Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) Saga has a history

Since the creation of Pakistan, the state has been failing to secure a political direction of the country. The country which was created on the name of protecting the civic and religious rights of the then Indian Muslims could not develop a strong governing system based on strong democratic and justice system following the dominant values of freedom of speech, faith and other civic values.

The nation which has been mostly ruled by the arm forces in the last 50 years is now found totally disintegrated into religious and ethnic sections. Traditional madarsa system for Islamic education to the unprivileged people who are in the majority and could not afford to go in the public schools has produced religious extremists. Former army dictator General Zia ul Haque, 1977-88, supported the US-financed Islamic extremists Taliban in Afghanistan to resist against former Soviet Union forces occupation in Afghanistan. Over ten years support to Taliban in Afghanistan imported gun culture and religious radicalism in Pakistan through the migration of 4 million Afghan refugees into Pakistan.

The murder of General Zia ul Haq and his companion top Generals in a mysterious plan crash brought 10 years of an immature democratic government during 1990s. Before the democracy could flourish, Zia’s history repeated again and once again another dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, sacked the civil government and brought back the army rule 1998. Though the US and the governments of the western world condemned the General Musharraf’s army regime General Musharraf was asked to support post 9/11 US-led operation in Afghanistan but this time against Taliban on the name of war against terrorism.

All together 2 decades of dictatorial rule of General Zia and General Musharraf served the US interest in Afghanistan on the cost of importing Afghan-based religious extremism in Pakistan. Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) and its adjacent premises is one of those creatures of General Zia which has been flourished during the current rule of General Musharraf. The land of Lal Masjid was awarded to the occupants by General Zia ul Haque and the mosque and the associate madarsa has been flourished during General Musharraf’s current regime. One of the occupants of Lal Masjid and who now killed in the final showdown of Lal Masjid, Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, had close relations with Mr. Eijaz ul Haque –” the son of General Zia ul Haque and who is the current Minister of Religious Affairs of Pakistan. Therefore, there is a history and obvious reasons linked to the internal and external elements in the existence of religious extremism and militancy in Pakistan. It is quite understandable when commenting on Lal Masjid operation and religious extremism in Pakistan, the foreign minister, Alexander Downer said, ‘it’s quite a deeply embedded problem with a long, long history going, if you like, right back to 1947. It’s a deep problem in Pakistan’.

Since 1958, when instigator of first army rule in Pakistan Field Marshal General Ayub Khan first time seized the then emerging democracy of newly created Pakistan, the people of Pakistan has never been given opportunity to establish a civil rule in the country. A Civil rule that could eventually maintain a strong democratic system where there could be the supremacy of law & order, justice and security of the people and their properties.

The game of war of words, threats and exposition of power between the state and the custodian of Lal Masjid and its affiliated premises had been going on for the last 6 months.

Luckily or unluckily, the entire siege and hostage drama fallen out when I was visiting Pakistan and got the chance to observe every unfolding movement closely. A week-long wage-war led to the bloody operation that resulted, according to the sources, the killing of about 150 people including the murder rebel cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi. The world has watched on television sets the extra ordinary use of heavy weapons by the militants. According to the administrative sources, there were land mines, bunkers and grenades at the besieged premises. The entire capital was declared a red zone and the life was paralysed due to ongoing curfew. The fighting was so horrifying that bullets hit many high-rise buildings located few kilometers away from the scene. The militants were fully trained and fearless. In the start of the operation the militants shot dead an army Colonel. This has all happened in the heart of the capital – Islamabad –” the most modern and supposedly secured city in Pakistan. The Capital, Islamabad, has many agencies and secret services monitor day and night, supposedly, to each and every unusual activity. So, how the dangerous weapons were stored at the premises and how military-style bunkers and mines were developed? This is something Musharraf’s government has to answer now.

Terrorist attacks, bomb blasts and shootings at public places are the usual business in Pakistan. The people are used to of every day bloody incidents. The power thirsty political leaders are found desperate to use every possible chance even a terrible incident like the siege of Lal Masjid for their vested interest. Their main goal is only how to be in the ruling power. Even when all this terror drama had been happening all most all the top leaders of major political parties were entertaining grand meetings in London and discussing how to launch campaign against the present regime. Even for the sake of be in power the political leaders are found negotiating the sharing of power with the army rulers. In context of the Lal Masjid incident, one of the main rival of President Musharraf and self-exiled leader of Pakistan’s major political party, Pakistan People’s Party Chairperson Benazir Bhutto said that although her political credibility would suffer if she joined the military-led government in Pakistan, it would be good for the country’s democratic, constitutional and development interests.

The western leaders especially of UK, US and Australia are appreciating and congratulating President General Pervez Musharraf on what they call a successful operation. They have offered their full support. Does it mean the incident of Lal Masjid will automatically endorse by the West another couple of years further in military- power? Well, we have to wait and see the post-Lal Masjid operation development.

Nevertheless, would General Musharraf be given further time in rule or would he be forced out with another change in Islamabad; the important question remains standing, whether Pakistan would ever be free from religious extremism, military rule and foreign dominancy. Would there be a true democracy and will the people of Pakistan be given freedom to choose their destiny?