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Petition seeks SC action against top officials: Lal Masjid-Jamia Hafsa operation

ISLAMABAD, Aug 29: Wafaqul Madaris Al Arabia Pakistan on Tuesday pleaded before the Supreme Court that Gen Pervez Musharraf as army chief and other civil and military officers should be sued for what it called 'butchering innocent people' during the July 10 military operation against Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa.

On a suo motu notice, a four-member Supreme Court bench, comprising Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Faqir Mohammad Khokhar, Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan and Justice M. Javed Buttar, took up a complaint regarding the extra-judicial killing of people at the Lal Masjid-Jamia Hafsa compound.

Complaints of harassment by family members of some students of the seminary also invited the ire of the court which directed Deputy Attorney-General Raja Irshad to ask intelligence agencies to stop imitating Mughal rulers by exercising unbridled powers.

On the petition of Wafaqul Madaris, the court ordered the respondents the federation of Pakistan through secretary interior, cabinet division and the defence secretary -- to answer 21 questions raised in the petition through concise statements in four weeks. Attorney-General Malik Mohammad Qayyum was also summoned for the next hearing.

Wafaqul Madaris regulates curricula of around 10,000 Islamic institutions and holds examinations throughout Pakistan.

Pleading the case of Wafaqul Madaris, Advocate Iftikhar Gillani sought directive of the Supreme Court for the registration of criminal cases against those who had ordered the military operation. "FIRs should be lodged against Gen Pervez Musharraf, Commander 10 Corp Rawalpindi, interior ministry, Islamabad chief commissioner and deputy commissioner and Inspector General Police Islamabad.

"We will file affidavits that the agreement reached between the government and Lal Masjid clerics before the operation was torn apart in the presidency," Iftikhar Gillani said. "Gen Musharraf has given us nothing but 'butchery' in Wana, Bajaur, Karachi, Waziristan and all over the country."

The court asked the local administration to refrain from taking hasty steps to change the nature of the place where Jamia Hafsa stood but pulled down after the military operation. "Prior approval of the court and consultation with Wafaqul Madaris will be necessary before taking any decision."

The court also asked the administration to respect the sentiments of the people and said that instead of converting the seminary plot into parks or library, some educational institution, preferably religious, should be developed.

The basis of the Wafaqul Madaris petition, Iftikhar Gillani explained, was the note sent by Justice Mohammad Nawaz Abbasi to the then acting chief justice in which the judge had held that killings of innocent citizens either by militants or security forces squarely fell within the ambit of 'Qatal-Amad' (murder).

The petition requested the court to restrain the government from using the Jamia Hafsa place for any other purpose or changing its nature in any manner till the court concluded its probe into the Lal Masjid operation.

It pleaded that the use of chemical incendiary weapons against civilians, defacing the bodies, concealing the exact figure of casualties and use of excessive force were crimes in international law. The Geneva Convention, 1980 provides protection by imposing restrictions on the use of incendiary weapons against civilians even in war times. Therefore, the people responsible for the massacre should be booked and penalised, it added.

The petition said the 'operation silence' was clearly beyond the functions of the Armed Forces as defined under Article 245 of the Constitution. Unfortunately, it said, efforts were being made to bury the issue, instead of taking action against the responsible.

The court directed the administration to address the allegations of harassments and complaints regarding missing students, expedite DNA tests of bodies and facilitate handing over of bodies to their families.

Interior Secretary Kamal Shah informed the court that of the 39 persons who had remained arrested, 37 had been bailed out, except Maulana Abdul Aziz and one of his daughters. Similarly, DNA tests of 42 bodies of a total 62 have been confirmed while the remaining 20 are under process.

The administration was asked to consider payment of expenses to the legal heirs who had come from far-flung areas to receive bodies of their near and dear ones.

Regarding the desecration of the Holy Quran, the court was told that five officials of the Capital Development Authority, including a director, who supervised the removal of debris from Jamia Hafsa, had been suspended.

On a complaint regarding two girls who had surrendered to the authorities but later went missing, the administration submitted a confidential report before the court and said that efforts were afoot to locate them.

The interior secretary informed the court that Jamia Hafsa was demolished after it had been declared dangerous by a committing comprising Nespak, the CDA and the Planning Commission.

The court asked the administration to approach Religious Affairs Minister Ijazul Haq who in a talk show had claimed that the mother of Maulana Abdul Aziz was still alive but her whereabouts were not known.

During the case, the six-member legal committee expressed apprehensions over the delay in DNA tests. Dawn
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