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Lal Masjid operation: Cabinet was kept in dark

February 12, 2013

Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf speaks at a news conference. — Photo by AP/File

ISLAMABAD, Feb 12: Two federal ministers of former President Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday informed the Lal Masjid commission that the military operation on the mosque was launched without approval of the cabinet in July 2007.

The revelation came when the one-man commission of Justice Shehzado Sheikh of the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) asked the two former ministers whether the operation was launched with the cabinet approval or had it ever been brought on the agenda of the federal cabinet.

General (retired) Javed Ashraf Qazi, the then federal minister for education, told the commission that Lal Masjid issue was never part of the cabinet agenda.

Sumera Malik, another federal minister during the era of Pervez Musharraf, also claimed that she had very little knowledge about the Lal Masjid issue.

Justice Sheikh wondered if the ministers were ignorant about the operation, who was managing and dealing with the matter? At this, Ms Malik replied that senior politicians, including Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Mohammad Ali Durrani, Ijazul Haq and Tariq Azeem, were heading the negotiations. She said these senior politicians never wanted an operation and tried to resolve the issue peacefully.

When asked why the occupation of the children’s library by the students of the Lal Masjid seminary could not be resolved to avoid the operation, Gen Qazi said it was not the only issue.

There were many other things, including the incidents like the kidnapping of Chinese massage parlour workers and police officials and burning of government property by the students of Lal Masjid, he added.

Justice Sheikh asked Kamran Lashari, the then chairman of the CDA, as to why the civic agency had launched an operation only against 80 mosques whereas several other illegal structures and encroachments existed in the city? Mr Lashari said the interior ministry had asked the CDA for demolishing all illegal mosques located along VVIP routes.

He said a decision in this regard had been taken at a meeting held in the interior ministry during the second half of 2006 and the then Islamabad administration and the CDA staff conducted a survey of mosques built in violation of the CDA by-laws.

About the matter, Syed Tahir Shahbaz, the incumbent chairman of the CDA, said he was not in the civic body when the operation was launched.

However, Justice Sheikh expressed his dismay and said the CDA chairman was not prepared to respond to his queries. He directed the CDA chief to appear before the commission again on February 16.

Syed Anwaarul Hassan, a PTV anchorperson, told the commission that he did not plan the interview of Lal Masjid cleric in burqa.

“I was at home when the then PTV director current affairs Agha Masood Shorish called and asked me to reach the studio immediately.”

He added: “When I reached the office of Mr Shorish, he took me to then chief coordinator Shakoor Tahir where the then director news Sarmad Salik was also present. “They told me that some people were bringing Maulana Abdul Aziz and I had to interview him.”

According to his statement, unknown persons brought the cleric to the studio at about 7pm who was still wearing the burqa in which he had been caught trying to escape from the mosque.

He claimed that the questions he put to Maulana Aziz during the interview were not his own, but had been provided to him by the chief coordinator, Shakoor Tahir.