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Sanctuary of the Masjid

10 July, 2007

By Abid Mustafa


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The intensification of fighting between the students of Lal Masjid and the Pakistani army has left hundreds dead and many injured. This has prompted President Musharraf to issue the following provocative statement: "If they do not surrender so I am saying here today that they will be killed. They should not force us to use force. They should come out voluntarily; otherwise they will be killed…" Even before Musharraf's ultimatum, his government was swift to attribute the entire blame for the current crisis on Abdul Rashid Ghazi—the principal of the seminary.   However, a close examination of the events preceding the current standoff, suggests that the entire saga has been engineered by the Pakistani government.

For the past six months, the government has tolerated the behaviour of the students whenever they chose to challenge its writ. The accumulation of illegal arms, the abduction of Pakistani socialites and policemen, and the seizure of six Chinese women was met with muted criticism from government officials. Furthermore, these activities were not clandestine, and were planned and executed in full view of ISI's headquarters located in close proximity to the confines of the Lal Masjid.  The frequent visit of ISI officials and government representatives negates government claims that it was exploring an amicable outcome— especially when measured against the ferocity of the Pakistani government's response to similar incidents in tribal agencies and elsewhere in Balochistan. So why has the Pakistani government waited so long to barricade the Masjid with military hardware fit for an overwhelming assault.

This question can only be answered in the broader context of the challenges facing Musharraf's rule. At present the Musharraf government has had to contend with both the secular opposition and Islamic forces calling for his removal. The secular forces championed by the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) and Chief Justice Iftikhar have gained momentum and have frustrated America's initiative to get Musharraf re-elected. To diffuse this threat, Musharraf under US auspices has held secret talks with certain leaders of the secular opposition and has deployed force against others. The deaths in Karachi are a manifestation of the latter approach. As far as negotiations are concerned, the US on Musharraf's behalf is already engaged in advanced talks with Benazir Bhutto with aim to break the back of the secular opposition and secure a second presidential term for Musharraf. This also explains Bhutto's recent ambiguous stance on the All Parties Conference  (APC) in London, which she has shunned so far.

Whilst the Islamic opposition unhappy with Musharraf's pro-American policies and his neo-liberal attitudes have taken upon themselves to oust him from power. Some have resorted to militancy and others have engaged in protests to vent their anger. But the wellspring of their resentment is fuelled by the religious seminaries which America has identified for secularization or closure. Unlike the secular opposition—where America was keen to compromise and broker a deal— the Islamic forces in the eyes of American policy makers must be secularized at gun point, and any resistance must be crushed.  Hence the surrounding of Lal Masjid by the military in the absence of martial law, the humiliation of Abdul Aziz Ghazi on Pakistan television, the abrupt cancellation of talks, the media black out and the announcement of 'surrender or die' as a solution to the crisis is an ominous sign for the future of religious seminaries in Pakistan.

What is transpiring at Lal Masjid has all the hallmarks of becoming a template for Musharraf to deal with other religious schools and institutions— a recipe for civil war. Not to mention that the timing of the crisis suits Musharraf, as it deflects the public's attention away from the secular opposition and the government's disastrous response to the floods in Balochistan.

What is evident is that the utilization of force by the government to deal with both secular and Islamic forces exposes the intellectual bankruptcy of Musharraf's mantra of enlightened moderation. Instead of employing thoughts to battle the ideas of the opposition, Musharraf has resorted to force. The same method has been repeated by Musharraf's allies—America and NATO — under the guise of 'battle of hearts and minds' and both have failed to crush the Islamic movements in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. So what chance does Musharraf have?

Reader Comments:

Re: Sanctuary?

The sanctuary of the mosque
was shattered,when armament was stored inside and preying
on the souls instead of praying for spiritual guidance.Allama Iqbal wrote;
Khuda tuj e kisi toofan se
ashna ker de.
keh ter e bah er ki moh jo me astr ab nahi.
Tu kitab kho an heh, mag ar
sahib e kitab nahi.
Cramming the Koran like the
parrot or myhna and then interpreting to one's whims
does not bring Heaven to your
feet nor near your Creator.
Our leaders no matter to which profession they belong.
Fail to differentiate between
the Power of Will and their
Power of Reasoning.


Khalid Rahim, Canada - 11 July, 2007

Islamic movements !

Islamic movements in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.
Afghanistan may be but never knew about one in Iraq or Palestine unless the auhtor meant to say "Movements by Muslims".
The only Islamic movement that was taking place anywhere was in Afghanistan and it was shot down in it's very early stages by USA with the active assistance & role of the Sheikhdom of Saudi Arabia as soon as the Russians retreated from there and a practical Islamic State was the choice of Afghans.


Matloob Zaman, Pakistan - 11 July, 2007

Action of Pakistan President P.Musharaff is correct

Deliberate attempt has been made to give bad name to Islam while gurduuaras have already been erected and Islamic heritage being destroyed every where. Lack of
Knowledge is no excuse. What Pakistan Army did in Lalmasjid is correct.i.e. To maintain
Pakistan sovereignty and Save Image of Islam (wrongly distorted).


be Zee, Canada - 11 July, 2007

All activities related to Lal Masjid & Historical place and Taj Mahal linked

As a starter Taj Mahal of few weeks ago was different than Today.Previously water was fresh .Today the water seem salty (not even Jamuna water) but more likely Ganges.All Islamic Heritage buildings in India and globe being defaced and destroyed with Sikhism activity working with Bush Blair Harper and Saudi regime.All Lal masjid event is inter ralated with such historical locations amid water projects (related).Also various seminaries in the format of Muslim cult have been created.Worst still even marbles of such places being pulled out here and there and fungus being grown amid ruins which were not there (recently).In fact Jama Masjid would have had Eid Gah for upto 5 million from Delhi and vicinity.Instead it has been blocked and obstructed for good.This is illicit acts of today.British Raj reference is also not accurate.Pakistan Army act seem justified amid some mystery.

Z.Billo, Pakistan - 11 July, 2007

Musharraf against islamic and secular forces

Islamic forces secularised at gunpoint.Perhaps this is the only way to tame these taliban/al queda type extremists hellbent on draging muslims nations back into the middle ages.Most other nations throughout the world are moving forward into the 21st century treading the path of progress, economic advancement education and upliftment of their peoples.Taliban and al queda forces and people who support them will never accept forward thinking democratic progressive muslim states at peace with themselves and the rest of the world.They represent a facist cruel face of islam akin to the third riech of hitlers germany who too used violence and hatred aginst anyone who opposed his beleifs.Any leader of pakistan as of any other modern progressive country who have to do the same action.The people of pakistan have to decide in the end wether to choose the path of progressive modern advancement or a ruinous/failed state like afghanistan

ash, United Arab Emirates - 12 July, 2007

It was the right move!

For once the pak gov. made the right move to save the image of its state, people and sovereignty. There is no grounds for argument, all points of discourse were rejected the moment the mosque became a store room for deadly arnaments and innocent kidnapped victims.
Any decent gov. would have reacted in the same way; in the world stage Pak has made a decent stand today, don't ruin it.

ganenthiran, Canada - 12 July, 2007

Wrong means

If Govt. wanted to flush out terrorism, they should have taken some long term strategy. The problem with Pakistan is, now they have to work as per the whims of China. Chinese citizens are getting abducted and killed. One threatening from Beijing, and Musarraf started killing people he have groomed for long time.

Nikus, Hungary - 13 July, 2007

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