ISLAMABAD, Jan 3: The senior leadership of the Lal Masjid and several key functionaries of Jamia Hafsa and Jamia Faridia, the two seminaries attached to it, were either not present in the mosque or had left it before the military launched its final assault on July 10, 2007.

This has emerged from the testimonies of 50 of the 294 witnesses recorded in the past four days by the one-man judicial commission inquiring into the July 3-11, 2007 bloody operation that killed 103 people, including family members of Maulana Abdul Aziz, head cleric of the mosque, teachers and students of the seminaries and 10 security personnel.

Asiya Hameed, a teacher of Jamia Hafsa and custodian of the record of the girls seminary, was among the 16 witnesses who recorded their statements with the commission on Thursday.

“Since I was not in the madrassa during the operation, I don't know the exact details,” she said when asked by the head of the commission Justice Shehzado Sheikh of the Federal Shariat Court, whether she had the record of the girls who were on rolls, or went missing during the operation.

She said her uncle had taken her away from the mosque complex, where the girls seminary operated, on July 3, 2007, the day the operation began.

When she rejoined Jamia Hafsa, she said, she did not find the record, which security agencies might have taken away.

Maulana Aziz, who also acted as principal of Jamia Faridia located in Sector E-7, had similarly told the commission in his testimony on December 31 that he could not compile the record of the students killed or went missing in the operation as he was arrested when he came out of the mosque on July 4, 2007, the day after the army laid siege to the mosque.

Reports at that time said Maulana Aziz slipped out in a ‘burqa’ in the company of his daughters and girl students leaving the mosque in response to appeals made by the administration in the days before the Special Services Group launched the final assault on July 10, 2007.

Nazim of Jamia Hafsa, Afzal Khan, deposing the day after Maulana Aziz did, told the commission that he and some 500 girl students had left the mosque on July 6, 2007 during a break in the curfew imposed in the mosque area.

Umme Hassan, Maulana Aziz's spouse and principal of Jamia Hafsa, was arrested from inside the mosque complex on July 10, 2007 but says she did not witness the last stages of the final assault.

She told Dawn that she had struggled for the enforcement of Sharia in the country and lost many members of her family in the quest, including her only son Hassan.

“I sacrificed my son for a cause. There was nothing more precious to me than him,” she said.

Her husband, Maulana Aziz, had recounted to the commission other members the family lost - his mother Sahiba Khatoon, younger brother Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi and two cousins.

Many teachers, students of Jamia Faridia and their administrator Tariq Saeed, escaped the misfortune as they were detained inside the seminary located far away from the mosque, according to a teacher of Lal Masjid, Maulana Abdul Qadir.

Sajjad Ahmed, a Murree-based journalist, told the commission that his elder brother Khalid Ameen, inspired by sermons of clerics, reached Lal Masjid on July 3, 2007 morning to defend it and went missing in the aftermath.

“I received his last call on July 6 (2007) and then silence fell, without a trace of him,” he said. Despite his best efforts, Khalid Ameen's body was not found.

Sajjad told Dawn that his brother was not religious-minded and seldom offered prayer in Lal Masjid. “But because he was an emotional man, he decided to stand with the Lal Masjid people till the end,” he said, adding that “the role of clerics was not very encouraging in this episode”.

“My family lives in a never-ending uncertainty over Ameen's fate.”


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