Jamia Hafsa Lal Masjid Break off Talks

Jamia Hafsa leaders broke off negotiations to end the library siege after an army helicopter hovered over them and took pictures. They reported that the helicopter sprayed “strange gas on them” but I would wager that’s the normal exhaust and they are exagerating.

 From Daily Times:

The Lal Masjid on Monday pulled out of talks with the government, after two army helicopters hovered over the mosque compound in the morning taking pictures and spraying a gas on madrassa students, in what the mosque sees as a prelude to an operation.

“In the present situation when military helicopters are hovering over Lal Masjid and an operation is being finalised under the cover of talks, we cannot continue negotiations any further,” Maulana Abdul Aziz, chief cleric of Lal Masjid, told reporters.

Earlier, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, brother and deputy of Aziz, said an army helicopter “appeared from nowhere” at around 10:40am and hovered over the mosque and its Jamia Hafsa madrassa for girls for around 15 minutes, and took pictures of the unveiled students and sprayed a “mysterious gas” on them which caused breathing difficulties and watery eyes. The helicopter flew away and another army helicopter later flew over the place, he said.

Ghazi said PML President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who is heading the negotiations from the government side, phoned him and expressed shock at the incident.

Ghazi alleged that Monday’s incident took place at the behest of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain. He demanded the government bring back Hussain through Interpol and try him for the murders of former Sindh governor Hakeem Muhammad Saeed and Maulana Salahuddin.

Asked if they had planned any strategy to counter an aerial attack on the mosque compound, Ghazi said: “We will condemn any such attack, however, I can’t say anything about our retaliation.”

There’s a great deal of unhappiness over the standoff in the general public, they do not like it that terrorists are acting on Pakistan soil. There are many rumors floating, that the army has helicopters and armored vehicles standing by, that PPP has cut a deal, but the one with the most meat is that three Uzbek suicide bombers are enroute to the capital as this story at Daily Times details:

Intelligence agencies have warned that three would-be suicide bombers have set out for Islamabad to target government functionaries if law-enforcement agencies crack down on Jamia Hafsa and Jamia Fareedia. Daily Times has learnt that intelligence agencies submitted reports to the Interior Ministry a few days ago warning that the three men, including two Uzbeks, had left Darra Adam Khel for Islamabad to undertake suicide attacks. Ikramullah, 20, a resident of Gedaro Killi, Zarghun Khel and member of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba, reportedly heads the group. The group, trained at a camp located in Shawal, Waziristan, was reportedly sent by Tariq Mazid Khel, who runs a training camp at Zarghun Khel and claims to have contacts with intelligence agencies. The Interior Ministry has directed the district administration and police to apprehend the gang.