Written By: Slav Defence
While I was making report on counter-terrorism policy, while researching, I analyzed the Lal Masjid siege, and counter-response strategy applied by government, before I sum up and suggest postulates and points for current counter terrorism strategy, I have decided to represent the full research report and analysis, so that we can understand and place postulates and diagnose flaws and lapses while keeping the past incident in our mind.
There are generally two points of view regarding the Operation Silence carried by Pakistan army in the sight of various ministers, journalists and general public:
-Those mindsets who favors the operation Silence
-Those mindsets who consider it as crime.
Before we continue our debate, I will represent my neutral analysis in this regard
– Lal Masjid siege
-Factors Behind Operation Silence
-The Counter-response: Operation Silence
1) Lal Masjid siege:
Before discussing Lal-Masjid siege, we will highlight the point of convergence which resulted into such catastrophe:
-History of Lal Masjid:
Founded by Maulana Qari Abdullah in 1965, was a place where radical Islam was taught. He taught radical Islam and preached Jihad during Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. The Lal Masjid was frequented by leaders of Pakistani military, most prominently by General Zia, as claimed by a source.
The Lal Masjid was located near federal security and Intelligence agency (FIA). Close to Lal Masjid ‘Jamia Hafsa’ was a madrassa located which was built for educating women in the matters of theology . It was one of the largest Islamic religious institution for women in the Pakistan, with more than 6,000 students. It was constructed by Maulana Qari Abdullah in 1992.
After the end of soviet war in Afghanistan in 1989, some mosques continued to serve as centers for teaching of radical Islam. The situation worsened when Maulana Qari Abdullah was assassinated. On his death, Maulana Abdul Rashid were given the responsibility of entire complex. The brothers when arrested admitted to have regular contacts with Al-Qaida’s then head, Osama Bin Laden.
The first collapse:
After the 9/11 incident, Former President General Pervez Musharraf announced, full support for the US government in their ‘war of terror’. This was the tipping point, due to which the conceptual collapse took place.As they were still following the pattern of Maulana Qari Abdullah, so according to the teachings they inherited, US was now assumed in the place of Russia. They began to identify the United States of America as the ‘new Russia’. According to their standpoint, the US as an invader must be treated and fought like Russia.
They failed to recognized the change that a country which supported them once is now waging a war due to an attack on their territory. Unlike Russia, whose main objective were to capture water reservoirs and strategic dominance. Now the argument that what were the hidden objectives of the US invasion, which is indeed the other side of the coin is a separate story.
I am only describing the hype which US succeed to create throughout the world, so successfully, that even Mr. Bush’s term ‘Crusade’ for Operation Enduring Freedom did not destroyed the hype of 9/11 catastrophe nor decreased world wide pressure upon Pakistan to support the US lead war.
The Maulana brothers strongly opposed Musharraf’s foreign policy, and unconditional support for the US lead war. Besides Musharraf their vigorous attitude was also aimed against the serving military intelligence,even LEA forces including the Islamabad Capital territory police and the paramilitary agencies including rangers. One speech was made by Maulana Masood Azher, who was later on held responsible for a failed attempts to assassinate General Musharraf.
The students of mosque, at the beginning of 2007 started, by arresting prostitutes, burning films and Chinese run massage centers which were accused of operating as illegal brothel. Their activities become more violent when government authorities worked against those mosques which were constructed illegally, thus after that campaigns launched against the government which was accused of bearing an Un-Islamic attitude.
Thus Jamia Hafsa women abducted three women who were accused of running an illegal brothel. Two policemen were seized, and claimed on television that those women had an illegal relationship with Sheikh Rasheed. Later on, Maulana Established a Sharia court, parallel to judiciary and warned of several thousand suicide attacks, where as they also kept on abducting officials and making various accusations against them.
On July 3,2007 a fight took place between Jamia Hafsa students and the security forces which were replaced by paramilitary forces due to the worsening conditions, during the fight they stole weapons and radio sets. Later on about 150 students attacked the Ministry of Environment, setting fire to several vehicles in that area, due to the fighting about 150 people were injured including four mosques students, cameraman, pedestrians etc.
Thus after that a proper battle broke out between the Lal masjid students lead by Maulana brothers and the army. The Negotiations also took place due to which various surrendered and thus after the failure of negotiations, operation Silence took place, in which SSG commandos finally succeed to take over the entire compound.
Now I will ask question to those who are against the Jamia Hafsa Operation:
-Isn’t abduction contrary to sharia and Islam?
-Isn’t it contrary to Islam to built mosques in an illegally captured area? Why they run campaigns in this regard? Just because authorities have demolished illegally constructed mosque?
-Establishing your own sharia court and warning of suicide bombings in case of denial, what type of justice is this?
-Burning a ministerial office, and killing various innocent civilians and harming public property, how can we consider this as Islamic way of jihad? What is the definition of jihad then according to you?
According to ISPR, weapons were recovered Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa complexes, were as follows:
Russian and Chinese variant RPG rockets, anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines, suicide bombing belts, three to five .22-caliber rifles, RPD, RPK and RPK-74 light machine guns, Dragunov sniper rifles, SKS rifles, AK-47s, pistols, night vision equipment, and more than 50,000 rounds of various caliber ammunition, where as Lesser sophisticated items and weaponry recovered from the complex included three crates of gasoline bombs prepared in green soft drink bottles, gas masks, recoilless rifles, two-way radios, large plastic buckets containing homemade bombs the size of tennis balls, as well as knives—
Thus how could be such equipment be discovered from innocent civilians and students?
-If they were innocent civilians with no weapons on them why did it take 36 hours to fully secure the complex and remove the booby traps? how they did they master the technique to create such traps?
Now for those who favored Operation Silence:
-Do you disagree that government shouldn’t have launched attack after assurance of further negotiations? Why?
The main question is isn’t that what happened during or after Operation Silence was launched,what the right question according to me is: What were the causes due to which such catastrophe unfolded?
Why our federal agencies didn’t responded when it seemed clear from their actions that they may initiate a state within state?
Why after the end of Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, the agencies didn’t work on to stop the preaching of jihad, when objective was over?
The main Lapse:
Clearly, from above analysis, it is clear that the agencies should have stopped those training, and those who were trained, must be diverted towards more constructive activities, which was not done. Because of this we observed the monstrous reaction of the taliban. Now here another point arises, since we ourselves were responsible for raising those ‘mujahids’ against Soviet Invasion and along with the US and Saudis we funded and nourished them with our own hands, therefore at that situation, our policy makers were in a state of confusion, we failed to change our policies.
Let me make this clear to you all that I am not describing the situation 2 or 3 years after 9/11 but lapses right after Musharraf’s unconditional support to the US policy. Some experts will immediately say that Musharraf wasn’t doing as he was projecting, yet still I will say that Mr.Musharraf’s immediate attempt to crack down and destroy those Taliban was a major mistake. Mo matter how much the agencies tried to settle up the situation, we still failed to calm the unrest due to which the monstrous TTP was born. We will discuss the infrastructure of terrorist’s organization in details, in part 2 of the report, Inshallah.
The response of government and media:
The government later on settled a commission which blamed Mr.Musharraf’s regime, for this turn of events. I find this blame game as an immature action, according me it wasn’t the regime’s fault, or the entire army sector’s, but the lapse was of a false policy after the soviet invasion. Let me ask you, what do you think, who should be blamed?
According to dawn’s analysis on commission:
Its recently released report on the 2007 showdown between the state and militants holed up inside an Islamabad mosque, the Lal Masjid commission has absolved the army of responsibility for the debacle. Instead, blame has been placed on the shoulders of Gen Musharraf, Shaukat Aziz and members of the cabinet at the time. But before the state files murder charges — as recommended by the one-judge commission — we must ask whether these recommendations are in consonance with some aspects of the affair that need greater critical appraisal.
In other words, the sensitive nature of such an investigation should have entailed far broader terms of reference for the commission than merely affixing blame and focusing on compensation issues. There are three crucial aspects of the Lal Masjid operation that can be considered independently of the report: a) the military operation that resulted in clearing the mosque of militants and the death of many civilians was an institutional decision, not solely that of Gen Musharraf, who was then army chief; b) the situation in the capital had been allowed to come to such a pass that a military operation became necessary; c) the operation was badly mishandled, resulting in the death of all those who were inside the complex, not just the militants. True, there was justification for the operation.
The Lal Masjid militants had challenged the writ of the state in the heart of Islamabad. Aside from the seminary students’ moral policing in the capital, Sharia ‘courts’ were set up inside the mosque and there were a number of fire-fights with the police, paramilitary and army even before the military launched its operation. Heavy weaponry was stashed inside the place of worship — and later used by militants during the siege. While the details of the siege itself were covered extensively by the media, very little is known about the identity of the armed militants who were in control of the mosque complex and their agenda.
Here is where a bigger probe is needed; and also to answer what went on inside the complex during the operation and what prompted the military to act in a way that there was no survivor to give an alternative version of events. It can only be hoped that a wider probe will also summon army officials. Fact and fiction must be separated before blame is affixed on those responsible for carrying out a flawed operation and those whose terrorizing tactics were getting out of hand.
Again I believe that the commission is working on wrong direction, the priority should be the study of factors which lead to Operation Silence, not aftermath of it,or what happened during Operation.
‘Better safe than sorry’, thus I will suggest first that we must resolve those points due to which such incident took place, so that this could be avoided in the future. To prevent more such incidents like the Lal Masjid in future I suggest.
-Past arrested militants must be rehabilitated; Pakistani military is working on this situation currently which needs to be expanded further.
-Second, those who lost their loved ones during such war must be granted support so that they won’t fall in the hands of Taliban’
-Media must launch campaign against these monstrous militants, and must avoid showing analysis against Operation Silence.
-The elected authorities must check Maulanas in the mosques located in their constituencies; they must be checked, and then issued a license which will indicate of their eligibility and permission to work for a mosque.
-Massive crackdown is needed against those mosques that have been constructed illegally.
-We demand another committee whose main focus will be on studying the confusion of policy rather than the end result: Operation Silence