ISLAMABAD, Jan 1: The one-man judicial commission probing the 2007 bloodbath in Lal Masjid recorded the statements of 16 more witnesses on Tuesday, but only one had something different to say than the nine heard on the previous day.
Like on Monday, most of the witnesses were heirs of madrassah students killed in the military operation or clergymen of the fortified mosque, who stated that “fire from outside” killed the people trapped inside and prevented them from fleeing the mosque.
But Afzal Khan, in-charge of Jamia Hafsa, the girls madrassah attached to Lal Masjid, told the commission he and 500 students managed to come out of the mosque.
Justice Shehzado Sheikh of the Federal Shariat Court, who heads the commission, is to hear 294 witnesses in all after which some 15 government officials of that period would be called to depose before the commission set up by the Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, witness Abdul Rahman told the commission that he was in Karachi and his son Mohammad Anwar, studying in Jamia Faridia, was inside the mosque on July 3, 2007 when the army surrounded the mosque.
“I arrived in Islamabad the next day and called my son on phone insisting that he leave the mosque. But he said he can’t because of the firing outside,” said the witness.
Mr Rahman said he remained in contact with Anwar till July 6 and on July 8 security officials informed him that his son had died.
Witness Afzal Khan, in-charge of Jamia Hafsa, however, told the inquiry commission that a large number of trapped students had managed to leave the besieged mosque.
In his recorded statement the Jamia Hafsa official said that around 11am on July 3, 2007, the military cordoned off the mosque with barbed-wire and built bunkers on its perimeter.
A curfew was also imposed in the area and the military started firing at Lal Masjid at 3pm which killed several students and some teachers of the seminary, according to the seminary in-charge.
On July 6, 2007, while the military operation was still going on, he said, he and 500 students came out of the mosque and law enforcement agencies sent them to Adiala Jail.
Mr Afzal Khan stated that police later implicated him in a number of cases, including one of murder of a Ranger official deployed outside the mosque.
Witness Raja Irshad Satti stated to the commission that his son Abu Bakar, a student of Jamia Faridia, was inside Lal Masjid on July 3, 2007.
According to him Abu Bakar was ready to come out of the mosque after the military operation began but firing from outside left him no option but to stay put in the mosque.“I and relatives of several other students trapped inside the mosque spent days and nights under the open sky, hoping to be reunited with our beloved ones,” he said.
Raja Satti said they later moved to the nearby Sports Complex where the district administration had made arrangements for their temporary stay.
“On July 10, we heard loud explosions from the Lal Masjid and the following day I learnt that my son had died in the operation,” he said, adding that he did not receive the body of his son because it was not identified.