Musharaff delaying action against pro-Taliban Lal Mosque

Saeed Minhas
Islamabad: In the aftermath of the abduction and ultimate release of seven Chinese Massage parlor owners and workers, federal authorities have decided to tighten its noose against pro-Taliban Lal-Mosque administration, which is adding to the embarrassment of President Musharaff both at home and abroad.
Sources within the interior ministry said that a step-wise program has been submitted to the President for approval to rein in the growing character of Lal-Mosque vigilantes, whose recent act seems to have jolted the authorities, because of the strategic and defence relationship between the two countries.
Both the countries are jointly building JF-17 thunder fighter planes besides having many other joint military and social-sector ties. Chinese ambassador to Islamabad has shown great concern about the safety of its citizens in the country and hours after the abduction of the Chinese workers by Islamic militants, not only approached President House but also held talks with the Opposition leader in the National Assembly, Maulana Fazalur Rehman. His meeting with the opposition leader was considered significant because Maulana Fazalur Rehman is considered to be the key-figurehead of Talibans in the country.
Sources said that interior ministry has been advocating an action against the mosque and its adjoining seminaries, one each for male and female students named as Lal-Mosque and Jamia Hafsa, respectively. There are more than 4000 female students and 3000 male students residing in these two seminaries, with most of them hailing from Frontier regions of the country, thus having a noticeable linkage with the militants operating in those areas.
Maulana Abdul Aziz, Ameer (Leader) of the seminaries have already announced to hold a parallel judicial set up under his leadership called the Sharia court to curb growing vices in the society and hold those responsible for these acts.
They first usurped a children library adjacent to the seminary in January 2007, besides kidnapping the female owner of an alleged brothel in February, and then kidnapped four police high ups with their vehicles and more recently also kidnapped four police officials. They have also threatened many Music shop owners to shut their businesses besides ransacking many CD shops terming them proponents of vices and also held a public show of destroying millions of CDs in front of the local journalists to announce their outright opposition of music shops.
Ironically, the administration remained hesitant to take any action against their vigilante acts and neither registered any case against them for taking the law in their own hands and has always preferred to go through painful negotiations to ensure the release of abductees from the mosque. It was the first occasion that an FIR was registered against 25 students of the mosque, but since the abductees were released after a day, no action is forthcoming against any of the abductors. Throughout these incidents of highhandedness, the radical brothers have openly used the mosque’s loud-speakers, which otherwise is prohibited under Pakistani laws, to propagate their demands and desist the authorities from attacking the compound or else face the suicide bombers.
The interior ministry officials, seeking anonymity were of the view that owing to the indecision of the government, the menace has been allowed to grow right in the heart of the Capital, hardly a mile from the parliament and the presidency. There have been reports of the intelligence agencies that militants are residing inside these seminaries and are imparting training to the students to prepare them for any action against them.
The Mosque is operating in the area since early days of Afghan-Jihad and was frequented by the then COAS, Ziaul Haq, the dethroned head of Pakistan’s Atomic labs, Abdul Qadeer Khan, heads of various intelligence agencies besides hosting jihadis throughout these years.
The brother of Ameer, Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, who hold a masters degree and can fluently converse in English and Urdu, has recently been detained by the secret agencies but was released following the intervention of federal religious minister and Ziaul Haq’s prodigy, Ejazul Haq. Sources say that there have been reports that certain Jihadi elements with the Pakistani establishment are backing both brothers and want this thorn to exist in the heart of Capital for their own strategic designs.
The ante has again been upped by the local administration to take an action against the mosque but government seems to be reluctant as any action against the mosque is likely to result on bloodshed, which might cause irreparable damage to already entangled President Musharaff. The government had invited the opposition parties to come on-board and frame a joint strategy to counter the Mosque’s influence so that any eventual bloodshed could not be used for political gains, but opposition is reluctant to lend a hand to the government claiming that this menace is their own brain-child and they should deal it themselves.
As for the incident of Chinese abduction is concerned, male and female brigades of pro-Taliban Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa abducted nine persons, including six Chinese women, in an operation on Friday midnight. Riding in three vehicles, these religious students, armed with bamboos and batons raided a Chinese Massage Centre at House No 17, Street 4, Sector F-8/3. They overpowered three Pakistani guards posted at the centre after injuring them.
Later, they entered the building and ordered the Chinese men and women running the Massage centre and their two Pakistani customers present there to accompany them. On refusal, the students thrashed them and forcibly took them to the Jamia Hafsa compound.
The religious students accused the abducted people of rendering un-Islamic and unlawful services.
The administration of pro-Taliban Lal-Mosque later released all nine people, including six Chinese women on Saturday by saying that the nine were freed in the interest of China’s and Pakistan’s relationship.
The statement released on this occasion read that these people have been released because authorities have promised to close down all massage parlors in Islamabad. "This is a natural reaction of students against vulgarity and obscenity. Foreign girls at the massage centre were having sinful acts with Pakistani men," said a released issued before the hostages were released.