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Musharraf refuses to appear before Lal Masjid commission

February 22, 2013

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

ISLAMABAD, Feb 22: Former President General (retired) Pervez Musharraf has refused to appear before the one-man commission constituted by the Supreme Court to probe into the Lal Masjid operation of 2007.

The commission on January 31, 2013, had decided to summon Mr Musharraf and former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz after recording the statements of a number of witnesses who alleged that the former president was responsible for the military operation that left 103 people, including 10 military personnel, dead.

An official of the commission confirmed that Mr Musharraf had refused to appear before the commission.

He said the commission had summoned the former president thrice with the last summon sent to his residence abroad through the foreign ministry. However, he did not receive it.

According to him, the commission would not take any coercive measure against Mr Musharraf for defying the summons because it had no power to compel any witness to record their statement.

It may be mentioned that Maulana Aziz, the Khateeb of Lal Masjid, his spouse Umme Hassan and some other clerics have held Gen Musharraf responsible for the operation.

Testifying before the commission, Maulana Aziz on December 31, 2012, said “Gen Musharraf was against our religious ideology. In his tenure, the district management started demolishing 80 mosques in the federal capital. That was why students of Jamia Faridia started protesting against him.”

Similarly, Umme Hassan alleged that Gen Musharraf, General (retired) Rashid Qureshi and Gen Waheed Arshad were responsible for the operation.

Gen Rashid Qureshi, when contacted, said the government wanted to block the return of Mr Musharraf by creating bogus and fake cases against him.

He said some clerics, including the spouse of Maulana Aziz, had recorded irresponsible statements before the commission. “They recorded the statements even against me whereas I retired from the military in December 2005.”

Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif, a spokesman for the former president, told Dawn that the operation was conducted in 2007 and the probe into this over five-year-old case had been initiated just four months before the general elections.

He said it was one of the politically-motivated cases through which the government and other political parties wanted to malign Mr Musharraf in order to stop him from contesting the elections.

Tariq Asad, the counsel for Akmal Saleemi, a petitioner in the Lal Masjid case, said Mr Musharraf must be summoned and the commission should record his statement.

He said the commission can issue warrants for the arrest of Mr Musharraf and can also attach his property for defying its orders.

The commission can also record his statement through video conferencing in the same pattern as a three-member commission had recorded the statement of American businessman Mansoor Ijaz in the memo case, he further said.

“I will file an application with the commission to ensure the attendance of Mr Musharraf,” he added.