News Release

Pakistan: Aftermath of Storming of Mosque

Agence France Presse is reporting: “Pakistan’s army said Thursday that women and children may have been among those killed in the Red Mosque raid, as the burials of militants killed in the assault sparked angry Islamist protests. President Pervez Musharraf was due to address the nation in a bid to defuse tensions after the storming of the mosque in Islamabad, a fierce two-day battle that left at least 86 dead — 75 compound occupants, mainly militants, and 11 soldiers.”

PERVEZ HOODBHOY
Professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan, Hoodbhoy is currently in the United States at Princeton University. He said today: “Lal Masjid underscores the danger of runaway religious radicalism in Pakistan. The Lal Masjid militants were given a free hand by the government to kidnap and intimidate. For months, under the nose of Pakistan’s super-vigilant intelligence agencies, large quantities of arms and fuel were smuggled inside to create a fearsome fortress in the heart of the nation’s capital. … The Lal Masjid crisis is a direct consequence of the ambivalence of General Musharraf’s regime towards Islamic militancy. In part it comes from fear and follows the tradition of appeasement. Another part comes from the confusion of whether to cultivate the Taliban — who can help keep Indian influence out of Afghanistan — or whether to fight them.”
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JUNAID AHMAD
ROBERT JENSEN
Ahmad is a member of the Progressive Muslims Network and works with the Center for Progressive Islam. Jensen is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Both are currently in Pakistan, which is nine hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

Jensen wrote today: “For my first three days in Pakistan, no conversation could go more than a few minutes without a reference to the crisis at the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) compound. I had landed in Islamabad on July 8, and by then it seemed clear that government forces would eventually storm the mosque and the attached women’s seminary to end the confrontation with fundamentalist clerics and their supporters.”

Ahmad said: “Another aspect of the crisis mostly ignored in the press is that these events played out in Islamabad, home to the more secular/liberal and privileged elements of the society. While those groups might ignore such movements and conflicts in the outer provinces, many found it offensive that such an embarrassing incident could happen in the capital, where the world eventually would pay attention. So we hear about how this is bad for the image of Pakistan, with no comment about the lives of ordinary Pakistanis and the substance of what the country is about. Instead of talking about these fundamental questions of justice, many people wanted to see the incident ended to avoid further tarnishing of the country’s image. It’s like the obsession the United States has with simply changing its image in the Muslim world rather than recognizing the injustice of its policies.”
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For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy at (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan at (541) 484-9167.