President Musharraf spoke and revealed some reasons why the government has not yet taken action against Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa. It turns out that there are suicide bombers from Jaish-e=Mohamed, an Al Qaeda aligned jihadist group, inside the madrassas. They are using the female students as human shields, and he wants to prevent unecessary deaths. Sounds reasonable, but I have to wonder at the opportunities that the government has had to grab both of the brothers who lead the mosque while they were outside with the press that went unused.
This however could be a situation like Beslan, or the school in Iraq, where the madrassa is wired with high explosives and most of the students are really hostage.
As noted in previous Pakistan updates, I think AQ has changed tactics. They now realize the cause is lost in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and they are now focused on taking down the government of Pakistan. This is evidenced by the large influx of foreign fighters these past few weeks — numerous extremists have been picked up at the Taftan border crossing, but how many of the veterans from Iraq are getting through, and planning on taking over in the NWFP?
From his speech via Daily Times:
President Musharraf said on Friday that the potential loss of human lives was preventing him from taking any action against the Lal Masjid, while adding that suicide bombers from Jaish-e-Mohammad were also hiding in the mosque.
“We are afraid of the baton-wielding madrassas who will stand by Lal Masjid if we launch action,” he said, while addressing the concluding ceremony of the National Media Workshop organised by the National Defence University. He said the female students of the Lal Masjid’s adjoining madrassa were “prepared for suicide attacks” and up to 500 children “were being used as human shields” to stop the government from contemplating any operation.
He said members of Jaish-e-Mohammad, a banned militant group linked to Al Qaeda, were also hiding in the mosque, adding that they were all capable of suicide attacks. “How can I take action?” he said. “Action is ready but will be taken at a right time.”
According to Aaj television, the President added that the government would take action against the Lal Masjid if the media guaranteed that it would not show any dead bodies in electronic or print media.
The questions remaining are: how many of the students are willing participants, and how many are really hostage?
Previous stories on Lal Masjid and their provocations
The mainstream press finally catches on to the gravity of the situation here.