Lal Masjid - Conflict

Conflict

CDA demolished 7 mosques around January 2007 in the capital city of Islamabad which were reportedly built illegally on government's land. One of those mosques were built some 100 years ago and was situated roadside of a main highway being used for VIP movement. These mosques were directly under influence of Lal Masjid because most of the clerics appointed there were graduated from seminary build conjunctly with Lal Masjid. CDA promised to give substitute lands for these mosques after demolishing, but they were never given. The two brothers took stand against this issue and things started piling up for next so many months. This issue was conflagrated when Maulana Abdul Aziz's Fatwa came into limelight in which he stated that: "No Pakistani Army officer could be given an Islamic burial if died fighting the taliban." The reason behind this Fatwa was, Maulana Abdul Aziz believed that Taliban is fighting in Afghanistan on a noble cause against American invaders in their country, after being declared this was as 'Crusade' by President George W Bush. This fatwa was contentious enough to draw attention of Pakistan Army officials and plan was made somewhere at that time to get rid of these "other" guys from scene. A campaign was started from government's side as well as from Lal Masjid's side to oppress each others stance.

The students (both male and female) took to the streets to persuade video shops not to sell "vulgar" movies. The campaign took a turn for the worse when the students seized a famous brothel owner in the Aapara area, where both the Taliban-supporting Lal Masjid and the state's Inter-Services Intelligence are situated. They held the woman hostage in their seminary. Despite complaints, the government was unable to do anything about the brothels in the area because of the unholy nexus between high-ups and the prostitutes. Thus the students took matters into their own hands, much as the Taliban did as they emerged as a power in the 1990s in Afghanistan and in the Waziristan tribal areas.

The students had the full backing of prominent religious personalities. Ghazi Abdul Rasheed and Maulana Abdul Aziz, the brothers who ran the Lal Masjid and the men's and women's seminaries. The police tried to broker the release of the suspected brothel owner and, when they failed, they arrested two female teachers from the seminary. In a matter of minutes, students and followers of the Taliban blocked all important arteries in Aapara, and also took two police officers with their official vehicle as hostage.

When Abdul Aziz threatened to call a jihad, the two women were released, so the students then released the policemen.

Abdul Rasheed explained his feelings on a call for jihad. "The students from universities and colleges and youths from all walks of life ask why we do not call for jihad against a repressive regime, but I always say that the time is not ripe. But when pious lady teachers are punished and arrested for the sake of prostitutes, a call for jihad is imminent." Abdul Rasheed and his brother Abdul Aziz commanded widespread support and were vocal in their backing of the Taliban. The authorities had on several occasions tried to have them arrested, but had always desisted for fear of a powerful backlash, both among the masses and segments of the establishment. Following the kidnapping of an alleged ‘brothel’ by the women students of Jamia Hafsa - who still held a children’s library hostage - the leaders declared the establishment of a ‘Shariat Court’ of their own and, according to Dawn, “vowed to enforce Islamic laws in the federal capital and threatened to unleash a wave of suicide bombers if the government took any action to counter it.” The report in Dawn goes on to say:

“Our youth will commit suicide attacks, if the government impedes the enforcement of the Sharia and attacks Lal Masjid and its sister seminaries,” Maulana Abdul Aziz, the head of the mosque said in his Friday sermon. The fresh suicide bombing threat intensified fear among Islamabad residents.

President Gen Pervez Musharraf stated that he knew that the Lal Masjid’s management wilfully harboured suicide bombers. He said that the suicide bomber who had attacked Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel in January 2007, had been seen near the mosque the same day.

Maulana Abdul Aziz announced the setting up of a Qazi court in his sermon that also marked the opening of a three-day Nifaz Sharia-o-Azmat Jihad Conference. A large number of supporters had reached the mosque. The government did nothing to stop the groups of people coming from different cities and nearby areas throughout the day to participate in the conference.

Religious activists, some of whom were wearing masks, also staged a demonstration before the Friday prayers. Burqa-clad girl students of Madressah Hafsa kept a vigil atop the seminary’s roof. The activists were chanting “Al Jihad, Al Jihad”. Armed with sticks, a group of religious activists set on fire thousands of video and audio cassettes and computer compact discs, “given up” voluntarily by a shopowner who, according to them,abandoned “this business”.

Maulana Abdul Aziz reminded the shopkeepers that they had been given a 30-day deadline to close down their evil businesses and switch over to some other “decent” venture and said students of the seminary would punish the shopkeepers who did not do so. He asked traders to financially “support” the owners of video and CDs shops to enable them to switch over to some other business. Maulana Abdul Aziz urged the authorities and the people concerned to stop dealing in video CDs, putting up billboards with women's photographs, selling liquor and running brothels and drug dens in Islamabad.

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