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Lal Masjid operation: Dead man blamed for sabotaging talks

January 21, 2013

In this picture taken on June 25, 2007, Khalid Khawaja speaks to reporters in Islamabad. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD, Jan 20: Perhaps inspired by the proverb ‘dead men tell no tale’ the Islamabad administration is now pointing finger at a former official of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for his role in sabotaging the negotiations with the Lal Masjid administration that led to the military operation in 2007.

According to the written reply the Islamabad administration submitted to the one-man commission of Justice Shehzado Sheikh of Federal Shariat Court (FSC), Khalid Khawaja, the former spy, was a close friend of Lal Masjid chief cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz and his brother Ghazi Abdul Rasheed.

He disrupted the negotiations between the local administration and the management of the mosque which led to the military operation in which 103 people, including 11 military personnel, were killed, said the reply.

“Khawaja had very strong and effective influence over the management of Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa particularly Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, Maulana Abdul Aziz and Umme Hassan. This fact transpired when after successful negotiations with Ghazi Abdul Rasheed regarding handing over of the children library to the ministry of education, local administration officials reached Lal Masjid in the evening. All of a sudden, Khawaja along with 10-12 female students appeared on the scene and opposed the decision. His refusal prevailed upon both the brothers and the possession of the library could not be restored to the ministry of education.”

The reply added, “Khawaja was also requested to intervene and resolve the issue of the children library but he responded negatively. He used his influence upon the brothers just to add fuel to the fire.” It said the district administration tried its level best to persuade Khawaja as well.

On failure, he was arrested in June 2007 (a month prior to the operation) under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) and Security of Pakistan Act 1952. The management of Lal Masjid always demanded his release.

According to the reply, Khawaja was released on June 23, 2007, and after his release some Chinese nationals were kidnapped by the students of Lal Masjid.

The Islamabad administration also referred to the capture and murder of Khawaja by the Taliban and added: “Before his murder, Khawaja delivered a speech, which was also uploaded on ‘Youtube’ by his captors. In the speech, he admitted that he played a double role in the Lal Masjid incident. He further disclosed that during the operation he had advised Maulana Abdul Aziz to come out of Lal Masjid by wearing a Burqa,” the reply added.

When contacted, Usama Khalid, son of Khalid Khawaja, told Dawn: “Because my father is a dead man and could not rebut the allegations, the administration wanted to shift the responsibility on him for the Lal Masjid operation.”

He said his father sacrificed his life for a cause and the nation knew him very well. “We don’t care about any allegation but the government should bring the truth before the nation,” he added.

In the statement, the Islamabad administration also gave a chronology of the incident in which the Lal Masjid management and students took the law into their own hands.