Pakistan acted against Lal Masjid to maintain writ: Aziz

By Xinhua

Islamabad : Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has said the government took action against hard-line Lal Masjid to maintain its writ.

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Aziz said if the writ of the government is challenged then the government has to take action to maintain it, according to state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP). He was speaking during an interview with Al-Arabia TV Sunday.

The prime minister said the policy was to settle the Lal Masjid issue through negotiations, adding that the government used different channels to convince the people running the seminary to lay down arms, but in vain.

He said due to the efforts of the government to resolve this issue peacefully, only around 100 people including security officials lost their lives and the rest of the people were saved.

About the reaction to the storming of Lal Masjid, Aziz said it was not alarming.

He said the reaction in the tribal areas was due to many other factors, basically due to boundary with Afghanistan.

The prime minister said the security agencies are working and security has been increased which resulted in some clashes near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

He said the government was not against Islamic seminaries.

“But if the seminaries are used to disturb peace, no government can accept that,” the prime minister said.

Violence escalated in Pakistan recently, especially in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and North West Frontier Province. A series of attacks and clashes since early July left over 300 people killed across Pakistan. Some attacks were considered to be extremists’ backlash following the government July operation in Lal Masjid.

Vowing to impose strict Shariat in the country, hard-line clerics in Lal Masjid and the religious students in the affiliated Jamia Hafsa seminary conducted a series of activities like occupying a public library, seizing some alleged local brothel runners, attacking music shops, and law enforcers in the capital. The authorities described the activities of the clerics and students as “illegal and shocking”.

Security forces finally besieged the mosque complex July 3 after an altercation between some seminary students and policemen posted at a nearby picket. After talks failed to convince armed personnel inside the Lal Masjid to surrender, Pakistani troops launched a full-fledged operation against the compound on July 10 and flushed everyone out by the next day.

According to government officials, 103 people were killed in the clashes between law enforcers and armed personnel inside the compound from July 3 to July 11.