By Ayesha Siddiqa
May 22, 2012
In his article of May 21 titled “Lal Masjid: rewarding insurrection”, renowned physicist and columnist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy seemed upset over Pakistan’s Chief Justice’s instructions to the Islamabad administration to expedite work on the restoration of the Jamia Hafsa, a seminary attached with the notorious Lal masjid. The consternation was caused due to the memory of how the Lal Masjid leadership had held the peace and quiet of the capital and indeed the stability of the whole country hostage in 2007. The entire world watched the gun battle between the army and the Lal Masjid brigade, the casualties of which remain a secret. Hearing the interview of Umme Hassan, the wife of Maulana Abdul Aziz, it is clear that the masjid was being used for more than praying.
Some may even argue that jihadis were collected from all over the country in self-defence but then does any civil servant, which is legally the status of the khateeb of any government mosque, have the right to take up arms against the state and get away with murder? A friend’s father, a retired bureaucrat, recently asked me how come he was constantly under the threat of being reprimanded while Maulana Aziz, who was a government employee and who challenged the state violently, remains untouched.
But why blame the CJ when all he may be doing is following the law. How can he punish Maulana Abdul Aziz when no evidence was actually brought against him by the very government that launched the military operation to clear the mosque of violent miscreants? The fact of the matter is that while Umme Hassan and the entire Hafsa crew talk about hundreds of deaths of innocent young girls and boys, the army which launched the operation did not bring forward any case for the killing of its over a dozen innocent soldiers. Ultimately, it was the Chinese national, who was harassed by the Hafsa-Lal Masjid brigade, who registered the only police case. Perhaps, a suo-motu action may help probe why the then DG ISI chose not to pursue the case, or was it due to the friction between his agency and the MI, which was handling the operation? They say the law is blind so minus an FIR and supporting evidence from the Lal Masjid clerics would appear innocent to the Supreme Court. For those who argue that the judges must create an enabling environment for the presentation of evidence, this can only be done in cases where the sovereignty of the state is threatened such as in the memogate case.
Reminiscing about the military operation in 2007, perhaps, there was never any real friction between the Lal Masjid clerics and the state. Subsequently, Maulana Abdul Aziz was accommodated by the present government using the good offices of the real estate tycoon Malik Riaz, who not only helped rebuild the mosque with a donation of Rs15 million, but also provided shelter to the Madrassa Hafsa which was relocated to Bahria Town Rawalpindi. He has also assisted over 30 madrassas in and around Islamabad, many of which were linked with the Lal Masjid clerics. It is worth reminding that Abdul Aziz’s father followed by his brother Abdul Rasheed Ghazi (who died in the operation) and Aziz himself have worked as assets of the state.
There are so many questions that remain unanswered about the Lal Masjid and the 2007 operation. For instance, why didn’t anyone think of harnessing the maulanas before things had become out of hand? Surely, the armed escort from the Ministry of Interior, which is provided to Abdul Aziz today, could have also been provided then. Or why weren’t the brothers and their team relocated to Rawalpindi or even further? More important, if the Maulana is being rehabilitated in the same place, then was the blood of innocent soldiers and civilians spilled for nothing?
And until we get the answers one can only advise Professor Hoodbhoy to change his route — see no evil, hear no evil.