit any of its madrasahs to condone violence and extremism. Not just making it impermissible it does not even tolerate such madrasahs where there is terrorism, extremism, violence or where law is taken into their own hands. Then not just wifaq ul madaris but all the ulema of the country and all scholars of thought refuted these wrong methods of jamia hafsah heads and called it wrong. Is this not proof that all madrasahs and all ulema are against extremism, violence, anarchy and separatism? This should have been the message sent to the whole world regarding this incident that all ulema and madaris believe the way of extremism and violence to be wrong, and consider it so wrong that they separated their old mates from themselves because they did not agree to these aforementioned beliefs of ours. You people are understanding or not?

Then those TV personnel said you are saying something very important and I said then convey this message of ours. Convey it to the world.

The Government policy towards the demands of Lal Masjid clerics

But what our government did was that it did not act on even one demand of the Lal masjid clerics. Till now people of Pakistan are waiting that who were the people in office who had for so many years supported Aunty Shamim’s brothel. Who had permitted that brothel? Which people went there for Zina? They all are innocent. They are faultless. They did not commit any crime. The crime was committed by those who brought Aunty Shamim peacefully, had her repent and then sent her back. Tell me whose crime is bigger? Brothel owners or the people of jamia hafsah? Crime was on both sides. But the crime of the brothel owners was greater than the crime of the people of jamia hafsah.

Mosques were martyred in Islamabad, in capital of Islamic republic of Pakistan…the Houses of Allah (SWT) were martyred. From here the people of Jamia Hafsah started their movement. The method of our government is that until one stands up to them with sticks and shoes and until stones are not thrown at them and until the way of anarchy is not adopted they are not ready to listen to any demand. This is the methodology of the government. If this persists then there can never be peace in this country.

You do not listen to us in civilized conversation. Do not accept proofs . Do not pay least attention to what Qur’an and Sunnat say. Not ready to listen to what constitution and law says. But they will remain adamant on anti-Islamic policies. So what will be the result? The result will be that the people will spring into action. The emotional and arduous will stand up. They will take the law into their hand. Then they will neither listen to us nor you. Hence this is what happened in Jamia Hafsah.

Mosques were martyred. People protested and talked, the ulema did, but they (government) did not take the slight notice. So the people of jamia hafsah said you martyred the House of our Allah, we capture your library. Not martyr (destroy) it, capture it. This was wrong. No, this was right, the method was incorrect. Should not have captured it. The ulema went and advised them as well as the elders and people from wifaq. But they said that you tell us that these government leaders are like this that without harshness they do not listen. Acceptance is something for after, they are not even ready to listen. Tell us how (else) we do it?

We said you take help in patience and make dua to Allah (SWT) and do not deviate from the path of the law. But they were not ready to accept this. So how many crimes were there? Four crimes: brought Aunty Shamim peacefully and returned her peacefully, brought Chinese women peacefully and returned her peacefully, policemen were captured and kept peacefully and were also served during their capture, captured children’s library (and) did not do any damage or carried out any violence inside (and) did not hurt anyone. In all these actions not even one person was hurt by even a thorn. Not one slap. The whole world made the noise of ‘Sharia with canes, sharia with canes’ but give even one example when the students used even one cane on anyone. These were just for show, that these sticks were taken by the female students. Such noise on this.

On this crime more than 300 hundred, hundreds of students were killed here.

Say how is this justice?

And on 12th may a blood game was played. 40, or more than that, people were killed. The killers were seen by the world. The TV showed it and till today not one murderer has been arrested.

They say that the writ of the government was challenged, by the people of jamia hafsah. So didn’t the murderers of 40 people not challenge your writ? Here you did not consider the respect and prestige of your ‘writ’? But since those 40 killed were poor helpless people and their killers backed by non-Pakistani agencies so you did not feel any mercy for those 40 people nor did you worry about your writ.

Today your writ is being challenged by NATO forces, inside Pakistani soil, they are bombing innocent Muslims from Afghanistan. How many Pakistani Muslims have been martyred by them till now? Bombed from aero planes even.

Over there you do not worry about your writ, that your writ is being challenged by someone? It is because you consider them your overlords. You have made them your sovereign. You are protecting their writ. You do not feel the need to protect your honor there. You do not see the disrespect of your own law over there.

On the helpless your bravery works. On the innocent, the women, children, the disarmed. That Pakistani force that, with the Grace of Allah (SWT), showed the merit of their strength, ability, bravery, sacrifice, and emaan in the jihad of 1965 and Alhamdulillah the opinion even today is that on the whole our army is brimming with emaan and among the best armies of the world.

This army has been nurtured and supported by the people of Pakistan by suffering financially and paying the taxes. It is our trust. It is our earning. It is our power , the protector of our borders, we are proud of it, but you are using our superb army in these cowardly deeds. This superb army that our nation prepared for the enemies of Islam , the army that was created for the protection of Pakistan, today you are endeavoring to make this army act on the orders of the enemy. Today your bravery does not work in Kashmir; you brought the army back from kargil, nor does your bravery work in defending our western borders from NATO.

Your bravery works on the madrasah of bajaur; on killing the students there. Your bravery works on madrasah of jamia hafsah, on the male and female students. These are your cowardly deeds and you say that peace and law and order should be maintained. Every way to usurp the law and order has been adopted by you and then you tell us that ‘ulema must play their role’. The ulema went (to jamia hafsah) to play their role (in) Islamabad. We went. You gentlemen must have read it in the newspapers.

The negotiations and the peace agreement

All deals were decided. First we talked to Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, he said I will deliver your formula, he understood it and said he will deliver the formula to the upper echelons. At night Ejaz ul Haq arrived and we placed the matter before him and after some discussion he also accepted it that this formula is applicable and the government’s writ will be preserved , respect of law will be maintained , blood will be prevented from being shed and the matter will be over. But he did not make a promise and said that I will arrange a meeting for you with the Prime Minister.

So I asked Ejaz ul Haq that whether our PM was in the position to make a decision; because the people knew in which position our PM was. He said he is 100%. That is what he said and that he was 100% in position to make a decision. So we said let us meet. We met. The formula was placed there even and he explained some of his difficulties , which were also told by Ejaz ul Haq, and its solution was also decided. It was said that this should be implemented now.

What was decided was that Abdur rasheed Ghazi, he had told us daily on the phone repeatedly that I will not allow myself to be arrested, will lay down my life but not be arrested willingly. Perhaps the reason for it was how Maulana Abdul Aziz sahib was arrested and humiliated on TV and how the arrested students were stripped of their upper body clothing, blindfolded and shown in humiliation on TV, that he decided maybe that an honorable death was better than a disgraced life. So he told me clearly and repeatedly that I am not ready to be arrested willingly, I will lay down my life but not be arrested willingly. But I am ready to accept that me, my wife and kids, my personal belongings be taken to my village, I leave Jamia Hafsah too and Jamia Faridiya also. I leave Lal Masjid, the children library and all the weapons I shall surrender. Let me go to my home. However I will give the two Jamia in the administration of Wifaq ul madaris so that they are not damaged by the government. Masjid will be taken care of by the Auqaaf and run it.

So this deal, was agreed verbally, and PM gave the green signal on its implementation. This is after dhuhr, before asr.

After this for its implementation, Chaudhry Shujaat, Ejaz ul Haq, Mr. Durrani (minister of broadcasting), Mr. Tariq Azeem (wazeer e mumlikat) and our delegation went there in a caravan of cars. That prohibited area was opened for us but when we reached Lal Masjid we had to walk to reach it, or we could have gone by these cars. Then a senior ranger’s officer, or the most senior one I do not know, he stopped us from going further and said do not go further. He said that to the Ministers and also to Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein. His behavior was such as though he did not know were signing an agreement. He was not concerned with this agreement, he just said you cannot go further.

“Why couldn’t we go ahead?”

“Sir there is risk, there is risk”

“What is the risk?”

“We fear they will take you hostage”

So some of the scholars who were from Karachi and accompanying us said we will take that risk. We are hopeful they will not take us hostage. They are our brothers. But even if they did take us hostage we are ready to take this risk and we will go and talk to them, and we will tell them all these things.

But they said no, this will not happen. Then some of our delegates also expressed this concern. We told everyone that if you wish to go back on your own responsibility then you may do so. But some of our delegates came to us quietly and said there was danger of one thing: there are rangers everywhere. We believe strongly that these rangers will kill our men who are going inside so that the blame falls on Abdur rasheed Ghazi.

So it was deiced among us and Chaudhry Shujaat etc. in a house nearby taken over by the rangers and we wrote an agreement and the implementation and details were agreed according to the guidelines already decided in the meeting earlier with the PM; after discussions with the Ministers. Maulana Zahid ur raashdee , Tariq Azeem, both wrote the agreement document. Every word was pondered upon and discussed. Wherever anyone had concerns they were addressed. An envoy from Abdur rasheed Ghazi also came and through him we also talked continuously with Abdur rasheed Ghazi on telephone. His battery was getting finished so a set was sent to him so that the discussion could be continued.

He also agreed to the prepared manifesto. However one thing he kept insisting upon was that he kept asking me to make them accept one demand of his that they should go inside the mosque along with the media and the ministers so that I can show them the weapons inside, that which weapons I possess. I am certain that they will kill me then they will carry out this business, or if I am taken to my village they will do their business either way: they will bring weapons and place them inside and put the blame on me that he had amassed weapons. That is my request and I beg you to bring them inside so I can show them what weapons we have.

But there was nowhere to go, neither the media could go inside, nor the ministers nor us. The agreement was done, everything was settled and we also expressed our joy and Ejaz ul Haq said that if Allah (SWT) decrees the peace deal today I will go to umrah the next day. We are worried for a week our worries will finish.

The Presidency’s amendment

The time for signatures arrived. So these gentlemen went downstairs. It was a small house of 2-stories and we were in a room upstairs where the manuscript was being written and our delegates were downstairs and these gentlemen, whether they talked to the presidency or not I do not know, said we have to go to Presidency now to get permission from President.

I was amazed that the PM, in full gathering had made the decision, and according to that decision this manuscript was written with the collaboration between our delegates and the Ministers. It was done in the presence of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain whom we all respect, he is an elder.

So why the need to go and ask permission from Presidency when the PM…he had told us one thing in the meeting that we have also discussed this with President Musharraf; which means from bottom to the top everything was agreed upon. Abdur rasheed Ghazi was also prepared to accept it. Now we had started saying that the students must be hungry so he asked Ejaz ul Haq that food must be prepared for them.

What was agreed was that four of us (the delegates) and four ministers would take control of the students (male and female) and arrange for them to be returned to their families. This committee of eight would take the students to a safe place and if there is any court case we could deal with that later. Those upon whom there would be no court case would be set free. However it was decided that those convicted of crimes before Lal Masjid would not be set free but the rest would be set free.

This all was decided.

Then these people said they had to go so we let them, and they pleaded they would return in half an hour. We knew they would reach presidency in half an hour so when will they return? Summary is that after all this hard work, the entire day we could not rest, and the night before too, and now this deadlock had materialized. We feared that when they went to Presidency there was something amiss.

Anyway, we waited for two, two and a half hours and it rang midnight. We feared something else was going to happen there so when the gentlemen returned from there they were an entirely different persona. They had brought back a few points written on a page and the summary of it was, the words were pretty, just like the words are pretty of the deceivers, and the summary was that all the facilities that were being provided to Abdur rasheed Ghazi, all of them were being denied.

For example it was written on that paper, read by Tariq Azeem that the first point is that Abdur rasheed Ghazi along with his supporters would come out, Abdur Rasheed Ghazi along with his family and belongings would be held in a house. We asked which house? He has already said I will not accept any house-arrest. I will lay down my life but not accept this. We had agreed that he would be kept in his house in his village. We insisted that according to the agreement he would be held in a particular house i.e. in his village and we asked him which house they were aiming for and they said it would be just a house. To which we replied that agreement said his house in his village to which they said this was not possible. No word can be altered from this page. We have brought a final decision.

So I asked them to write on it that he would be held in his own house and I took the pen and wrote it quickly on that paper. Added the words ‘his’ to it. So as these gentlemen were saying they would publish the manuscript so my writing could be matched on both documents; that they did not write it, I wrote it.

But they said it was useless to edit it as the actual document was at Presidency. It cannot be altered. Tariq Azeem told me quietly that we have been given half an hour you have to either get a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. Then said fifteen minutes have passed. So I said the agreement which was accepted by Abdur rasheed Ghazi is no more and this is a new matter brought before us and we are not responsible for it. Abdur Rasheed Ghazi’s envoy is here show him the new manuscript and if he approves and gets it approved from Abdur rasheed ghazi then that is fine and good.

We were discussing this that a commander of the rangers came into the small room where we eight, the four ulema and the four ministers were seated. He kept looking at us and then at the watch, as though he was indicating for us to leave. He was waiting for us to leave. So we decided among ourselves that our stay here was fruitless and their intentions are wicked and we should leave.

So as we were heading towards the door another officer asked us ‘are you leaving?’ and I replied ‘our work is finished’. So he immediately telephoned someone and said ‘but they are leaving’. Anyhow we got in our car and came back to the hotel, it was 2:30 AM…Also this was the image portrayed in TV that they went where the government had arranged for their stay. No government had arranged our stay. We had made our own arrangements, went on our own money and responsibility, went there as we considered it our duty to broker peace.

Anyway we discussed back at our hotel and decided that right now…TV people kept calling us all the time, so we shut off our mobile phones. So that no TV reporter could contact us in a situation which was not clear because there was a chance of one thing to happen, a tiny ray of hope, and it was that Abdur rasheed Ghazi’s envoy was there with the ministers and he was talking to Abdur rasheed Ghazi. Abdur rasheed Ghazi as far as we know of latest happenings had rejected that new proposal. He had said I would give up my life, this is deception and I cannot accept. We had returned after that.

But there was that slim chance till the end that Abdur rasheed Ghazi with the discussion between his envoy and ministers might accept something. Maybe the government people might accept something of his demands. So we shut down our mobiles because if we announced at this point that the negotiations had failed then this small glimmer of hope could be damaged. We shut down our mobiles. We decided, (and) we wrote down a statement that no one would make individual announcements of this failed negotiation. Everyone’s mobiles were shut.

The Truth and the Operation

What was decided, it was time for Fajr, and after we prayed Fajr we decided we should sleep. During this I found out that the operation had started there. That there was tremendous bombing as when Muslim forces attack a non-Muslim enemy country such was the bombing, shelling and firing. Destruction was rampant. When we opened the TV the situation was totally different where opinions and analysis were dished out that ‘what happened’, ‘a little while ago it was heard that negotiations were successful, what suddenly happened’. Everyone was giving their opinions as I was watching the TV.

So we decided that we will do a press conference in the afternoon to announce what had happened. But I wondered that entire country was drowned in confusion. So I switched ON my mobile. Geo TV called me immediately and they asked me ‘what had happened? The operation has started’.

I told him everything.

This was 5 in the morning. Immediately they ran the reel of it and started to show what was happening. At 6 am, after some sleepless nights I finally laid down. At 8 I woke up and someone was cupping my feet. Hamid Mir stood there. He said all the ministers are lying please tell what happened. He had brought a camera along.

I told him everything and it was also recorded and said I would run it within 45 minutes but it was broadcast in the evening. We had had our press conference before that.

This is the entire story. I was asked by a TV channel personnel that upon whom do you place the blame for this? I said ‘on President Pervez. May Allah give him guidance’”

End of Speech.

Mufti Rafi Uthmani’s account is a very detailed discussion on the events and we have tried our best to locate references for what he has stated. In the following discussion we elaborate on some points he made that were not highlighted in the media, and also scrutinize many media and Pakistan Army accounts of the events of the operation.

Who are the Lal Masjid clerics

They are the sons of the slain Maulana Abdullah who had actively taken part in the Afghan Jihad against the soviets in the 1980s. The Lal Masjid had good relations with the Army because it raised youths to fight the Jihad in Kashmir which was strategically important for the Army. We shall see in the discussions below how exactly that relationship ended and how the Pakistan Army responded to it. But first we must discuss the massacre itself.

Why was Maulana Abdul Aziz wearing a Burqa when he was arrested?

Maulana Abdul Aziz, the older brother of Abdul Rasheed Ghazi was arrested while, as the government put it, trying to escape in a Burqa from Lal Masjid during the operation. When asked about this Maulana Shah Abdul Aziz, who is charged with negotiating a deal between the military and Lal Masjid, answered:

“This is all government propaganda. The night Maulana Abdul Aziz was arrested and brought to [state-run television] PTV, I had just finished a talk show and was on the way out with Ejazul Haq [minister for religious affairs] and the anchor of the program. I saw Maulana Aziz along with security officials. He hugged me, but only touched fingers when Ejaz tried to shake hands with him.

He immediately told me that he had been deceived. He said he was called by a senior official of an intelligence agency with whom he had been in touch for a long time. Since the official could not enter the mosque to meet him [to save his cover and identity] he asked Maulana Aziz to come to Aabpara police station [in walking distance of the mosque] and asked him to dress in a burqa to avoid being identified. [Aziz admitted that he and his brother Ghazi had done this many times before when they were declared wanted by the government]. But as soon as Maulana Aziz left the mosque he was arrested. “

He was shown on national televison in a manner that gave the impression of an act being deliberately staged to assassinate his character. The need to force him to unveil himself right in front of live camera in such a dramatic fashion was questionable when clearly he could have been presented without the Burqa.

This lent further legitimacy to the claims that the government deceived the clerics and the students, while cast a shadow of doubt over the oft-repeated claim that Maulana Abdul Aziz was saving his own life while the students were in danger.

Asma bint Abdul Aziz also denied that her father wanted to escape and said authorities had asked him to cover his face to avoid the media and told him a meeting had been arranged with a top government official, she said. “He wanted to save the lives of hundreds of men, women and children,” she reportedly said. “I know him as his daughter, he would have never surrendered.”
Talking to reporters after the funeral prayers, Maulana Abdul Aziz said his failed escape from Lal Masjid was according to a plan made by the two brothers. He said the government had humiliated him by forcing him to wear Burqa. He said his wife and son were missing and the government was not ready to provide any information about them. (this speech after the funeral could not be verified)

The plight of those inside the mosque

The government of Pakistan did not provide any food to the students inside the mosque during the siege. There are many reports from during that time of students not having eaten anything for 6-7 days. Here is an example from an interview with some female students of Jamia Hafsa. These two valiant sisters who were present in the Madrassa came on GeoTV saying they left the madrassa with more than 100 bodies of only women. Qur’ans and religious of books were burning there with no water to put them out. Blood was all over the place. The relatives had no news of their kin’s whereabouts.

Another student, Asma Mazhar describes the horrific conditions of food and water inside the Lal Masjid and how they were prevented by the soldiers from getting any food:

“Bhai jaan (brother), we ate the same which brothers like you sent us from outside. What did you people send to us? We ate trees’ leaves; we plucked leaves off grape wine and drank dirty water, later that also finished. We soaked cloths in that water and put them on our eyes to protect from the tear gassing, and then the same water we drank. Once brothers sent us some boxes of juice and biscuits from masjid, we asked the young boy who brought them, ‘What have brothers eaten?’, and he said, ‘Nothing, that’s all they had which they sent you’, on that we asked the boy, ‘Go and take this back and tell them, the sisters are saying, they have eaten their meals, so you eat them’, as soon as the boy left the house a burst of bullets came and he got martyred. I saw through the window, he was lying on the ground by the face and was moving his foot, the blood was spreading out from his body. A little while later, the boy was fired at again and the biscuits and juice packets were destroyed. The juice ran out and biscuits were of no use. For many days the body of that child lay there.”

Here is Asma’s mother’s account of how much she and her students has devotion for Umm Hassan (the Principal). She also accounts how Police men under captivity were treated well (which supports what Mufti Rafi said). She also shows support for Ghazi  despite her daughter being inside Lal Masjid, and in grave danger.

A female student’s account

A female student said when the fighting started, it was the day when 550 female students (talibaat) were to be given chadaars; it was their graduation day. She said that day 30 talibaat were in one room when a bomb hit that room and they all died. She said we were ordered by Umm Hassaan to make a list of all the talibaat present that day, and it was around 1500. After the whole thing was over, lady police took that list from us.

She said we didn’t have anything to eat but honey with leaves. This way leaves were not bitter with honey. She said Maulana Abdul Azeez told us many times that if anyone wants to leave, they can and that whatever media said that we were held hostages is nothing but a lie.

She said all the talibaat did isthikhara those days and we saw that negotiations would fail. One of the taliba saw Prophet s.a.w in her dream and Prophet s.a.w gave a wird for all the talibaat to read.

She also said many of the talibaat there were from Kashmir whose families were dead in the Kashmir earthquake. She said that was the day 550 talibaat were to receive their sanads and degrees but it never happened. She said first day 30 talibaat, 2nd day 85 and the 3rd day 270 talibaat died. Army took those dead at night and buried them.

Who were they? Where did they go?

Dr. Shahid Masood describes the horrific massacre two little girls witnessed in this article in Urdu. It talks about two little girls in the Madrassa that Dr. Shahid Masood met. He used to visit the Madrassa and talk to the leaders of the Masjid and was also given the opportunity to talk to the female students. That is the place where he met these girls. Umm Hassaan just said they were nagging to meet him although they don’t talk to strange men. One was a 8/10 years old girl called Asma with her elder sis Aisha [names were changed in the article]. He had some innocent talks with the girls and the article mentions how they were asking questions to them and annoying him to get his phone number and also asked for an autograph.

This was before the attack. After the attack he wondered about what happened to those innocent girls and wished he could contact them. Eventually the girls messaged him and had several conversations on the phone.

Dr Shahid Masood wrote that he told the girls a number of times to leave the complex because the army was going to attack and they luaghed it off saying that “why would the army attack us? we’re not criminals.” They mentioned the army are ‘kattar musulmaan’ which means hardcore/strong Muslims and why would their own army attack at them.

In the end this little girl Asma sent a message from the Madrassa to call back which Dr. Masood did. He heard the little girl crying with lots of noises in the background saying her elder sister died and the phone call got disconnected then.

And now the questions that Dr. Shahid Masood is posing here, is: Who where they? And where did they go?

Were the students held at Lal Masjid against their will? Were they human shields?

The government prior to the operation made this claim. However as can be seen from the link posted in last paragraph of the female survivor that is hardly the case. A large number of students were staying behind (despite numerous attempts by the Lal Masjid clerics to send them back) out of their own choice. Many left Lal Masjid before the start of the operation (1250 to be precise), while those remaining out of the estimated 5000 chose to fight along side their teachers. Therefore the government’s claims are questionable.

Maulana Abdul Aziz and Abdur Rasheed Ghazi’s love for the students was something totally neglected by the media but it seemed to surface in almost every interview the students gave afterwards or before the operation (sometimes inadvertently) or when information on the brothers prior to Lal Masjid was published. For example they used to spend 10 million PKR on the students and supported nearly 10,000 students, yet they themselves are known to eat from the students’ leftovers. Despite having so much funds to spend on students Abdur Rasheed Ghazi drove a small Suzuki Mehran. When the library was taken over by the students of Jamia Hafsa he told them not to damage anything in the library as the library was trust of the nation. In almost every interview the nostalgic students who made it alive spoke of the repeated requests of the Lal Masjid clerics to the students to leave and save themselves. Yet, as one survivor describes it was immense love for Shahadat (martyrdom) that they did not budge. This is the human side of the students and the clerics, that was never made part of the barrage of articles by the Pakistani media that flooded the Internet in the wake of the massacre.

It is worthwhile to compare this with the treatment meted out allegedly by the Pakistan armed forces to the female students. Mufti Muhammad Na’eemur Rahman of wifaq ul madaris during the heart of the operation said live on Geo tv that many female students had been raped and molested by the armed personnel. The female students who made out alive always stated the same thing : the soldiers had asked them to remove their hijab and veils while arresting them.They had slaughtered the young boys accompanying these women and left them to rot for days (as described by Ms. Mazhar above). Another student claimed that a “beautiful girl” was told by an army personnel to be set aside because she was beautiful after the arrests were made. No one knows what happened to her according to the student.

A student also describes this briefly here:

“Then later on she and 30 students came out, army was on the walls of the masjid, they started to fire. We yelled at them not to fire. Those soldiers started to make fun of us and told us to take of our niqab/hijabs. We refused so they did by force.”

Umber Salim, student of Jami’ah Hafsah: “Ghazi’s leg was bleeding, we refused to go out but he asked us to go for the sake of Allah.”

Asma Mazhar continues:

“When Ghazi sahib had been wounded, he said to Umm Hassaan, ‘If you stay inside, these girls will also not go out and will be martyred. People as well are saying we have made them hostage, for the sake of Allah, take them out and tell the people about our calamity’, on that we all agreed to go out, though we all the time wore burqa, we didn’t take them off the whole week, who knew they would intrude anytime and we wouldn’t be in hijab.”

If the hostage theory was true it must be asked that why had the media not reported on the 1200 students who left the Jamia on the first day (before the siege started)? What happened to those students? where did they go? and why weren’t they all over the news channels denouncing the clerics?

Further – we ask that if the students were hostages then the tens that came out one particular day, why were they coming out with the Nara (shout) of Takbeer? Why have none of these students been put in front of the camera to say how they were held hostage?

The Independent in their editions of 11 – 13 July 2007 had a small line on one of their articles stating that it appears the students were not kept as hostages.

If one reads the interviews linked in this article of the surviving female students one thing could be ascertained : Umm Hassaan (the Principal) had ‘tricked’ the female students into leaving the Jamiah and the madrassah by telling them everyone including Maulana Abdul Aziz was planning to go out and surrender. In reality when the girls got away they realized Umm Hassan was not with them. Upon hearing this, according to Asma Mazhar, Fatima and Umamah and some girls came back and asked her why she did that to which she replied it was her home, where else would she go? Upon hearing this, according to Ms. Mazhar 27 students refused to leave without Umm Hassaan.

Therefore the hostage theory of the government does not seem to have many independent verification while the opposite theory does have independent credentials.

How many weapons did the Lal Masjid fighters have?

From the plethora of the photos and videos of stick-wielding women one can safely ascertain the women had no automatic weapons or weapons of any sort. Abdur Rasheed Ghazi and his fighters frequently claimed they had 13-14 AK47 rifles. It is also established from local accounts that many of the fighters were the students themselves joined by local people from nearby mosques in Islamabad and Rawalpindi who had decided to take part in this battle by siding with those propagating Islamic Law. They were simply volunteers who at best had private weapons to fight with.

The question is should Abdur Rasheed Ghazi and his fighters have weapons at all? This was answered by Sheikh Abu Hajira:

“And why can they not have weapons? Is it that the people want their Imaams and Maulanas to be monks? Next we will say why do so purified and high morale inheritors of the Prophet (PBUH) need to marry? They need weapons to defend themselves just like Musharaf needs his commando guards to defend him.”

It must be asked if Ghazi was indeed lying why would he ask journalists and Ministers to come inside Lal Masjid and have a look while the government did the exact opposite and after the operation prevented them for three days from entering it?

In reality he had only 13-14 AK 47, and those were for their protection. Few months before the operation there was attack on his life. It can be said that he had the right to defend himself and carry arms. Rest of the weapons were personal weapons of those who had come to Lal Masjid to help them.

senior army colonel who prayed in Lal Masjid on 3rd July 2007 recalls how there were no weapons inside.

Were there foreigners?

This is best answered by Ms. Mazhar who states:

“We all came out of the house of Ghazi sahib and there were a few steps between us and the security forces, that is when we came out, they were a few steps away from Ghazi sahab’s house and in this distance I saw three bodies, all were of brothers (boy students). Two of the bodies were at the door step and they were bleeding, one of them was later called a foreigner, and when I saw his picture in the newspaper I recognized him that he was lying martyred at the door step of Ghazi sahib. Another body outside the house was lying between the security forces.’

However in Islamic fiqh the notion of “foreigners” is not a criminal act by default as Muslims are enjoined to help one other without consideration of borders. It may be said that some other people from nearby F.A.T.A came and joined the battle as it is established that many Muslims from Uzbekistan, China, Afghanistan and the Gulf live there and have waged war against Pakistani state. Later on in this article we will examine whether their fight is justified or not and hence their alleged intrusion in Lal Masjid.

What happened to the dead of the Lal Masjid?

Abdul Sattar Edhi proclaimed he had been asked to prepare 400 coffins by the government after the operation. The government varied in the amount of casualties that often did not tally with existing records. For example the government claimed 1500 females were alive in Jamia Hafsa at one point. Then it stated 87 of them were killed. But no mention was made of what happened to the rest of the number. Almost every female student who made it alive gives the number of female students inside between 1500 and 1600. Yet where did the remaining women vanish? When reporters asked these questions, government officials refused to answer. During those days it was in the news that women who gave up few days before the operation, most of them are still missing. No on knows where have they gone.

What happened to the hundreds of students that were in the Jamiah? The government stated famously that about 50 “militants” have been “killed”, that about 70 have been arrested; that makes 120. Where are the thousands of other students and why have they not been put on the news? This also quizzed prominent journalists at the time but no conclusion was given by them. The media asserts that the women were returned to their homes or to several NGOs. But no objective study has so far been taken to determine the difference between women killed and women returned home (or to NGOs) safely.

What everyone knows and agrees is that 3 days after the operation entire Lal Masjid was under lock down and no journalists were allowed in. Neither were they allowed to see the injured or dead in hospitals by the order of the government. This was also stated by Javeed Ashraf on national television as , according to him, it would not have looked nice for journalists to see so many dead bodies lying around.

The question arises: What was the government doing for three days in Lal Masjid?

Reports began to surface from the scholars and also ground witnesses that mass graves were being dug. Reports also surfaced of ‘WP’ used by the Pakistan Army better known an White Phosphorus. On 12th July, AAJ Tv broadcasted a program of Live with Talat in which Talat Hussain visited Jamia Hafsa. While touring the bullet ridden compound a number of military personal hovered around, at a certain point Talat Hussain asked an accompanying Army personal about all the evidence of smoke around the area asking, “Why is there so much smoke?”, the solider replied “WP”, Talat put another question “Please explain WP?”, the solider answered “White Phosphorus.”

Some of the burnt militants can be seen here, many with charred bodies.

Other reports emerged of men and women being buried together in single coffins and that the Qur’an and other sacred texts burnt by the armed forces during the massacre were thrown in a nearby gutter.

When the journalists were allowed to enter after three days it was exactly how Abdur Rasheed Ghazi had feared: the complex was filled with weapons supposedly left behind by the Lal Masjid group. Moreover barring the bullet holes and charred structures the place was almost spotless. The government did not comment on the allegations made on it of what it was doing inside for three days and why journalists weren’t allowed inside.

However as mentioned earlier the plethora of eye witness accounts, not published by mainstream media, gave a very accurate picture of what they were doing: planting false weapons to implicate Ghazi and cleaning up the place of dead bodies either destroyed by the intensive bombing or WP. This cleaning up of the place and the obvious signs of intense burning inside put serious doubts over the credibility of the government narrative and evidences it gave. News of secret burials were quite prominent and were also reported in this secret cable, obtained by WikiLeaks, sent by Anne W. Patterson to Washington on 12th July 2007.

Afterwards the building of Jamia Hafsah was bulldozed to hide evidence. It was severely criticized most prominently by the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

Were all the scholars against the Lal Masjid clerics?

It is clear from Mufti Rafi’s article that he did not approve of the clerics’ methodologies. However there were many senior scholars who did support it and had good reason. One may cite this:

“The Religious Decree By Imaam Abu Hanifah: Striving For The Promulgation Of Sharee`ah Is More Excellent Than Performing Fifty Optional (Nafl) Hajj

During the year 145 Hijrah, there was an uprising in Basrah against Mansoor `Abbasi, an `Abbasid Caliph, Muhammad Nafs Zakiyyah and Ibraheem Nafs Mardhiyyah proclaimed battle against caliph for the promulgation of Sharee`ah. They conquered many cities. They enforced Sharee`ah fully, wherever they prevailed. Imaam Abu Hanifah also supported both brothers, along with the other `Ulama.

Al-Yafi`ee writes: “Imaam Abu Hanifah incited people to favour Ibraheem and ordered them to fight with government.” Imaam Zufar recollects: “Imaam Abu Hanifah supported Ibraheem vociferously.”
(With reference to Imaam Abu Hanifah Ki Siyasi Zindagi p. 343).

It means that Imaam Abu Hanifah caring little for the retaliation from the government openly supported Ibraheem; and whosoever was underImaam’s influence, he persuaded and ordained him to support Ibraheem also. If the term ‘Ordain’ be taken in its literal sense, then it meant that to support him (Ibraheem) against tyrant was obligatory (Fardh).

And in what context obligatory?!

The Renowned Traditionist of Kufa Ibraheem bin Suwaid states that during the rebellion of Ibraheem bin `AbdulLah, I asked from Imaam AbuHanifah his opinion about someone who performed his obligatory (Fardh) Hajj; would it be better for him to do optional (Nafl) Hajj or to fight against government under the command of Ibraheem. Ibraheem bin Suwaid says, “I heard Imaam Abu Hanifah saying: “To participate in this battle is more preferable to performing such fifty Hajj.”
(With reference to Imaam Abu Hanifah Ki Siyasi Zindagi, compiled by Manazir Ahsan Gilani, p. 343) .”

Further on we can also cite from amongst the Tab’een such as Sa’eed ibn Jubayr who were martyred by Hajjaj ibn Yusuf for the charge of rebellion. There were many who joined the rebellion against the Ummayads and were martyred by Hujjaj. What one may ask can be said about Abdullah ibn Zubayr who was also martyred as a rebel?

The list of scholars who supported his methodology included majority of the scholars of KPK such as Mufti Shamzai Shaheed, scholars of Jamia Ashrafia, many scholars of Rawalpindi, Muhaqqiq Sarfraz who has large followers among the scholars and Dr. Sher Ali Shah. Others such as majority of Wifaq ul Madaris and Mufti Taqi Uthmani gave a similar verdict as Mufti Rafi.

It should be stated here that Islamic fiqh allows rebellion against the state in the following conditions:

  1. The ruler becomes non-Muslim (i.e they apostate from Islam). This is the agreed upon ruling of all four schools of thought.
  2. The ruler is cruel. This is the ruling only in Hanafi fiqh.

It should also be noted that, according to the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan and Al Qaeda, Pakistani rulers are apostates as they have willingly and gladly helped non-Muslims against Muslims resulting in bloodshed of Muslims and defeat of an Islamic state run by Shariah. They have also apostated because they rule by a law other than Shariah (i.e western democracy) and have never tried to implement it nor give it any importance by honest word or action.

If the above is taken to be true then Pakistan is dar ul harb (land of enemy) as well as dar ul kufr (land of kufr government) and it is the duty of Pakistani Muslims to rebel against this government. This will be discussed in detail later on.

Did no army officer oppose this?

Apart from the colonel whose opinion we read a couple of paragraphs ago not many army officers put into writing what they really thought of the massacre. Some like Hamid Gul and a retired major did, but on the whole one must ask: did they all agree unanimously with Musharraf that the Lal Masjid clerics and students should all be killed? There were news of a Colonel being killed because he refused to enter the Masjid. There was nothing on the media about it. Ghazi himself said he heard ‘Ya Ali Madad’ among the army ranks when they attacked. It could mean two things: The Rafidhis were hired to carry out the attack or Sind/Baloch regiment was hired since both have the same slogan. Some in the army clearly did not support this as the Zarrar Company of the SSG that had attacked Lal Masjid was hit by C-4 bombs detonated by an insider killing 22 soldiers.

One thing is clear: The attacking soldiers felt no sympathy for the Muslim blood they were shedding as part of their job. The following picture of the soldier making a V-sign clearly shows a lack of remorse or empathy to the students and clerics of Lal Masjid.

What happened after Lal Masjid is well-known. All over Pakistan and particularly in Northern Areas the army personnel, vehicles and even their families were attacked in retaliation for Lal Masjid. We will see who is to blame for that.

Kill the hostages? Whose hands are red?

Mufti Rafi Uthmani claims Musharraf is the one to blame for Lal Masjid massacre. Pakistan’s liberal lobby and secular extremists lay the blame on the clerics, citing that they made the Pakistani armed forces kill the 500 – 1000 students and fighters present at the Mosque (and in the process desecrate and burn the religious books)

As evident from Mufti Rafi Uthmani’s speech and the evidence in various media that when Ghazi finally accepted to surrender and negotiations had been settled, he was entitled free passage. This was overruled by Musharraf. So in the least he was a madhloom (oppressed) devoid of his right. He was killed by a leader who opressively violated the negotiations and attacked them.

Ghazi mentioned that during negotiations instead of talks the govt official kept threatening that they will start the operation if he doesnt accept. He said that they should not do the negotiation this way. His refusal to not be house-arrested in any home except that in his village is said to have borne out of the humiliation his brother faced at the hands of the Pakistani media. Yet he continuously asked his students to leave.

The media and the liberal masses slandered him to this day. One must see what weight their claims hold. They stated he would rip the city apart using suicide bombings. Here is what Ms. Mazhar’s response to that was:

“Alas, that’s what is sad that we didn’t have arms, or we wouldn’t only curse helplessly, we even asked Ghazi sahib, ‘You talked about suicide bombing, now give us something so we can carry them out’, then he said, ‘My daughter, that I said just as the part of strategy, you should never think about that, we won’t even think of killing our own people. We only had sticks in the madrasah as well as in the house, so if anyone could try to get us inside, we would defend ourselves.’”

His kindness to his students is evident from each and every interview of the survivors. Yet many other gems in his personality never surfaced in the media. For example he gave naseehat (advice) to an unknown journalist who had come to meet him and promised him of leaving alcohol. Ghazi requested him to please do so as one of his last requests.

The need to do self action was out of complete annoyance of the useless government that promised and didn’t deliver. They claimed to be islamic and yet harbored prostitutes pornography and vulgarity. These people couldnt sit idle while sisters around them got sucked into the western plague of materialism. So they acted. But one must not blame them, government should be blamed which didnt do its job in the first place..

The modes were questionable, actions may be incorrect, but intentions were sincere. It was against the law, but law was against islam.

Mufti Rafi has said it clearly, that if they fought with sincere intention then they are martyr and inshAllah in Jannah. If only our young blood could have such zeal to do whatever it takes in following of ulema to attain the truth, establish an environment where they would do dhikr instead of xboxes, where they would go for five times salaah instead of going to internet cafe for porn, where they could walk in streets for dawah instead of glancing and gazing girls.

Musharraf, as posted in a link above deliberately annulled the agreement to appease the United States juggernaut. A situation which could have been solved amicably was turned into a horrific massacre that he and his paid media tried their best to cover up. Musharraf’s approval of torture is not hidden when he publicly admired the Israeli General responsible for the massacre in Sabra and Shatila, Palestine. His soft stance towards Israel, despite their almost daily pogrom of innocent Palestinians is further proof of where his loyalties lie. His enlightened moderation and extremist nationalism was nothing but an attempt to dilute Islam and mold it to suit western ideologies – his admiration of Ataturk and his dream of making Pakistan like Turkey is proof of this.

He could have granted a safe passage to Ghazi to prevent bloodhshed. It is a policy he himself is not opposed to nor does world politics dictate otherwise. Indian Airlines aircraft was hijacked in 1999 and taken to Kabul. The hijackers demanded safe passage to Maulana Mas’ud Azhar and 35 people locked in Indian jails. According to Indian sources they were charged with terrorism. But to guarantee the safety of their 180 passengers the Indian government gave them a safe passage.

Take British citizen Tahir Hussain for example, who had killed a Pakistani taxi driver who was given death sentence by Supreme Court. But on Price Charles visit to Pakistan he appealed to Musharraf, of all people, and Musharraf not only prevented the death sentence from being carried out but released Tahir Hussain via the Court and sent him back to Britain in a special plane. But here Musharraf was a different man who did not care for his own citizens and the children he and the media repeatedly lied were taken ‘hostages’. Is this how a ‘hostage’ situation is resolved? Kill all the hostages? Remove all evidence?

With the Lal Masjid operation Musharraf proved to what extent he could go to appease his western allies and protect his self-created version of Islam. He did all he could to silence the Ghazi. No wonder the operation was called Operation Silence. But in his brutality he inadvertently turned the sympathy of anyone who was not a secular extremist towards the plight of the Ghazi and his poor kids. He is responsible for the massacre at Lal Masjid and he and his army supporters are responsible for the attacks on army vehicles, personnel and families in retaliation to Lal Masjid.

Al-Qaeda involvement

One of the major problems the Pakistan establishment had with Lal Masjid was that it had shown its displeasure of the Army’s stance against the tribesmen and Mujahideen (who had sheltered the retreating Taliban and Al-Qaeda in their lands by virtue of simply Muslim brotherhood and not necessarily any ideological similarity). It did so after a visit from the Al-Qaeda’s emissary Sheikh Essa in 2004 (Saleem Shahzad, Inside Al-Qaida and Taliban (2011), page 159) to scholars and religious figures in Pakistan to question them about their views on Pakistan Army’s yielding to US pressure and breaking a truce they had with Al-Qaeda (Saleem Shahzad, Inside Al-Qaida and Taliban (2011), pages 5 and 11; Ustadh Ahmad Farooq, Jihad e Pakistan) by attacking tribal areas.

This was the beginning of the war between Al-Qaeda and Pakistan Army, a natural result of Pakistan yielding to US pressure and becoming its front line ally in the so-called ‘War on Terror’. Sheikh Essa asked various religious figures and scholars whether the Army as a whole remained in the folds of Islam after their betrayal of Mujahideen and siding with the Non-Muslims against them. He met figures such as Dr. Israr, Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Lal Masjid clerics. Not one of them disagreed with Sheikh Essa. Yet it was only the latter who came out to say this publicly. This was done in 2004 when Lal Masjid issued a famous fatwa deeming the army operations in tribal areas as ‘a great sin’ , stated that the army dead weren’t martyrs and asked the people to not have funeral prayers for them. It was signed by 500 Muftis of Pakistan.

This meant the end of the relationship between Lal Masjid and ISI. The religious decree completely demoralized the Pakistan Army in 2004. Yet it was not merely a strategic decree, for similar decrees have been posted before and after that.

Saleem Shahzad documents this in detail in his book but with some errors. Al-Qaeda involvement was merely in advising the Lal Masjid clerics and not any arms or muhajideen support (as is evident from above discussions on weapons). If Al-Qaeda is involved directly there is always weapon and men support. We see that weapons and fighter support was meager. Compare this with GHQ, PNS Mehran and Kamra attacks later on. The clerics before the massacre did all they could to jolt the government into action to remove the injustices in society. Shahzad incorrectly assumed the clerics did all this to distract the Army, which is illogical since the ISI and not the Army was directly involved before the massacre, and the Army was fighting in tribal areas and not in Islamabad. There was no substantial action taken against the wrongs in the society the clerics pointed out. On that the account of Saleem Shahzad and Mufti Rafi are at odds. Abdur Rasjeed Ghazi did not stay in Lal Masjid till the end because of Al-Qaeda orders, he did so because Musharraf hijacked the agreement chalked out by the scholars and politicians. Anyhow the Ghazi is not here anymore, so we can only second guess his intentions. But then again lack of weapon and Al-Qaeda mujahideen support meant direct involvement of Al-Qaeda can be ruled out.

Conclusion

Ghazi Shaheed’s innocence however is proven in his death – or more properly in his smiling death face. Have a look:

Now compare his smiling face to the smiles of these martyrs from different parts of the Islamic world who laid down their lives in the way of Allah and were admitted into Jannah straight away. The video you just saw; might be a good idea to look at it’s description. Is this not a sign of his innocence?

Ghazi Shaheed is no more with us yet his wife gave birth to his son, who was named after him, right on that very day he was martyred . He and his fellows were unanimously declared martyrs by the scholars of Islam, prominent among them Mufti Rafi himself and Mufti Raheem Usmani. As for the Pakistan Army Mufti Rafi himself said that those who fought with sincere intentions and not as paid mercenaries and died were also martyrs. But he may be the only one who said that. A reporter from Aaj TV inadvertently told the audience that during the Lal Masjid operation one of the soldiers was ‘unfortunately martyred’.

Ghazi is no longer with us but his legacy continues, upholding the honorable Standard of Islam against the tides of secularism, atheism, vulgarity, moral and ethical degradation and the danger to world peace that they all pose.

These kids that were slaughtered were not anti-Pakistani or foreign agents. In one of the rooms of their madrassah where there was blood and broken bangles, written on the black board were the words: “Pakistan Zindabad”. Here are accounts of the Ghazi’s last moments and here is his will and his last message

He was no more than a Surgeon who amputated the Gangrene- ridden arm of a patient that threatened to spread to his entire body, killing him in great pain; rather than sit idly and watch the patient suffer endlessly.

We are the patients. We are just unaware of the Gangrene creeping into our veins every day because of lack of Islam. It is only people like Abdur Rasheed Ghazi Shaheed that shake us awake.

We are obliged to thank Mufti Rafi Uthmani for this balanced and eloquent lecture. We admire the fact he worked tirelessly for days before the Operation trying to resolve the crisis. May Allah increase the love and respect for the Ulema in our hearts. The superiority of his account can be ascertained by his last words, which are a prayer for Musharraf. Should we trust a man of such noble manners over a media that does not even verify news before publishing and does not even know that January 1st 2001 was a Monday not a Friday?

This article will be updated regularly whenever new evidence or studies emerge. Please do not forget to check our ‘Original Articles’ tab on the menu to see on which date this article was updated and with what.

(English translation of the Speech by Mufti Rafi Uthmani titled “What happened in Lal Masjid?” can be downloaded in the form of a booklet from here)

38 thoughts on “Lal Masjid Operation: A factual analysis of its background, the operation itself and the aftermath

  1. Pingback: Lal Masjid: What Really happened???

  2. This case has been registered in the supreme court of Allah.May Allah do His justice with musharaf,pak army (those responsible for it) all ministers,all parlimentarians including MMA and media.they all can make us fool but not Allah.He knows better ,who is responsible,who is not.He will deal with everyone responsible.

    • hmmm there is little objectivity in these cables. mostly these are reflections based on secondary media sources that are meant to be a briefing for someone higher up. some of the things mentioned here are however mere observations and some of them quite inaccurate, such as the inability to differentiate between lashkar e jhangvi and sipah e sahaba (ra) and assertions such as there was a huge cache of weapons, while completely ignoring things such as the ‘radicalization’ of the mosque after meeting with sheikh abdullah and not really before that. interestingly the militants are also termed to come from ‘jaish’, a puppet of ISI and well-known to have worked against the red mosque leaders. mistakes like these make the cables rather low on objectivity value.
      one of the few good points raised however, is the case of secret burials which I have discussed in detail in my article.
      anyways, Jazak Allah khair!

      • As with most Wikileaks cables there a few interesting snips here and there.
        First of all excellent post showing an alt POV.

        The ambassadors are not privy to classified information. Their source of information is the press(Mostly English Language), meeting with govt officials and NGO’s etc.

        At least you get a good Idea what was the governments thinking.
        The one on the April agreement with Ch Shujat was very interesting. Does reinforce many of Rafi Usmani points.In another cable it says that the operation would only be launched if Pervaiz Musharaf or Shaukat Aziz order it. Another cable deals with the initial confrontation due to Sherpao & CDA insistence on tearing down mosques. It pretty much acknowledges the fact this was due to it being close to Mushraf commute route.The Ambassador also in the cable acknowledges the facts regarding the Earthquake victims, Lal masjid populism and relief activities and details on the brothels etc etc.

        On weapons actually it has some interesting points it acknowledges there was no “use of deadly force” from the mosque prior to July 3. It also says the weaposn where brought in later by Jehadi groups. This contradicts the dominant cache of arms theory . Again in these cables you have to read b/w the lines at times.

        Ch Shujat also notes the National media role which was very negative overall,”Sensationalistic” as he puts it. The Opeds of Dawn and daily times are aslo discussed in a Wikileaks cable. Its pretty disgusting if you consider the amount of deaths they were celebrating at the time. ISPR has a very well honed system to setting the narrative early on as you could see in the Malala shooting for e.g.

        In journalist I think the most objective reporting in the international press was by Rageh Umar for AJE who had a long programme on it. He visited Lalmasjid a few days prior to operations etc.
        The telephonic interviews from AR Ghazi also have interesting details.

        However the sad facts are most people have bought into the Mushraf regime account. No matter what the discrepencies are in the story they think its justified.
        Its almost a law in Pakistan that the Army version is taken as the final version, no matter what the reality is so Bengalis were traitors, 65 was launched by India and we “won” , Zaid Hamid will lead Ghawa e hind, Pakistan had no choice but participate in the US Afghan war etc etc etc etc.

        Its guilt of course.
        The SC proceeding will be interesting, again the cables show the Embassy was following those very closely.

        Other cables are available at cablesearch.net.(Search ” Lal masjid)

  3. This article is written to support the khawarij of Lal Masjid.

    Its not a matter that Ghazi Rasheed was smiling after death because the army commander Haroon Islam was also not having uncomfortable looks on his face after death.

    One more fact that can be witnessed is that after operation Lal Masjid was was enveloped in foul smell which is not a sign of people getting shahadat,
    http://archives.dawn.com/2007/07/12/top1.htm

    Other side of the news can also be seen here;
    http://pakarmy.pk.tripod.com/opsilence.html

    • thanks for the first article. gave us more evidence supporting our cause.
      as for haroon, why dont we go and dig up his grave and also that of ghazi shaheed and will see which one of them is giving off a wonderful fragrance. it is common knowledge that ghazi sahab’s grave emanates fragrance (which your media and army tried its best to hide).
      secondly what do you expect the martyrs to smell like once you have burned them with white phosphorus? see the link of the video in article above where many of them are shown burnt beyond recognition.
      then again such signs do not override shariah. i do not expect anything from army side except a poorly researched and nonacademic article. i mean, the siege of Kabah was in 1979 not 1971. students fired on parents looking for their children? why then do we have ms. asma’s mother’s interview in the article when she supports the ‘militants’?. also one of the biggest signs of khawarij are that they are friendly with non-Muslims and harsh with Muslims. now who is a puppet of america without any doubt? it is army. the reverse allegations of mujahideen being cia, raw agents is easily destructed by khost 2009 attack and 26/11. khawarij also make takfir on major sins. rebelling against a shariah government (not some democratic secular one) is considered a major sin, but in true khawarij fashion mujahideen haters (not necessarily pakistan army supporters) deem it as a sign of kufr and label such people khawarij.
      you guys can only survive with rhetoric. academically you lot are very poor.

      • the seige of kaaba was in 1979, the website has been notified.
        Lastly, did you see anyone putting WP ?? what is your proof ?? and what is your proof of 1000s killed ?

        Kindly dont mess with the figures!

        Laslty, the white phosphorous your type of mullas claim is not a chemical but a smoke grenade used in battles.

        So it was not really a massacre as you mullas claim.
        You people want to get attention by making a propaganda that a massacre was done, but the facts are clear now.

        • please see the video in the article which show some of the victims. take it to any doctor and ask him whether it was prolonged intense burning or a ‘smoke’ grenade. other proofs are in the article too. please read it before commenting next. or i will not bother to reply (or approve your comment).
          i do not claim thousands were killed. the figure was in hundreds and ISPR did their best to hide it. we have several evidences for it mentioned in the article.

          • Sorry to say but there are no evidences in the articles, there are only accusations and allegations. The wikileaks mentioned point at media reports and they are not evidence.

            As the videos are concerned, of course its possible that burns occur because that happens in war but its not a proof of chemical weapon, White Phosphorous is again a smoke grenade used in battles, search google. Chemical weapons are never used in close combat as it happen in Lal Masjid.

            How can you claim that ISPR did their best to hide the figures ? Its easy to make accusations but you have to prove them also. Here is one more video, the responsibility of handling bodies was done by Khubaib Foundation, take a look, it clears many misconceptions;

            Here is one video which also is worth watching, it explains a lot about the history of khawarij;

            In this regard, Supreme Court has made a commission to probe the incident. Lets wait and see.

            • you use the same medium to show ‘evidence': media. and when it points against you, you refute it? yes ,media lies sometimes but one has to prove it rather than just say this or that is baseless.
              as for ISPR well it was mentioned in wikileaks cable which you will ignore as it goes against your wishes. secondly the media was barred from entering the place right after the conclusion of the operation. this is from our sources and from the one media report you showed earlier. (at that time of course media held some weight for you as what they were saying was going in favour of what you wanted to portray). edhi’s 400 coffins revelation, the burial of multiple bodies in single coffins etc are also interesting revelations mentioned in the article which I asked you to read.
              I have seen ISPR at work, i know how every single news regarding army gets filtered by them (unless some that get away). here is evidence from media personnel themselves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlM2AvIvOWA

              now as for this khubaib video. suddenly you use CNBC, i.e the media, to show as ‘evidence, when you rejected wikileaks cable because of ‘media reports’? and that too a video after several years (the video isnt of 2007) after ISPR has gained full control of all news that come from media regarding lal masjid? 400 coffins and ‘less than 100 deaths’ do not match up.

              oh and guess what? i did search google for WP. while you were reading things of your own choice, google also says WP is used as an incendiary chemical weapon.
              here is a report on israel’s ‘war crime’ on use of WP: http://www.hrw.org/news/2009/03/25/israel-white-phosphorus-use-evidence-war-crimes
              this is also an interesting analogy: http://www.salon.com/2012/06/08/white_phosphorous_the_new_napalm/
              and the use of it by americans in iraq: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_phosphorus_use_in_Iraq
              here is it being used by syrian government: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/12/06/does-this-syria-video-reveal-the-use-of-chemical-weapons/

              and as the pictures of both lal masjid and its victims show it wasnt just some ‘burns’ but prolonged usage of WP that completely burnt the bodies of the victims black and also turned the interior of the masjid black as well. see picture at top.

              • Maybe you will never believe the facts because you want to believe what you think. The factual answers to your questions are again that;

                -Wikileaks are just news reports so there is no point of rejecting them, its just a news.

                -Preparing 400 shrouds does not mean that death toll is 400. Still you cant prove that casualties were 1000s

                -As WP is concerned, everything is made of chemicals, so you cant exploit the term of WP to your own advantage and call it a chemical weapon, fact is still the same that WP is a known smoke grenade and its not part of chemical warfare.

                -You accuse that ISPR denied access to news and filtering it. Your news is TOTALLY wrong that media was barred from entering the place right after the conclusion of the operation. The fact, media visited the complex immediately after the battle finished, on 12 July. In this short span of time, nothing can be hidden, fact.

                -You accuse that more than one bodies were put in one coffin. Is it a joke? Is it a butcher shop that pieces of meat will be collected and put in one coffin ?

                When you are making up and believing in fiction, then you are living in a world of fantasies.

                • yet in this ‘short period of time’ the place was spotlessly clean. you have been shown evidence that ISPR manipulates data about army given out by media. you choose not to believe it and accuse me of living in fantasies. amazing.
                  i never said casualty was in thousands. i, like mufti rafi uthmani, say it was in hundreds. you are putting words in my mouth which shows desperation nothing else. i will not even comment on the ridiculous definition of a chemical weapon. you were shown plenty of evidences where WP is used as an incendiary and you are again stubbornly sticking to your point. again, desperation.

                  you should be grateful that you were allowed to comment here. I tried commenting many times on pro-army lal masjid articles on blogs but my comments never made it past the ‘moderation’. when you are commenting next time, make sure you are not repeating yourself.

                  • Wait, you just believed in ISPR when they said that no suicide attack was done and still you also say that ISPR manipulates data. This is not clarity.

                    I never meant to put in your mouth that casualties were in 1000, its a perception. However even if hundreds (200/300/400/500) were killed as you claim then there should be no crying over it because its part of war and it should be accepted with open heart.

                    You still stick to claim WP as chemical weapon when it is factually a smoke grenade and evidence is given. You call it chemical weapon just because it is incendiary, this word means “capable of causing fire”. Every bomb explosion is capable of causing fire so this never justify claims of usage of chemical weapon. You say that I am stubborn but it looks like you dont accept the fact of WP as smoke grenade and are exploiting just because of its name.

                    You said that you commented on pro-army lal masjid articles on blogs which were never posted, maybe you were continuously posting controversies. I also want to visit them, kindly share.

                    Lastly, even if you dont allow me to post, controversial claims will still leave room for arguments or it can be said that facts will remain facts.

                    • i do not need ispr to verify anything. words of ghazi sahab and her student are enough (quoted in article) to know about ‘suicide bombers’. i merely pointed to the ispr article to show your desperate attempts at logic. which you have again failed at with your definition of incendiary in warfare. i am not exploiting any definitions of WP. i am merely using the one used internationally as an illegal incendiary and also as a smoke grenade. perhaps you do not know that some things burn much more than others and more destructively and hence are banned.

                      i commented on several links refuting their claims just like you are doing here. never published. one was musharraf’s biggest fan page with his address on main page . i think it was apml. others too but nothing ever. ‘awaiting moderation’.sigh.

              • In reference to what you said that – it wasnt just some ‘burns’ but prolonged usage of WP that completely burnt the bodies of the victims black and also turned the interior of the masjid black as well. see picture at top.

                It has to be mentioned that the media was told on visit to a blackened room that a suicide bomber detonated himself there which had presence of people. This can make black effect and burn the bodies beyond recognition. This is the most possible reason you are misjudging it with ‘prolong usage of WP’. Again a fact.

                • oh but this article from ‘media’ that you posted here some days ago quotes the ISPR chief that there were NO suicide attacks.
                  this is the article you shared: http://archives.dawn.com/2007/07/12/top1.htm
                  and at the bottom it is written: “He (ISPR chief) said no suicide attack had been carried out by militants during the whole operation.”

                  right at the bottom:). so simply repeating ‘fact’ over and over again doesn’t make it a fact.

                  • I took that information from Wikipedia page of Operation Silence. However thats an interesting fact you have pointed out and its now clear that no suicide attack was done, as told by ISPR.

                    • Ali,
                      kindly do not reply to the same thread but rather reply using the ‘leave a reply’ option on main page of article. this is because too many quotes have reduced the size of replies. thanks in advance.

  4. This post is a good propaganda and lacking complete information, also sympathizing with the kharijis of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa.

    the mention of “selected soldiers” or “shias” to carry out the operation is also non-sense. The operation was carried out by SSG who are sunnis.

  5. Pakistani Napak Murtad Army will be destroyed soon in sha Allah; Allah wont spare the Scholars who took side with Pak Taghoot gov n also to those Murjia Ulama

  6. At least you believe on a common point about suicide bombers mentioned by ISPR and Ghazi Rasheed.

    With kind respect, you are welcome to believe what ever you want but still it will be said that WP is a smoke grenade commonly used by armies and not a chemical weapon. Every bomb will be incendiary in warfare so why make issue of burns. Definition of “incendiary” is not from me so you cant say that I failed. You cant claim that the WP grenade is illegal.

    Here is the pic/info of the grenade on website of POF (Pakistan Ordnance Factories) which it produces and is used by army;
    http://www.pof.gov.pk/HG_smokewpp3mk1.aspx

    After seeing the clear info about WP gren, if still you claim about chemical weapon then there is no end to this argument. Besides, there should be no crying over burns because both sides were not throwing petals at each other.

    Allegations of WP and casualties will keep coming up to keep the issue alive because if it is perceived that everything is simply solved then the issue will be put under the carpet.

    Lastly, about Mushi websites, i also once posted his pic in uniform which they removed. Its not a big surprise if they disapprove your posts refuting their claims.

    So are you the webmaster of this website ?

    • which pakistani soldier was burnt intensely for an extended period of time?
      secondly ‘incendiary’ is not the issue. if you say every bomb will be incendiary why not use the atomic bomb too? or hydrogen bomb? because it just doesn’t ‘burns’ it destroys and destroys on a very large scale. this is why WP is illegal as an ‘incendiary’ and becomes classified as a chemical weapon which is a crime committed by pakistan army. a similar argument you brought before that every weapon is ‘chemical’ suffers from the same flawed reasoning. every material is ‘atomic’ so should every bomb be called atomic bomb?

      • Again… you are saying that WP smoke gren is illegal when its clearly not, its a smoke grenade. If it was illegal then it would not be openly mentioned for the world to criticize. This is why I said that after seeing the clear info about WP gren, if still you claim about chemical weapon then there is no end to this argument.

        It looks like you will always put up these allegations to make the issue stay alive but facts will remain fact.

        And lastly, this is an extremist statement from you when you say – why not use the atomic bomb too? or hydrogen bomb?. Of course these things cannot be used and you are emotional when you make this comment.

  7. There are some other parts of the story.
    There was an initial plan to storm Lal masjid in Feb 2007. This was approved by all people involved

    http://www.expressindia.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=89581

    However Ch Shujat was able to through negotiations bring those plans to ends which is the background to this wikileaks cable
    http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/04/07ISLAMABAD1846.html

    Thats why Ch Shujaat was so angry in the cable. He was told that Lalmasjid was full of militants and weapons. When he did a detailed tour he found nothing and realised he was lied to.

    This information filtered into the army.So the SSG counter terrorism unit SSg Zarar Company there was already discontent on the intended and long planned operation
    So much so two members were court-martial
    http://news.oneindia.in/2010/06/08/axedpak-army-commando-opposed-to-lal-masjid-operations.html

    This is the context for the Bombing of Zarar Company at Ghazi base in tarbela. It was done by an inider who took C4 from the Armoury and blew up the mess killing 22 soldiers involved in the operation.
    http://tribune.com.pk/story/462715/the-phantom-soldiers/

  8. Casualties is another issue.
    In my estimation their may have been around 250- 300 killed. Civ,Militants, Security forces.
    Most were killed when the complex was stormed.
    http://www.paktribune.com/news/print.php?id=183843

    Now Zaid Hamid insist on a lower casualty count. But right after the crisis he gave an interview where he also maintained that figure of 200-250 overall.
    http://www.defence.pk/forums/strategic-geopolitical-issues/7035-asessment-lal-masjid-operation-pakistani-think-tank-brasstacks.html

    The nation manged to get interview from grave diggers where the victims were buried.
    In English Dailies The Nation and DAWN are known to be the two most factual.
    http://web.archive.org/web/20071009084010/http://www.nation.com.pk/daily/july-2007/13/nationalnews3.php
    Quote:
    Till noon nearly seventy-three bodies were buried as the process of digging the graves continued.
    The undertaker while talking to TheNation said, “ We started the process of digging these graves at around 3 am. So far we have buried seventy three coffins and we are still in the process of digging.”
    A gravedigger told TheNation that there was a possibility that there were more than one body in each coffin. He further said that they could not recognize whether there were any women in it as the coffins were sealed and bodies totally wrapped up. He also informed that there were bodies of some children also.

    End Quote

    Furthur more there are many reports about body parts and other rubble that were dumped in a naali by CDA From Geo etc

    The earliest reports were probably most valid. After which ISPR went into damage control mode.
    Its worth noting the media was very very pro Mushraf through out the Lal Masjid affair. Even the American ambassador in the April cable notes this fact. Musharaf felt that if he backed down he would be attacked for being to soft on militants etc.

    This turned out to be true because the Editorial on Dawn and Daily times really went out of their way to support Musharaf the next day.

    The attacking force was of 164 Security forces mostly from Zarar Company. Of these their were 55 casualties, per Ikram Saigal who conducted interviews with the remaing company.
    http://www.thedailystar.net/2006/2007/07/26/d70726020431.htm.

  9. Finally Pakistani media especially English Language media had a very very shameful role in the whole saga. A thoroughly blood thirsty lot.
    At the time the coverage was so one sided it was infuriating. The most even handed account was in AJE Documentary by Rageh Omar. Hamid Mir.
    A visiting professor of Journalism wrote an oped in the Hindu that should be compared to the shameful, sociopathic nonsense that filled up Pakistani news Papers.

    http://www.hindu.com/2007/07/13/stories/2007071353821100.htm

    The Masjid & the mindset of despair

    Robert Jensen

    For my first three days in Pakistan, no conversation could go more than a few minutes without a reference to the crisis at the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) compound. I had landed in Islamabad on July 8, and by then it seemed clear that government forces would eventually storm the mosque and the attached women’s seminary to end the confrontation with fundamentalist clerics and their supporters.

    The final assault was finally unleashed as two companions and I drove to Lahore as part of a lecture tour. During several hours of intense discussion in the car, they gave me background and details that explained the real tragedy of the conflict.

    When the news of the final assault came via cell phone we all fell silent, and we all quietly cried — for those killed and for opportunities lost, out of our grief and from our fear.

    In the western news media and even much of the Pakistani press, the story was framed as crazed radical Islamist forces challenging relatively restrained government forces. Indeed, the two brothers who ran the mosque preached an interpretation of Islam that was mostly reactionary and sometimes violent. None of us in the car — two Muslims and one Christian, all progressive in theological and political thought — supported such views.

    But there was more to the story. Farid Esack, ( http://www.hds.harvard.edu/faculty/visit/esack.html ), one of the world’s foremost progressive Muslim theologians who was in Pakistan to teach and lecture, and Junaid Ahmad, ( http://www.interfaithjustpeace.org/speakers.php#ahmad) a Pakistani-American activist and law student directing the lecture series, both pointed out that key social and economic aspects of the story were being overlooked.

    Economic inequality
    In addition to calls for shariah law under a fundamentalist Islamic state, Lal Masjid imams Abdur Rashid Ghazi and Mohammed Abdul Aziz critiqued the corruption of Pakistani political, military, and economic elites, highlighting the living conditions of the millions of Pakistanis living in poverty. As in most third world societies, the inequality gap here has widened in recent years, as those who find their place in the U.S.-dominated neoliberal economic project prosper while most ordinary people suffer, especially the poor.

    “We can reject the jihadist and patriarchal aspects and still recognise that there is in this fundamentalist philosophy a call for social justice, a challenge to the power-seeking and greed of elites,” said Esack, the author of Qur’an: Liberation and Pluralism. “When I spoke with Ghazi, it was clear that was an important part of his thinking, and it’s equally clear that the appeal of this theology is magnified by the lack of meaningful calls for justice from other sectors of society.”

    Esack, who teaches at Harvard Divinity School and is a former national commissioner for gender equality in South Africa, had been visiting the mosque regularly and speaking to Ghazi and others inside until government forces sealed the area a few days earlier. A native of South Africa who was active in the struggle against apartheid, Esack spent much of his childhood in Pakistan at a madrassa, where he was a classmate of Aziz. Contrary to the media image of Ghazi, the cleric had a broader agenda and wanted to learn more about how an Islamic state could be structured to ensure economic equality, Esack said.

    “My vision of an inclusive polity influenced by progressive Islamic values is very different than Ghazi’s, of course, but his theology should not be reduced to a caricature, as it so often was, especially in the West,” Esack said.

    Ahmad emphasised that another crucial part of the story involved economics, specifically land. Press reports focussed on the provocative activities of students and supporters of Lal Masjid members threatening video store owners, raiding brothels, and clashing with police, but an underlying cause of the conflict was the existence of “unauthorised” mosques. Many of these mosques and madrassas had been built without permits on unused public land in Islamabad. As the city has grown more crowded and developers eyed that real estate for commercial building, the government took the risky step of destroying some of those mosques (though the many non-religious, profit-generating projects also built without permits remain undisturbed). Clerics protested, adding to the intensity of the Lal Masjid conflict.

    The Islamabad factor
    Esack and Ahmad agreed that another aspect of the crisis mostly ignored in the press was the fact that the events played out in Islamabad, home to the more secular-liberal and privileged elements of the society. While those liberals might ignore such movements and conflicts in the outer provinces, many found it offensive that such an embarrassing incident could happen in the capital, where the world eventually would pay attention.

    “We hear about how this is bad for the image of Pakistan, with no comment about the lives of ordinary Pakistanis and the substance of what the country is about,” Ahmad said. “Instead of talking about these fundamental questions of justice, many people wanted to see the incident ended to avoid further tarnishing of the country’s image. It’s like the obsession the United States has with simply changing its image in the Muslim world rather than recognizing the injustice of its policies.”

    In the construction of that image, the stories of the reality of the lives of people at Lal Masjid are typically untold. As the crisis unfolded and some of the madrassa students left the compound, the government gave them some money and told them to go home.

    “The problem is, many had no homes to go to,” Ahmad said. “Whatever the reactionary theology of Lal Masjid, it provided a place for many who were dispossessed or from poor families. If the economy ignores people and the state provides nothing, where will they go?”

    My trip to Pakistan had been set months in advance; my presence there during this crisis was coincidence. Throughout my stay, as I listened to the discussion about the conflict, I realised how much less I could have understood the events if I had been in the United States, even though I would have been reading the international press on the web. The complexity of such stories so rarely makes it into print, and the humanity of the people demonised drops out all too easily.

    As we drove in silence, I thought of how easy it is from positions of safety and comfort to denounce fundamentalism, how often I have done just that. But who are we targeting when we make such statements? I have no trouble denouncing the bin Ladens and al-Zawahiris, or the Bushs and Robertsons, and critiquing their twisted worldview. But what of the ordinary people struggling against the elites who ignore the cries of the suffering? When those people take up a fundamentalist theology that we western left-progressives reject, must we not highlight the inequality we also say we oppose?

    Esack said some have asked him what he hoped to gain by going to Lal Masjid and talking with someone like Ghazi, but he has no doubts about the value and appropriateness of his visits there.

    “When we abandon engagement and dialogue with those who hold these beliefs, we are abandoning hope. My goal is not to wall myself off from other Muslims, but to search for authentic connections, even across these gaps. Is that not how we can heal the world, and ourselves?” he said. “It is precisely when we start to think of some of us as ‘chosen’ and others as ‘frozen’ that we happily become willing to defrost them with our bombs.”

    Anger and deep sorrow
    That moment in the car, as we absorbed the news that the troops had cleared the mosque and that Ghazi and dozens of others were dead, I felt angry at people like Ghazi and at the same time a deep sorrow for his death. I felt a much deeper rage at Pakistan’s military President, Pervez Musharraf, and the U.S. leaders who support him. And I felt a kind of fear for the Muslim fundamentalism that unleashes such violent forces, which always reminds me of the equally frightening Christian fundamentalist theology circulating in the United States.

    I bounced between a deep sense of despair and an equally deep sense of hope. Once the confrontation was set in motion, perhaps the people inside the mosque and the soldiers killed were doomed. But in the car in that moment, I could feel hope that the work of people like Esack and Ahmad was setting in motion other forces. Mostly I was grateful to be in their company to share the grief. In such moments, that connection is perhaps the most human and the most hopeful of endeavours.

    (Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity. He is in Pakistan as a Higher Education Commission Visiting Scholar.)

    The Lal Masjid story is framed as crazed radical Islamist forces challenging relatively restrained government forces. But there is much more to it.

    — PHOTO: AFP

    Pakistani and foreign media representatives at the Lal Masjid in Islamabad on Thursday.
    For my first three days in Pakistan, no conversation could go more than a few minutes without a reference to the crisis at the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) compound. I had landed in Islamabad on July 8, and by then it seemed clear that government forces would eventually storm the mosque and the attached women’s seminary to end the confrontation with fundamentalist clerics and their supporters.

    The final assault was finally unleashed as two companions and I drove to Lahore as part of a lecture tour. During several hours of intense discussion in the car, they gave me background and details that explained the real tragedy of the conflict.

    When the news of the final assault came via cell phone we all fell silent, and we all quietly cried — for those killed and for opportunities lost, out of our grief and from our fear.

    In the western news media and even much of the Pakistani press, the story was framed as crazed radical Islamist forces challenging relatively restrained government forces. Indeed, the two brothers who ran the mosque preached an interpretation of Islam that was mostly reactionary and sometimes violent. None of us in the car — two Muslims and one Christian, all progressive in theological and political thought — supported such views.

    But there was more to the story. Farid Esack, ( http://www.hds.harvard.edu/faculty/visit/esack.html ), one of the world’s foremost progressive Muslim theologians who was in Pakistan to teach and lecture, and Junaid Ahmad, ( http://www.interfaithjustpeace.org/speakers.php#ahmad) a Pakistani-American activist and law student directing the lecture series, both pointed out that key social and economic aspects of the story were being overlooked.

    Economic inequality
    In addition to calls for shariah law under a fundamentalist Islamic state, Lal Masjid imams Abdur Rashid Ghazi and Mohammed Abdul Aziz critiqued the corruption of Pakistani political, military, and economic elites, highlighting the living conditions of the millions of Pakistanis living in poverty. As in most third world societies, the inequality gap here has widened in recent years, as those who find their place in the U.S.-dominated neoliberal economic project prosper while most ordinary people suffer, especially the poor.

    “We can reject the jihadist and patriarchal aspects and still recognise that there is in this fundamentalist philosophy a call for social justice, a challenge to the power-seeking and greed of elites,” said Esack, the author of Qur’an: Liberation and Pluralism. “When I spoke with Ghazi, it was clear that was an important part of his thinking, and it’s equally clear that the appeal of this theology is magnified by the lack of meaningful calls for justice from other sectors of society.”

    Esack, who teaches at Harvard Divinity School and is a former national commissioner for gender equality in South Africa, had been visiting the mosque regularly and speaking to Ghazi and others inside until government forces sealed the area a few days earlier. A native of South Africa who was active in the struggle against apartheid, Esack spent much of his childhood in Pakistan at a madrassa, where he was a classmate of Aziz. Contrary to the media image of Ghazi, the cleric had a broader agenda and wanted to learn more about how an Islamic state could be structured to ensure economic equality, Esack said.

    “My vision of an inclusive polity influenced by progressive Islamic values is very different than Ghazi’s, of course, but his theology should not be reduced to a caricature, as it so often was, especially in the West,” Esack said.

    Ahmad emphasised that another crucial part of the story involved economics, specifically land. Press reports focussed on the provocative activities of students and supporters of Lal Masjid members threatening video store owners, raiding brothels, and clashing with police, but an underlying cause of the conflict was the existence of “unauthorised” mosques. Many of these mosques and madrassas had been built without permits on unused public land in Islamabad. As the city has grown more crowded and developers eyed that real estate for commercial building, the government took the risky step of destroying some of those mosques (though the many non-religious, profit-generating projects also built without permits remain undisturbed). Clerics protested, adding to the intensity of the Lal Masjid conflict.

    The Islamabad factor
    Esack and Ahmad agreed that another aspect of the crisis mostly ignored in the press was the fact that the events played out in Islamabad, home to the more secular-liberal and privileged elements of the society. While those liberals might ignore such movements and conflicts in the outer provinces, many found it offensive that such an embarrassing incident could happen in the capital, where the world eventually would pay attention.

    “We hear about how this is bad for the image of Pakistan, with no comment about the lives of ordinary Pakistanis and the substance of what the country is about,” Ahmad said. “Instead of talking about these fundamental questions of justice, many people wanted to see the incident ended to avoid further tarnishing of the country’s image. It’s like the obsession the United States has with simply changing its image in the Muslim world rather than recognizing the injustice of its policies.”

    In the construction of that image, the stories of the reality of the lives of people at Lal Masjid are typically untold. As the crisis unfolded and some of the madrassa students left the compound, the government gave them some money and told them to go home.

    “The problem is, many had no homes to go to,” Ahmad said. “Whatever the reactionary theology of Lal Masjid, it provided a place for many who were dispossessed or from poor families. If the economy ignores people and the state provides nothing, where will they go?”

    My trip to Pakistan had been set months in advance; my presence there during this crisis was coincidence. Throughout my stay, as I listened to the discussion about the conflict, I realised how much less I could have understood the events if I had been in the United States, even though I would have been reading the international press on the web. The complexity of such stories so rarely makes it into print, and the humanity of the people demonised drops out all too easily.

    As we drove in silence, I thought of how easy it is from positions of safety and comfort to denounce fundamentalism, how often I have done just that. But who are we targeting when we make such statements? I have no trouble denouncing the bin Ladens and al-Zawahiris, or the Bushs and Robertsons, and critiquing their twisted worldview. But what of the ordinary people struggling against the elites who ignore the cries of the suffering? When those people take up a fundamentalist theology that we western left-progressives reject, must we not highlight the inequality we also say we oppose?

    Esack said some have asked him what he hoped to gain by going to Lal Masjid and talking with someone like Ghazi, but he has no doubts about the value and appropriateness of his visits there.

    “When we abandon engagement and dialogue with those who hold these beliefs, we are abandoning hope. My goal is not to wall myself off from other Muslims, but to search for authentic connections, even across these gaps. Is that not how we can heal the world, and ourselves?” he said. “It is precisely when we start to think of some of us as ‘chosen’ and others as ‘frozen’ that we happily become willing to defrost them with our bombs.”

    Anger and deep sorrow
    That moment in the car, as we absorbed the news that the troops had cleared the mosque and that Ghazi and dozens of others were dead, I felt angry at people like Ghazi and at the same time a deep sorrow for his death. I felt a much deeper rage at Pakistan’s military President, Pervez Musharraf, and the U.S. leaders who support him. And I felt a kind of fear for the Muslim fundamentalism that unleashes such violent forces, which always reminds me of the equally frightening Christian fundamentalist theology circulating in the United States.

    I bounced between a deep sense of despair and an equally deep sense of hope. Once the confrontation was set in motion, perhaps the people inside the mosque and the soldiers killed were doomed. But in the car in that moment, I could feel hope that the work of people like Esack and Ahmad was setting in motion other forces. Mostly I was grateful to be in their company to share the grief. In such moments, that connection is perhaps the most human and the most hopeful of endeavours.

    (Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity. He is in Pakistan as a Higher Education Commission Visiting Scholar.)

  10. @ student,

    Again… you are saying that WP smoke gren is illegal when its clearly not, its a smoke grenade. If it was illegal then it would not be openly mentioned for the world to criticize. This is why I said that after seeing the clear info about WP gren, if still you claim about chemical weapon then there is no end to this argument.

    It looks like you will always put up these allegations to make the issue stay alive but facts will remain fact.

    And lastly, this is an extremist statement from you when you say – why not use the atomic bomb too? or hydrogen bomb?. Of course these things cannot be used and you are emotional when you make this comment.

    • i think i must be repeating myself for the third time that WP ‘used as an incendiary’ is illegal while WP ‘used as smoke screen’ is not. read that again. that is a fact. every incendiary isnt illegal but some are and WP is one of them. read that again too.
      i only mentioned atomic bombs because you gave the ridiculous definition of ‘every bomb can be incendiary’ to defend the army. this is just like the ridiculous argument you gave some days back which said everything is made of chemicals so every weapon is chemical (or something to that effect).
      let me quote you:”As WP is concerned, everything is made of chemicals, so you cant exploit the term of WP to your own advantage and call it a chemical weapon, fact is still the same that WP is a known smoke grenade and its not part of chemical warfare.”
      ridiculous analogies such as these will have equally ridiculous sounding refutations from my side.

      • @ The Student

        You are very right, the WP Smoke Discharge Grenade mentioned here and used, which is for creating smoke screen with incendiary effect, is really a chemical weapon.

        It is very lethal and dangerous for using in war because of being used as smoke screen.

        Incendiary which means “capable of causing fire” is also an evil element of war.

        You win !

        • the completely burnt victims clearly show that the WP was used as an incendiary for a prolonged time. whether smoke discharge grenade was also used that is not the question.
          it’s not about winning or losing it is about getting to the bottom of things.

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