Pakistan’s top court moves to save Lal Masjid hostages


Islamabad : Pakistan's top court Monday intervened in the tense battle between government forces and Muslim militants at a besieged Islamabad mosque, saying it wanted to save the lives of women and children inside.

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The court scheduled an afternoon hearing on whether it should dictate the government's security actions to avoid a bloody storming of Lal Masjid in the heart of the Pakistan capital, as president Pervez Musharraf has threatened.

A possible court intervention to overrule executive power, unique to the Pakistani judicial system, arose amid public outcry of concern for those inside the compound as well as for neighbours suffering the siege and curfew.

Acting chief justice of supreme court Rana Bhagwandas named a two-judge panel to probe the security forces' assault on the mosque and its outcome.

Justice Mohammed Nawaz Abbasi, who was appointed along with Justice Faqir Mohammed Khokhar, said the miseries inflicted on the residents near the mosque for the last seven days, mainly due to curfew, were in violation of the constitution.

He said the court was concerned about saving the lives of hundreds inside the mosque who may be held as human shields by the hardcore militants.

The security operation was launched after the extremist students attacked a police check post Tuesday, in their five-month long standoff with the authorities in their campaign for enforcement of a Taliban-style way of life in the country.

The government has repeatedly said the militants, who have links with Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorist organisations, are using hundreds of women and children as human shields.