Lal Masjid back in news: students threaten government


Islamabad : Students of Lal Masjid, which was attacked by the security forces in June, have given an ultimatum to the government that the mosque and seminaries attached to it be reopened by next Friday.

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Angry students gathered at a city square here along with students from other seminaries and shouted slogans warning that if the mosque and the seminaries were not reopened, the government would “face the music again”, The Nation reported Saturday.

This happened even as in another part of the national capital, tension prevailed outside the Supreme Court where a court’s verdict allowing President Pervez Musharraf to seek re-election in uniform led to protests and shouting of slogans by lawyers and opposition party workers.

Heavy contingents of security forces already deployed at the Lal Masjid venue remained on high alert while the protesters holding placards in their hands chanted anti-government slogans.

The protesters also demanded the immediate release of Maulana Abdul Aziz and his reinstatement as head cleric of Lal Masjid.

“If the government does not pay attention to our demands and (does not) open the mosque by next Friday, the government will have to face dire consequences,” one of the protesters was quoted as saying.

Lal Masjid and two seminaries attached to it attracted international attention after students, both boys and girls, led by the mosque’s clergy, captured the complex in January and stayed there till July.

Their militant announcements and threats and their forays into the city trying to shut down beauty parlours and video shops and finally an attack on a Chinese-run massage parlour in May caused the government to storm the complex.

About a hundred people died and many more were injured in the 11-day operation.

While Maulana Abdul Aziz was captured while trying to escape, veiled as a woman, his brother and deputy chief cleric Abdul Rasheed Gazi died in the operation.

Before the bloodshed, the mosque had a reputation for radicalism, mostly attracting Islamic hardline students from the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and tribal areas where support for the Taliban and Al Qaeda is strong.

A religious school for women, the Jamia Hafsa, was attached to the mosque. A madrassa for men was only a few minutes’ drive away.

Before launching the operation, Musharraf told media that the complex had become the haunt of local and foreign armed militants affiliated to the Al Qaeda.