Saturday, July 14, 2007

Red Mist at the Red Mosque

Many people are asking, what actually happened at the Lal Masjid AKA The Red Mosque in Islamabad? The mosque is round the corner from the intelligence headquarters in Islamabad and certainly easily monitored. Mosques are not closed centres but are always open to the public, so they are not hard to keep an eye on. Former cricketer and now philanthropic politician, Imran Khan asks:
Why was action not taken immediately? How were militants and arms able to get in under the gaze of the police and intelligence services? And why were other measures, including shutting off electricity at the mosque, not exhausted earlier?
The red mosque mullahs were stupid ignorant twits with dozens of armed hardline students but they were certainly not Al-Qaeda. To me it looks like the pressure was allowed to build and come to a climax, so that Musharaff could prove his loyalty to Washington yet again. Many people in Pakistan are angry at the Mullahs who disgraced Islam yet again but also livid at the way the episode was handled by the Musharaff reshime.

Just before the storming of the mosque, a dozen religious figures were sent in to negotiate with Ghazi and his followers. It seems that they managed to come up with some kind of written agreement. However, when they passed it onto the Pakistani ministers, the agreement that arrived back had been completely changed much to the anger of the negotiators. It seems as if somebody did not want an agreement and wanted to go ahead with an attack. The western media dutifully reported that the negotiations had failed.

The aftermath of the battle was also very suspicious. First of all the several hundred of armed followers previously announced did not materialise. Apart from suicide bombers, the mullah's followers appear not to have used the arsenal of grenade launchers and heavy weapons they were alleged to have.
At her family's small home in a poor district of Islamabad, Asma Mazher, said the students had only 15 AK-47 rifles and home-made petrol bombs and that there were no hostages. "If we had those types of weapons [that the army put on display] we would have used them.
The scene was quickly sanitised with all the blood washed away and areas remained off-limits to the media even when reporters were allowed in to report the aftermath. Mysteriously many students and people were missing but unaccounted for whilst their relatives searched for them in vain. Some claimed that multiple bodies were being buried by the authorities - perhaps in desperation at not being able to find their relatives.
What happened to all the hostages, if all the women and children had not been released already? According to the authorities no women or children died.

The media channels dutifully relayed tonnes of armaments and munitions oiled, polished and neatly lined up, to show how the militants had been armed to the teeth. Yet, to me it seemed all wrong. They looked like army weaponry, carefully polished and maintained - certainly not the weaponry you associate with a rag-tag group of militant fundamentalist students. Evidence of the hardened 'foreign fighters' seems to have vanished too. Ghazi himself had denied that any foreign extremists were present but he had threatened the use of suicide bombing. In washington, politicians had been openly wondering whether it was time to remove Musharaff because he had become extremely unpopular due to his murderous action against lawyers and the chief justice. This seige comes at a very convenient time to help Musharaff stay in favour.


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