Written by Usman Sheikh
According to media reports, a little over a dozen members of Tahir ul Qadri’s Minhaj ul Quran and his supporters have been killed as a result of the unusually brutal attack launched by the Lahore police upon the residence of Tahir ul Qadri (16 – 17 June 2014). Hundreds are seriously injured and it is feared that some of them may succumb to their injuries in the coming days. Many civilians are said to be missing as well.
There is no need at the moment to compose a detailed analysis of this saga as the facts seem to be reasonably clear – and here we should, surprisingly, thank some segments of the Pakistani media for doing a good job – a rare accomplishment indeed.
Briefly, however, we know that:
- the police simply began shooting at unarmed civilians and murdered many;
- the excuse utilised by the police to approach Tahir ul Qadri’s residence, namely, to remove alleged “illegal” barriers, also appears to be bogus (these barriers were there for over 3 years upon the orders of the High Court, as clarified by Tahir ul Qadri);
- the media has shown that a well known thug of PML-N – “Gullu” Butt – was leading/directing the police, charging at unarmed civilians and smashing car windows under police protection;
- the cameras also show the police looting/damaging local shops in an effort to lay the false blame upon the followers of Tahir ul Qadri;
- the media has reported that the Lahore police have been busy harassing the injured followers of Tahir ul Qadri, that they have attempted to falsify the medical records and have attempted to exaggerate their own minor injuries in the medical reports;
- the media has also reported – on the basis of insider information – that the Lahore police planned a fake “attack” upon their own police stations by plain clothed police officers in order to cast the blame upon the supporters of Tahir ul Qadri;
- last but not least, the police continue to hold many civilians in various locations, subjecting them to intense torture
While certain matters of detail may be unclear, there is, however, absolutely no dispute over the following fact: the police murdered unarmed civilians in cold blood and acted in a thuggish manner adopting terror tactics. It is noteworthy that members of the PML-N also do not dispute this main fact.
The below is a brief comparison of the above referred police operation with an earlier operation which took place in Islamabad in 2007, namely, the Army operation against the terrorists of the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa during the Musharraf Government.
I will be arguing that State terror took place in the Model Town operation whereas the operation against the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa management in 2007 was legitimate and justified.
- Compare the actions and statements of Tahir ul Qadri’s followers with those of the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa management;
- Compare the effort by the State to minimise civilian casualties in 2014 and in 2007;
- Show that virtually every (false) allegation heaped towards the Musharraf regime in regard to the 2007 Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa operation actually holds true when it comes to the 2014 Model Town operation by the Nawaz regime
I will be summarising points regarding the Lal Masjid / Jamia Hafsa management from the following source:
Suo Motu Case No. 09/2007
Title: Lal Masjid-Jamia Hafsa Incident: The Report Of The Commission
Author: Justice Shahzado Shaikh (Judge, Federal Shariat Court / Commission)
Table of Contents
- Before the Operation: Acts & Deeds of the Lal Masjid / Jamia Hafsa Management & Tahir ul Qadri’s Followers
- The Demands
- The Threats
- Negotiations: Government’s Attempt to Achieve a Peaceful Resolution
- Civilian Casualties: Killing Imaginary and Real unarmed Men & Women
- Missing Persons
- Quran Desecration
- Who to Blame: President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Law Minister etc.
1. Before the Operation: Acts & Deeds of the Lal Masjid / Jamia Hafsa Management & Tahir ul Qadri’s Followers
Lal Masjid Management:
they built mosques on illegally occupied land;
- they occupied the Children’s Library in Islamabad;
- they terrorised the locals, attacked shops and kidnapped people, including police officers;
- they burnt down the Ministry of Environment building and damaged government/public property;
- they threatened suicide bombings on multiple occasions and boasted about their links with terrorists (e.g. “Maulana Aziz had told his students that victory was near,”We have spoken to our brothers in the tribal areas and a host of other warriors, including Baitullah Mehsud, who would soon be coming to Islamabad for our support.“” (p. 29) – Regarding suicide bombings, the Lal Masjid Commission Report quotes Maulana Abdul Aziz as follows: “The suicide attackers are ready to operate anywhere inside Pakistan . . . Our students enjoy the moment when Police or Rangers operation looms, and they get bored when the situation normalizes . . . the suicide attacks were right in Pakistan in few circumstances while they were absolutely justified in the context of Afghanistan and Iraq” (pp. 40-41));
- prior to 2007, Lal Masjid students ransacked shops, burnt Melody Cinema, and at least one person was burnt alive inside (p. 49)
- The Lal Masjid clergy declared that those fighting Pakistani forces were martyrs and urged people not to give Islamic burial to the Pakistani soldiers killed in fighting (pp. 49-50);
- Ghazi Abdul Rasheed gave a statement that Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad had become a brothel and women associated with the University were immoral and he mentioned throwing acids on their faces (p. 38);·
- Lal Masjid Management killed an officer, which finally led to an operation. According to the Lal Masjid Commission Report: Lal Masjid inmates killed a Ranger personnel – Lance Naik Mubarik Hussain. This started a battle between the Lal Masjid inmates and the security forces (p. 44);
- In the media campaign, the Ghazi brothers claimed that they had some 7,000 trained men and as many women ready to resist any government attempt to dislodge them, even if that meant carrying out suicide attacks (p. 52)
- The Lal Masjid Commission Report cites Maulana Aziz declaring the imposition of a competing justice system where they (Lal Masjid Management) would enforce law and order and issue punishments: “Today we are announcing Shariah in the area which is in our control where every decision will be taken according to Shariah and injunction of Islam” (p. 34);
Minhaj ul Quran:
No acts of violence whatsoever and no threats. Followers of Tahir ul Qadri have a history of being peaceful and pro-democracy. Tahir ul Qadri is also the author of a substantial fatwa against terrorism in the name of Islam: Fatwa On Terrorism And Suicide Bombings, 2010, Minhaj-ul-Quran International (UK) – this is a 475 page volume and has been endorsed by scholars such as Prof. John L. Esposito (George Town University) and Dr Joel S. Hayward (Kings College London).
2. The Demands
Lal Masjid Management:
- Nothing short of a Saudi styled Wahabi system in Pakistan: 06 June 2007 – Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi met the Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan and issued a statement declaring that only a system similar as Saudi Arabia would be acceptable. He also stated that he did not want a civil war in Pakistan, but was only struggling for Islam (p. 41);
- Construction of all the Mosques which were demolished in Islamabad [note: illegally constructed mosques on land not belonging to the Lal Masjid administration] (p. 36);
- Enforcement of Sharia in the country – the type of “Sharia” deemed “acceptable” by the Taliban, Saudi and, of course, the Lal Masjid Management;·
- Abdul Aziz came up with fresh demands: asking for ‘nifaz-i-shariat’ across the country with immediate effect and demanding President Musharraf to announce Islamization in the country in his address to the nation (p. 31);
Their demands were so outrageously unrealistic and ridiculous and even Deobandi and Wahabi scholars were forced to condemn the Lal Masjid Management:
- 2 May 2007 – Imam-e-Kaaba met with Ejaz ul Haq (Minister for Religious Affairs) and said that Islam did not allow anyone to raise illegal construction over any state or private property even for the purpose of construction of Mosques. (p. 37);·
- Imam-e-Kaaba also said that in the presence of a government, no individual can establish his own Shariat Court (p. 37);·
- Imam-e-Kaaba also said that it was unfortunate that the Lal Masjid administration had not acted upon the advice of Mufti Taqi Usmani (p. 37);
- Qari Hanif Jalandhari stated that the occupation of the children’s library by the students of Jamia Hafsa / Lal Masjid was an uncalled for act, which had no sanction in the Shariah (p. 30);
- On 07 April 2007, the President of Wafaq ul Maddarass, Maulana Saleem Ullah Khan, said in his public statement that the Lal Masjid administration through its actions has provided an excuse for the operation (p. 32);·
- The Wafaqul Madarras also ended the affiliation of Jamia [Hafsa] (p. 34);·
- Allama Taqi Usmani, Qari Saeed ur Rehman and others had expressed concern about the situation. Wafaqul Madaris had suspended the registration of Jamia Faridia and Jamia Hafsa. No notable ulema agreed with Ghazi brothers. Religious parties did not agree with their approach and there was no political support for their call. Ulema declared occupation of Children’s Library as un-Islamic (p. 91);
It should also be noted that the Lal Masjid Management also refused to accept the compromise/agreement reached between the Government and the Deobandi body called Wafaq ul Madaris (The compromise between the Government and the Wafaq ul Madarrass was rejected by the management of Lal Masjid (p. 30)).
Minhaj ul Quran:
Imposition of a genuine grassroots democratic system in the country, where there is a truly free and independent Election Commission, with a complete adherence to the Constitution of Pakistan (in particular, Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution, to ensure competent/honest individuals contest elections). They talk about the implementation of genuine justice, promotions based on merit alone, and call for the protection of minority rights in Pakistan.
3. The Threats
Lal Masjid Management:
As seen above, the Lal Masjid / Jamia Hafsa Management issued threats of conducting suicide bombings on multiple occasions. The following threats and acts of terror are summarised from the Lal Masjid Commission Report:
- Maulana Abdul Qayyum, spokesman of Lal Masjid Administration, said that suicide bombers of Lal Masjid had been granted permission to find targets and strike wherever they chose to (p. 44);
- Maulana Abdul Qayyum said, “In fact, that has already been done. It was previously decided that if we come under attack, then we will give this permission to the suicide bombers to strike. So, they have been given permission to strike anywhere at any time.” (pp. 44 – 45);
- Taking advantage of the restraint shown by the security forces, the Lal Masjid fighters stormed the official buildings, government school, and also damaged public property (p. 44);
- Lal Masjid fighters set fire to the M/O Environment building in front of Jamia Hafsa where the security forces were positioned (p. 44);
- Vehicles of high officials of the ministry were burnt (p. 45);
- Khateeb publicly threatened suicide bombing (p. 52);
- In the media campaign, the Ghazi brothers claimed that they had some 7,000 trained men and as many women ready to resist any government attempt to dislodge them, even if that meant carrying out suicide attacks (p. 52);
- Suicide attacks took place after the Lal Masjid operation – Intelligence reports pointed towards links with suicide bombers and Taliban (p. 52);
- 26 June 2007 – Islamabad police prevented an incident where they checked the movement of a group of armed Taliban riding in two vehicles which came out from the Lal Masjid at around 01:00 p.m. and were heading towards the covered market (pp. 42-43);
- 16 June 2007 – Maulana Abdul Aziz issued a death decree against the staff of a magazine for publishing a fashion shoot advertisement titled “Adam and Eve.” (p. 41);
- Students of Jamia Faridia E-7 Islamabad abducted three police officers. They were released after a warning from the Ministry of Interior (p. 40);
- 30 May 2007 – Maulana Abdul Aziz claimed that Lal masjid Administration had more than 10,000 suicide bombers in the Mosque premises and more than 1,00,000 in Pakistan (p. 40);
- Lal Masjid Commission Report quotes Maulana Abdul Aziz as follows: “The suicide attackers are ready to operate anywhere inside Pakistan . . . Our students enjoy the moment when Police or Rangers operation looms, and they get bored when the situation normalizes . . . the suicide attacks were right in Pakistan in few circumstances while they were absolutely justified in the context of Afghanistan and Iraq” (pp. 40-41);
- Ghazi Abdul Rasheed gave a statement that Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad had become a brothel and women associated with the University were immoral and he mentioned throwing acids on their faces (p. 38);
- “Maulana Aziz had told his students that victory was near, “We have spoken to our brothers in the tribal areas and a host of other warriors, including Baitullah Mehsud, who would soon be coming to Islamabad for our support.”” (p. 29);
Minhaj ul Quran:
None. They have a record of being peaceful and not engaging in any acts of violence. The Minhaj is a scholarly organisation set up by a trained, qualified and a highly respected scholar from the normative Islamic tradition.
4. Negotiations: Government’s Attempt to Achieve a Peaceful Resolution
Lal Masjid Management:
The Government of Shaukat Aziz in 2007 engaged in intense negotiations with the terrorist Lal Masjid / Jamia Hafsa Management for almost 6 months. The Shaukat Aziz Government also reached out to Deobandi and Wahabi scholars / organisations to achieve a peaceful resolution. The Shaukat Aziz Government continued to avoid the operation even though there was no doubt that the Lal Masjid / Jamia Hafsa Management consisted of terrorists, had engaged in acts of terror and were making ridiculously impossible demands – ridiculous enough to even annoy Deobandi and Wahabi scholars.
The following is summarised from the Lal Masjid Commission Report:
- Government Agreed to Rebuild the Illegally Constructed Mosques: 19 June 2007 – Ejaz ul Haq said the CDA had issued notification to construct some Mosques and asked the Lal Masjid management to cease occupation of the Children Library (p. 41); He said Masjid Amir Hamza would be built on its original place (p 41); He said masjid Ibn-e-Abbas would be built on a separate plot by the CDA, who would bear the entire construction cost (p. 41); He said a plot had been selected for Masjid Al-Saffa (p. 41); He said the construction of Masjid Hamza F-10/3 would start in F-10/3 on a plot measuring 90X70 (P. 41);
- Compromise Rejected by Lal masjid / Jamia Hafsa Management: On 03 February 2007, a meeting was held between the Ministry of Interior – represented by Aftab Ahmad Sherpao – and the Wafaq ul Madarras to resolve the issue of Lal Masjid. In this meeting, it was decided that the Amir Hamza Mosque would be reconstructed on its original place and that a committee comprising ICT administration and Ulema would be constituted to decide the matter pertaining to other Mosques. This decision was relayed in a joint press conference. In this press conference, Qari Hanif Jalandhari stated that the occupation of the children’s library by the students of Jamia Hafsa / Lal Masjid was an uncalled for act, which had no sanction in the Shariah (p. 30). This compromise between the Government and the Wafaq ul Madarrass was rejected by the management of Lal Masjid (p. 30);
- On 09 February 2007, in order to avoid bloodshed, the government temporarily postponed the operation once 500 students equipped with batons came out of the Mosque and raised slogans against the administration (p. 31);
- On 11 February 2007, a delegation of ulema held talks with the Ghazi brothers in the Lal Masjid. But the deadlock persisted (p. 31);
- The delegation of Ulema met with Ijaz ul Haq. In this meeting it was decided that the religious scholars would give another chance to talks with Lal Masjid management. The Government, on the other hand, decided to start the construction of the Amir Hamza Mosque (p. 31);
- Ijaz ul Haq explained to newsmen that the talks between Lal Masjid management and the ulema failed because Abdul Aziz came up with fresh demands: asking for ‘nifaz-i-shariat’ across the country with immediate effect and demanding President Musharraf to announce Islamization in the country in his address to the nation (p. 31);
- In a meeting between Aftab Sherpao, Ijaz ul Haq and Wafaq ul Madarrass, a committee was constituted with a mandate to deliberate on the issues relating to the illegal construction of mosques and encroachment by mosques and madrassas in Islamabad, and make recommendations to the concerned authorities to decide these issues (p. 32);
- The telephone and water connections in the Jamia Hafsa were also restored (p. 32);
- Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, while lauding the role of Wafaq ul Madarrass, stated that the students of Jamia Hafsa would continue to hold the Library until the reconstruction of all the six mosques demolished during last two and a half years (p. 32);
- Musharraf’s Reluctance to Carry Out Operation: 29 June 2007 – Addressing the media, Musharraf said [as cited by Lal Masjid Commission Report]: “I am not a coward person . . . but the issue is tomorrow you will say what have you done. There are women and children inside” (p. 43);
- On 09 April 2007, the top leadership of the country decided to give negotiations another chance. Musharraf approved the policy of “dialogue before reaching the dead end” and that meeting was attended by the Prime Minister, Aftab Sherpao and Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain (pp. 34-35);
- A meeting was held, convened by Prime Minister Shoukat Aziz. It was attended by Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain, Aftab Sherpao, Zafar Iqbal Warraich, Commander (R) Khalil ur Rehman, Principal Secretary to PM, Chairman CDA, Chief Commissioner, Islamabad and Inspector General of Police Islamabad. It was decided that Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain would continue his efforts for a settlement with the Lal Masjid Management (pp. 37 – 37);
Minhaj ul Quran:
Whereas the Government in 2007 took extreme steps to continue negotiations with known terrorists and went on and on trying to resolve the issue peacefully over a period of 6 months, nothing even remotely similar took place in Model Town in 2014. Within a few hours, a little over a dozen unarmed civilians – supporters of Tahir ul Qadri – were killed by the police.
The Government in 2014, within a matter of a few hours, utilised extreme State terror to terrorise and scare innocent unarmed civilians. No attempt was made to reach
out to members of the Minhaj-ul-Quran and their allies. This despite the fact that the Minhaj has always been a peaceful organisation engaged in nothing more than scholarship.
5. Civilian Casualties: Killing Imaginary and Real unarmed Men & Women
Lal Masjid Management:
One woman was killed in the cross fire – the elderly mother of the terrorist Ghazi brothers. She was being kept in the basement of the Lal Masjid complex where the final battle took place. She was not killed deliberately; she was killed in the cross fire unintentionally.
Besides this one civilian casualty, hardcore armed terrorists of the Lal Masjid / Jamia Hafsa were killed by the security forces.
In total, there were 103 casualties – 11 security personnel and the remainder being armed terrorists.
Contrary to popular claims, there is no evidence to suggest that children, girls were killed in this operation.
Minhaj ul Quran:
Innocent and unarmed civilians were gunned down in cold blood – civilians who are not known to have engaged in any act of violence in their lives.
This includes at least two women, one of whom was pregnant, and the rest unarmed and innocent men.
6. Missing Persons
Lal Masjid Management:
Contrary to popular claims, we know of no “missing” persons from Lal Masjid / Jamia Hafsa. No family has ever come forward demanding the return of an alleged “missing” relative.
Minhaj ul Quran:
According to the members of Minhaj ul Quran, a number of civilians are still in the custody of the police and they have been very vocal regarding this. They have also vocally asserted that bodies of slain members were also taken by the police and have yet to be returned.
7. Quran Desecration
Lal Masjid Management:
There is no evidence that copies of the Quran were deliberately desecrated by the Army personnel taking part in the Lal Masjid / Jamia Hafsa operation. The fire produced by the fighting damaged the buildings and the material therein. If any copy of the Quran or a religious text was damaged, it was damaged inadvertently during the course of the operation and intense fighting.
After the operation:
- Removal and dumping of debris was done by CDA under the supervision of ICT Administration. Copies/pages of the Quran and other religious books were shifted to a safe place (p. 90);
- According to former Commissioner ICT, Khalid Parvez: i. a fatwa was obtained from Mufti Muhammad Saqib and Mufti Maulana Abdul Razzaq to dispose some pages of the Quran and other extracts (p. 90);
- ii. Both opined that the best method of disposal of such material is to wrap it up in a clean cloth and bury it in a grave – in the same manner as is the mode prescribed for the human grave (p. 90);
- iii. Team headed by Deputy Director (Auqaf) was constituted to carry out burial of such papers (p. 90);
- iv. This was done in the presence of four members of the Ulema Committee (p. 90);
- v. The remaining intact religious books and Qurans were shifted to G-6 flats under the supervision of Deputy Director (Auqaf) and kept in the racks/almarahs (p. 90);
Minhaj ul Quran:
Quranic copies have been damaged and destroyed. No doubt, the police – presumably Muslims – are unlikely to have deliberately damaged/destroyed Quranic copies. However, given the fact that the police were terrorising, murdering civilians and engaging in chaotic destruction in the surrounding locality, their insensible, unprofessional and criminal behaviour resulted in the damaging/destruction of Quranic copies.
8. Who to Blame: President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Law Minister etc.
Lal Masjid Management:
The President of the time, Pervez Musharraf, has been isolated and personally held “responsible” for the Lal Masjid operation and the resultant loss of life. He has been accused of “murdering” the junior Ghazi brother and his mother. It is as if Pervez Musharraf was micro managing the entire operation, personally instructing the police and commandos on the ground and then personally pressing the trigger to kill Ghazi junior and his mother in the basement.
The above is a rather silly scenario and It is absurd to blame the Head of State in this instance. The Head of State does not operate at the administrative level on the ground. As President, Mr. Musharraf had simply no involvement in the operational details of this anti-terror operation. By blaming Mr. Musharraf, layers upon layers of the government are being bypassed. There is the Local Administration, the Chief Secretaries, the Chief Ministers, the Secretary Interior, the Federal Interior Minister, and then the Prime Minister. These are the Government Civil Functionaries. Only after all of these layers do we come to the Chief of Army Staff and then to the President of the country. Mr. Musharraf was never issuing any administrative, operational level orders and neither was he issuing instructions on the ground.
Most importantly, there was no innocent civilian loss of life (save one instance). In addition to this, the conduct of the officer(s) on the ground is to be investigated when there are instances of civilian casualties in such an operation.
Moreover, the operation began only after the Lal Masjid terrorists killed a personnel of the Ranger – Lance Naik Mubarik Hussain. This started a battle between the Lal Masjid inmates and the security forces (p. 44)
Minhaj ul Quran:
In this instance, the police committed murders in cold blood and severely beat up civilians. Only in the face of sheer police brutality did some supporters of Tahir ul Qadri subsequently defended themselves armed with just sticks and stones.
It is unrealistic to suppose that the police decided to simply act on their own and use live ammunition so casually. The police never open fire upon civilians unless and until they receive instructions from officials – this would include the Chief Minister of the province, in this case Shahbaz Sharif. The Law Minister and friend of Deobandi terrorists, Rana Sanaullah, was made reluctantly fired as the calls for Shabaz Sharif to step down increased.
Those who are familiar with Shahbaz Sharif know that he directly controls the Punjab police and is personally engaged with them. All senior and mid-level police officers are personally selected by Shahbaz Sharif. Moreover, members of PML-N are recruited in the police to ensure that they blindly follow the commands of Shahbaz Sharif and take direct instructions from him.
It is improbable to suppose that the police, on their own, just decided to knock on the door of an important personality in Pakistan who has thousands and thousands of followers. It is even more improbable that for many hours Shahbaz Sharif did not know about the operation – while it was being shown live on all channels – and that he came to learn about it only upon its natural conclusion.
As if this was not enough, a well known thug of PML-N, “Gullu” Butt, was shown on all channels directly leading the police and committing destruction under the close protection of the police.
In short, Shahbaz Sharif’s own police committed multiple murders and this police force was being led by his loyal servant “Gullu” Butt and senior officers known to him.
Here it is perfectly justifiable, commonsensical and reasonably to blame the Chief Minister – Shahbaz Sharif – for this carnage and act of terror. It is reasonable to demand Shahbaz Sharif’s resignation and to then charge him with murder.
The false allegations launched by terrorists and terrorist sympathisers with regards to the Lal Masjid / Jamia Hafsa Operation hold true only when it comes to the 2014 Model Town Operation by Shahbaz Sharif’s Punjab police force.
State Terrorism has only transpired in the 2014 Model Town Operation whereas the writ of the State was established in 2007 when the Government, after intense negotiations and desperate peace efforts, decided to rightfully confront armed terrorists of Lal Masjid / Jamia Hafsa.
A few PML-N dimwits talk about the killings which took place in the streets of Karachi on 12 May 2007. Here they are making a false analogy. Different political parties (ANP, PPP and MQM) confronted each other and engaged in tit for tat killings. The State was not involved in this saga. The killings were not caused as a result of any “State operation” or by any “instructions” issued by the Head of State. In sharp contrast, the Punjab Government used its loyal police force to kill unarmed and innocent civilians in Model Town in 2014, making full use of their well known thug, “Gullu” Butt. Hence the comparison is bogus and does not work.
Those who cry and whine daily about the mythical killings of the “thousands” of non-existent civilians in the Lal Masjid Operation have really no tears to shed or a word of sympathy to offer when it comes to the actual civilians murdered by Shahbaz Sharif’s Punjab police force.
Recall that the Nawaz regime was engaged in State terrorism in the 90s as well and it seems clear that they are at it again.