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IN its recently released report on the 2007 showdown between the state and militants holed up inside an Islamabad mosque, the Lal Masjid commission has absolved the army of responsibility for the debacle. Instead, blame has been placed on the shoulders of Gen Musharraf, Shaukat Aziz and members of the cabinet at the time. But before the state files murder charges — as recommended by the one-judge commission — we must ask whether these recommendations are in consonance with some aspects of the affair that need greater critical appraisal. In other words, the sensitive nature of such an investigation should have entailed far broader terms of reference for the commission than merely affixing blame and focusing on compensation issues.

There are three crucial aspects of the Lal Masjid operation that can be considered independently of the report: a) the military operation that resulted in clearing the mosque of militants and the death of many civilians was an institutional decision, not solely that of Gen Musharraf, who was then army chief; b) the situation in the capital had been allowed to come to such a pass that a military operation became necessary; c) the operation was badly mishandled, resulting in the death of all those who were inside the complex, not just the militants. True, there was justification for the operation. The Lal Masjid militants had challenged the writ of the state in the heart of Islamabad. Aside from the seminary students’ moral policing in the capital, Sharia ‘courts’ were set up inside the mosque and there were a number of fire-fights with the police, paramilitary and army even before the military launched its operation. Heavy weaponry was stashed inside the place of worship — and later used by militants during the siege.

While the details of the siege itself were covered extensively by the media, very little is known about the identity of the armed militants who were in control of the mosque complex and their agenda. Here is where a bigger probe is needed; and also to answer what went on inside the complex during the operation and what prompted the military to act in a way that there was no survivor to give an alternative version of events. It can only be hoped that a wider probe will also summon army officials. Fact and fiction must be separated before blame is affixed on those responsible for carrying out a flawed operation and those whose terrorising tactics were getting out of hand.

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Comments (16) Closed

Taufiq Ahmad
Apr 23, 2013 07:58pm
Very well thought provoking... Army do not enjoy amnesty they must be held accountable and bring under the umbrella of law. Justice for everyone.
Apr 23, 2013 09:28am
Well said and fully agree with you.
Apr 23, 2013 07:25am
Thanks to Dawn for highlighting the facts.
Apr 23, 2013 07:38am
Commission did not do its job, the probe should have been done in detail by the said commission. Another incomplete & disguised report pointing fingers nowhere?? All in vain.
Apr 23, 2013 12:01pm
Army soldiers are not taught to garland those who fire on them. A firer on the men in uniform while on duty is treated as a foe and responded accordingly - a world wide acknowledged principle of armed forces. The report appears sympathetic to those who challenge the writ of a govt exploiting religion as a shield. Conclusions akin to this on allied issues will only deter the Law Enforcing Agencies instead the miscreants. Who will rein the latter?
Apr 23, 2013 10:49pm
Excellent and bold article. It is obvious that the commission is biased in its assessment of the situation. Rather than depicting the true nature of the crimes committed by the terrorists inside the Lal Mosque, the commission is blaming those who defended the integrity of the state. Shame on the commission!
Shamsuddin Aslam
Apr 23, 2013 06:04pm
Fully endorse the views expressed above. Unfortunately the affairs of our beloved Pakistan are now a days being handled by those who are bent upon only one thing that all sane persons should be out from the politics of the country and they alone (R) alone should become the owners of the country. Perhaps they should be the sole rulers and no body should question them. These people are behaving like Trade Company owners. May Almighty Allah save our country!
Apr 23, 2013 04:36pm
What justice would you offer people who try to use women and children as human shields while shooting to kill your law enforcers?
Apr 23, 2013 02:31pm
One simple question. What was all that weapons of war doing in Lal Masjid? It had to be taken from there possession, and, only PAK Army could do it, and they did. If all that 'crap' from Lal Masjid had dispersed in Islamabad, it would have turned into Layari of today. The people of Pakistan are very disgusted with the so called 'Black Coats'. A very correct name assigned to them. Under the cover of Black Coats there are so many with Forged Degrees, that is where the ethics of Law are not visible. Or, as they say in urdu 'Fark saaf zahir hai'.
Apr 23, 2013 05:22am
I completely agree with the writer. This is only one sided story.
Apr 23, 2013 03:49am
THIS REPORT IS NOT VERY DETAILED. REGARDING MUSHRAF TRIAL IN SUPREME COURT CASE these lawyers who are bent on revenge are not basically well wishers of PAKISTAN. ARMY should intervene to bury the past, not to favour MUSHARAF. Burying the past is what PROPHET (PBUH) taught. otherwise it will start a chain reaction against all the lawyers, judges, rulers, politicians, ministers etc. PLEASE WHY DO NOT THESE LAWYERS AND OTHERS UNDERSTAND. tolerance is the teaching of ALLAH. tolerance is the key to civilisation., development and progress.MAY ALLAH GUIDE US RIGHTLY...AAAMEEEEN
Ahmed bandukda
Apr 23, 2013 03:04am
why CJ of Pakistan has ordered operation cleanup of NO GO AREAS OF KARACHI. He wants to finish all terror groups so that people of Karachi can be saved of all those gangsters who controlled the entire area in different parts of Karachi. So, former President Rtd. General Pervaiz Musharraf took that action on Lal Masjid due to terrorist activities with full consultation of the army, cabinet, political parties, Immam of Kaba, Edhi and the press. Than , how come Musharaff is arrested where as CJ Iftikhar Ch. is being honored for such acts. Where is Justice. Is justice prevailed. May Allah save Pakistan .
Apr 23, 2013 09:07am
Thanks to Dawn for boldly highlighting the glaring deficiencies in the mandate assigned to the commission (which points towards vested interests trying to engineer a particular outcome) and the reactionary nature of the commission's recommendations. The exercise was obviously in vain and those instituted it should be question for their intentions, if not competence.
Ghalib Khan
Apr 23, 2013 09:10am
Excellent Article. my faith in DAWN is restored ;)
Abbas Alhaj
Apr 23, 2013 08:06am
An independent,unbiased inquiry is required to fixed the responsibility to all persons concerned.
Apr 23, 2013 07:49am
The commission has not thrown any light on the conduct of Lal Masjid administration and also the criminal act on their part which forced a military operation. It seems that Musharraf and party had some personal score to settle with the Lal Masjid administration, which I do not think was the case. Incomplete inquiry indeed.