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EDITORIAL: Lal Masjid and Maulana Fazlullah

Oct 27: The naib-imam of Islamabad's controversial Lal Masjid, Amir Siddiqi, appointed to his job by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, held a press conference at the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club on Thursday and said the 30 troops killed by suicide-bombers in Mingora the same day had suffered the "death of infidels". Siddiqi supported the cleric-warlord of Swat, Fazlullah, because the latter had "supported late Rashid Ghazi", who was killed in the military operation on Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa. Amir Siddiqi is a nephew of Rashid Ghazi killed in the storming of Lal Masjid in July.

The Supreme Court, while returning the mosque to the control of the vigilante clan of Ghazi Brothers, must have known that there was no clerical consensus in favour of the rampant clergy of Lal Masjid. Because of Ghazi brothers' links with Al Qaeda, the Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal had kept clear of them, though its leaders had continued to criticise the government from the sidelines. It is for that reason that an unrepentant and defiant Siddiqi has criticised the MMA leaders, Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, "for having played no role to stop the operation".

The Supreme Court, in trying to resolve the issue, has added its opinion to the politicisation of the Lal Masjid siege by returning it to the Ghazi clan, and Siddiqi is exploiting this trend to the hilt. He has put all and sundry, including the state institutions, under challenge by saying that Pakistan's war against terrorism was "a war of infidels, killing its own citizens to serve the interests of the United States". For more analysis in line with Al Qaeda, Siddiqi has warned "the government that the situation in Swat will be more dangerous for the army than that in the Tribal Areas and Balochistan".

Many aspects of Lal Masjid have been ignored by the media. For instance, the transformation of Al Qaeda into a sectarian organisation was predated by the sectarianism of Lal Masjid whose founder was killed in 1998 because of his deep sectarian involvement. The vigilante onslaught of his sons running Lal Masjid was clearly sectarian but it was ignored by the media and the people. The judgment that restored the mosque to the clan has also overlooked this aspect. The Aziz-Rashid duo began earlier this year with a clear sectarian intent when they abducted a lady in Islamabad after accusing her of running a brothel. Only the BBC website recorded the charge made by the lady that, while they were dragging her family out, the Lal Masjid vigilantes had referred to the Shia sect as a "sect of prostitutes". The media, in its frenzy to hold the government accountable, ignored Rashid Ghazi's reference to "Shia lashkars that the government was going to unleash on the mosque".

Equally ignored was the reference made to the 300 "prophetic" dream-visions of Maulana Abdul Aziz in the Urdu press. Was this meant to avoid comparison with religious cults in the West that manifested the same syndrome of isolation-indoctrination-rejection? After the suo moto notice, it was essential to make a deep analysis of what the Ghazi clan was all about and why the country's clerical alliance was chary of offering support to them. After challenging the state to face up to the Lal Masjid challenge, the media turned tail and allowed the politicians to politicise the issue, which in turn scared the clergy, leading to an unprecedented showdown inside the Wifaqul Madaris headquarters in Multan where the Deobandi warmongers finally won the day against their moderate leaders.

Clearly, we are all responsible for the encouragement and escalation of the elements that are bent upon destroying the state in the name of religion. All those who oppose the government deliberately ignore the separation of the government from the permanent institution of the state. When any one of them comes to power he will have to capitulate to the very elements he supports now. Daily Times

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