MMA in a fix over Lal Masjid issue

April 07, 2007


ISLAMABAD, April 6: While other opposition parties are openly condemning the administration of Lal Masjid for challenging the writ of the government by setting up Qazi courts, the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal alliance of religious parties appears to be in a fix over the issue and unclear in its stand.

"We have nothing to do with the issue," said deputy chief of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Liaquat Baloch when contacted by Dawn for comments on the action taken by some clerics and students of Lal Masjid and its affiliated Madressah Hafsa.

Opposition Leader in the National Assembly and head of his own faction of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-Islam (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman refused to talk on the issue. His mobile phone was attended by a person named Abdul Sattar who said that the Maulana would not speak on the Madressah Hafsa issue.

"If you want to talk on the Madressah Hafsa issue, the Maulana will not talk to you and he has said the same thing to several TV channels' correspondents," he said.

Mr Liaquat Baloch said that the setting up of Qazi courts and enforcement of Sharia in a particular area was an "independent decision" of the Lal Masjid administration and a reaction to the government's "foolish policy" of promoting obscenity by propagating Gen Musharraf's so-called enlightened moderation.

When asked if he condemned the decision of the Lal Masjid administration of setting up parallel courts, Mr Baloch said the MMA believed in the Constitution of Pakistan and was struggling for its enforcement. He said the government should avoid any action against Madressah Hafsa which might lead to bloodshed. He also advised the Lal Masjid administration to join the MMA's larger struggle for the rule of constitution in the country.

Replying to a question on the presence of party MNA Mian Aslam in Lal Masjid on Friday, Mr Baloch said that he had been sent by the party after receiving a report that some Ulema were going to announce the stoning to death punishment for someone. The report, however, proved wrong when the Ulema told the MNA that they were planning to pelt the seized video CDs with stones.

Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) information secretary Ahsan Iqbal told Dawn that the Lal Masjid Ulema were only following Gen Musharraf’s doctrine that one could use the power of gun to impose a particular agenda on the society. "There is no difference between what Gen Musharraf is doing and what the Lal Masjid Ulema are doing," he said.

He said the situation reflected the crisis of governance inflicted by the seven-year rule of Gen Musharraf. During the Musharraf era, he said, the nation had witnessed a rise in ethno-nationalist militancy and religious extremism.