Lal Masjid /Jamia Hafsa Readies for Confrontation

lal-masjid-batons.jpgThe students at Lal Masjid kidnapped four Policemen in Islamabad last week, which has escalated to a tense stand-off.  The government has finally reached the point where they are acting. To date the government has remained very passive against Lal Masjid, Jamia Hafsa, and Abdul Aziz because there are female students at the madrassa, and some speculate that it’s like Tianamen in China during the 80’s. In Tianamen, like Jamia Hafsa / Lal Masjid there are sons and daughters of some prominent Pakistanis, just as there were children of Party Elites demonstrating in the hunger-strike at Tianamen Square in China. Reports differ on the number of police, rangers, and Islamabad police in the area from 8,000 to 10,000. Meanwhile the mosque is playing Jihadi songs from the loud speakers and announcing to the students to get ready to become martyred. The clerics show their NWFP ties by announcing actions in the frontier, so it’s possible they are united with the Pakistani Taliban or remaining AQ in that area.

Frontier Post has a good story on this here. 

Two of the police have been released, after three of the students arrested by the government got out on bail, but since then the government cordoned off the area and appears to be readying an operation.   Shujaat Hussein has left the negotiations after they broke down, and now it’s Sherpao talking for the government as Dawn details below:

Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao on Sunday termed the kidnapping of four policemen by Jamia Hafsa students a heinous crime. He warned the seminary clerics to release the remaining two police officials forthwith or “be ready to endure the fallout of such crimes”. The government is persistently showing patience to avoid bloodshed as women are also present in the seminary, he said, adding that the management of Jamia Hafsa would be responsible for the consequences as such acts could not be tolerated.

He said PML president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had visited the seminary clerics several times in a bid to reach a negotiated settlement but his efforts remained fruitless. The kidnapping of police officials is regrettable and contrary to the commitments made with the PML president, he said. Rejecting reports that the government had released some persons on pursuance of Jamia Hafsa, he said it was just a coincidence because the court had accepted their bail petitions

Meantime Police cordoned off the area with barbed wire and cement blocks. They also arrested 36 students from Jamia Fareedia, a radical madrassa sympathetic to Lal Masjid and the brother clerics who would dictate their interpretation of morality to all of Pakistan. More from Dawn:

Tension mounted in the capital over the Lal Masjid issue on Sunday when police took 36 students of Jamia Fareedia in pre-emptive detention, and the madressah militants taking to streets and blocking traffic.
Police claimed that the Jamia students had been picked up because they were reinforcing the militants, known as the Lal Masjid brigade, which had kidnapped four policemen on Friday in their latest escapade.
Two of the policemen were released in exchange for grant of bail to five Lal Masjid madressah students.
Heavily-armed Rangers, elite force and reserve police from the Punjab Police Constabulary were called out in Islamabad and, at one stage, it seemed that a massive crackdown on Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa was being planned.
Rangers and police personnel were deployed at exit and entry points of the city and blocks were placed to divert traffic from roads leading to Lal Masjid. Barbed wires were laid around the Aabpara police station, not far from Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa where masked militants carrying sticks took positions.
The students of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa also put up a show of strength by preparing trenches and hideouts.
And Lal Masjid deputy in-charge Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi warned the government that it would be responsible for “the consequences” if it launched any assault on the seminaries.
He made it clear that his people reserved the option of launching countrywide suicide attacks if any operation was launched against them.

In the end it’s about power, politics, and personal gain with those two radical cleric brothers, and I would like to know who is truly pulling their strings behind the scenes.

In further fallout, the Tourism minister for Pakistan, Nilofer Bhaktiar has now resigned due to the Fatwah issued against her by the disowned Madrassa. This might seem extreme, but I will remind everyone of past actions from extremists against women in government positions in Pakistan. From Dawn:

Tourism Minister Nilofar Bakhtiar has confirmed that she has sent her resignation to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz against the backdrop of a controversy over here paragliding jump in France, but said she would go public about the reasons only after meeting Mr Aziz.

Talking to Dawn on Sunday, Ms Bakhtiar dispelled an impression that she had been asked by the prime minister to resign under pressure from the Lal Masjid administration.

She said she had been hurt by the way her adventure in France had been sensationalised. “French media praised my daring attempt but unfortunately some irresponsible elements in Pakistan presented this noble cause in a malicious manner,” she said.“Whatever I did was well within the realm of faith and patriotism. I had para-jumped for a noble cause during my stopover in France — charity for the quake-devastated areas of northern Pakistan, and all I got in return for the maiden glide was a congratulatory pat on my shoulders from the 60-year-old instructor,” she said.

“I can assure you neither of us meant any harm to cultural or societal norms. It is not un-Islamic or unpatriotic to jump from a plane with a parachute, as the clerics have indicated in their fatwa,” she said.

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