ISLAMABAD, July 10: Lal Masjid’s radical Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi had lived a life different from his mild elder brother, Maulana Abdul Aziz, and met a different end as well.
Unlike Maulana Aziz, who used a burqa to escape from the mosque when things got hot but was caught, Maulana Ghazi stood defiant till last and died fighting.
His body was found in the basement of Jamia Hafsa as the security forces’ Operation Silence - conducted with loudest explosions - neared its culmination on Tuesday.
Known to his acquaintances as just Ghazi (survivor from a battle) he ended a Shaheed (martyr) to his admirers.
Ghazi was 46. His family hailed from Rajanpur district in southern Punjab and belonged to Baloch Mazari tribe.
A media savvy personality to the last, he called some journalists on Tuesday morning and bid them farewell in the traditional way, saying they should forgive him for any hurt he may have caused.
As a child he rebelled against the religious discipline of his father, Maulana Abdullah, the founder of Lal Masjid under the patronage of Ayub Khan and Ziaul Haq, the two military rulers of Pakistan.
Eventually he did submit to family’s wishes and attend a madressah but preferred secular education in the Quaid-i-Azam University from where he got MA degree in history. His father naturally nominated the more obedient Abdul Aziz to succeed him in the Lal Masjid.
But the murder of his father in 1998, changed Ghazi and he turned to religion to emerge as the more uncompromising and unyielding among the Lal Masjid leadership.
It was his hardline stand that the government blamed for the deadlock in the final negotiations and the inevitable crackdown on the extremists holed up in the mosque and adjoining seminary.
People still wonder what made him so obdurate.
Ghazi was not a cleric going strictly by the definition of the word. Due to his dislike for a religious life, his father Maulana Abdullah disassociated him from the affairs of Lal Masjid and nominated his elder son Maulana Abdul Aziz as the sole heir.
He lived a moderate life and was married to a lady from a moderate family. In 1989 he joined Ministry of Education and later served as an officer in a Unesco project.
However, his father’s assassination in 1998 transformed his life and he started taking interest in religious matters.
Encouraged by his transformation his brother appointed him as his deputy at the mosque although he rarely led the prayers there.
His involvement in the anti-US protests following the US-led war on terror in Afghanistan catapulted him to prominence in the radical Jihadi circles.
He was accused in 2004 of masterminding attacks on key installations and the government presented before media an explosive laden car owned by him as evidence. Ghazi went underground afterwards.
However, he was cleared of all charges on the intervention of Federal Minister for Religious Affair Ejazul Haq, who then enjoyed very cordial relations with the Lal Masjid brothers.
Later he survived an assassination attempt. Since then, Ghazi always travelled around armed with an AK-47.
The first test of his media skills was in 2005 when Jamia Hafsa students resisted an operation in the wake 7/7 London bombings.
During the Jamia Hafsa’s protest against demolition of mosques and their subsequent ‘anti-vice campaign’, he successfully put through the point of view of the mosque and the seminary on the issue.
He wisely interacted with media during Operation Silence and at times put the government on defensive through his shrewd moves.