Lal Masjid storming was neither victory, nor defeat: Musharraf


Islamabad : Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has praised the troops who participated in the Lal Masjid operation earlier this week, but said the mosque storming to flush out Islamist radicals was “not a matter of victory or defeat”.

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He also said that the radical elements holed up in the mosque and the seminary attached to it were “misinterpreting Islam for their own benefit, misleading people and creating chaos in the society”.

Musharraf expressed his grief over the tragic loss of lives. “Though it is a matter of sorrow for all of us but I appreciate the courage of the troops who took risks in evacuating the innocent students of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa, as it was the policy of the government that maximum number of lives be saved and the loss of lives be kept at minimum.”

Musharraf, also the country’s army chief, Saturday addressed the officers and troops involved in the nine-day operation to evict the mosque’s clerics, students – both boys and girls – and armed militants, some of them having links with Al Qaeda.

As per official figures, 103 people died in the operation that has earned plaudits at home and abroad, but also triggered a violent reaction from various militant outfits and rightwing political parties.

“Pakistan is an Islamic country where we are leading our lives according to the true practices of Islam, but there are few who are exploiting the social evils in the name of Islam, which is a wrong practice,” The News quoted him as saying Sunday.

The president maintained that the government took “every possible step to solve the matter in a peaceful manner by holding talks” with the administration of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa, the girls’ seminary, “but they disregarded every such effort and it became inevitable for the government to take action against the militants”.

He said the officers and troops of the forces deserved high appreciation for their bravery and courage.