Reinforcement around Lal Masjid

July 03, 2007

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ISLAMABAD, July 2: In a bid to tighten noose around the Lal Masjid administration, the government on Monday reinforced the Rangers force deployed near the mosque with another two wings, each with 500 personnel and lodged them in apartments recently vacated by the Punjab Constabulary near Aabpara.

A senior security official, however, told Dawn that the government had no intention of conducting any raid on the mosque and its seminaries. “But the forces deployed near the mosque will take stern action against Lal Masjid students if they take law in their own hands or attack any massage centre or CDs shop,” he added.

The official said the number of Rangers deployed near the mosque had now gone up to 1,500 and they were being supported by 500 police commandos.

The purpose of deployment of Rangers for the first time so close to the mosque, he said, was to keep a close eye on the activities of Jamia Hafsa and Jamia Freedia’s students.

The Rangers have also started patrolling but they do not go near the mosque. The police commandos are on all sides within a half kilometre radius to stop any action by students.

Sources said that Lal Masjid also had reinforced its brigade by calling more activists from other areas and seminaries.

The sources said they had reports that the Lal Masjid brigade had advanced weapons, wireless systems and special masks to be used in the event of a gas attack.

Lal Masjid’s in-charge Maulana Abdul Aziz has threatened the management of all massage centres that his students would continue their raids.

Meanwhile, the local administration has directed government offices and other people to vacate all buildings close to Lal Masjid and the building of the environment ministry has already been vacated for the safety of its employees.

Both the security forces and the Lal Masjid brigade have taken positions and made bunkers. The mosque’s students have also blocked a road with electricity poles.