Jamia Hafsa Update

Negotiations look like they are nearing an end with the radical shariat clerics of Jamia Hafsa, and it looks like some middle ground has actually been found. The madrassah and it’s leaders would still be stubborn without the public outcry and demonstrations against them, and the fact that they are losing students now in droves.

Update: One step forward, two back…

From Dawn:

ISLAMABAD, April 22: Lal Masjid clerics on Sunday said contentious issues between them and the government had not been settled, adding that the standoff would continue till the enforcement of Sharia in the country.

“It has been reported wrongly in the media that the issues between the Lal Masjid administration and the government have been settled and the two sides are close to an agreement,” deputy in-charge of the mosque and Jamia Hafsa Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi told Dawn.

He said it had also been wrongly attributed to Pakistan Muslim League president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain that girl students of Jamia Hafsa had agreed to end occupation of the children’s library, provided the seven mosques demolished by the Capital Development Authority were reconstructed. “We did not give any such assurance to Chaudhry Shujaat and, therefore, we will not evacuate the library unless Sharia is enforced in the country,” he said.

Maulana Ghazi said the mosque administration had given two demands to the government – reconstruction of the demolished mosques and enforcement of Sharia. “We want rebuilding of the razed mosques as a goodwill gesture from the government to initiate dialogue on enforcement of Islamic system.”

This from Dawn:

Sources close to the presidency said that the government could not oblige those elements who wanted a showdown with clerics and militants and were interested in a “live show of shootout being telecast by private television channels.”

These sources said that the PML chief had the blessing of the president for negotiating a settlement, but he (Chaudhry Shujaat) had been told by the president not to yield to religious militants’ on their 10-point demand list.

In response to clerics’ 10-point demand list, the government has asked the clerics to meet the government’s four conditions: The girls of Jamia Hafsa must drop illegal occupation of children’s library; Lal Masjid clerics should disband their moral squads and armed vigilantes must not roam about the streets of the capital; the so-called Shariat Court should be disbanded; and only legitimate students should be allowed into the mosque compound.

According to informed sources, the number of male students inside the Lal Masjid, which was about 2,500 militants at the height of the crisis, had come down to around 500.

Similarly, about 3,500 girl students of Jamia Hafsa had left the seminary after the crisis, but around 1,500 students were still inside the Lal Masjid complex.

An additional 2,000 male students were on-call at the Jamia Fareedia, also attached to the Lal Masjid, but it was situated in Islamabad’s posh E-10 Sector, about four kilometres from “the battle ground”.

In case of a showdown, the Lal Masjid militants could count on reinforcements from 18 other Deobandi madressahs situated in the city.

 I agree and disagree with the government’s approach — I would like to see a firmer hand against the madrassah, but flip side of that coin might be Pakistan’s Waco, which it seems the militants would welcome to further their cause.

The right thing to do is to negotiate, and then deal with the brother clerics a different way in which the students would not get harmed.