1,100 students at Lal Masjid surrender
Islamabad, July 5(Dawn): TALKS between a three-member ulema delegation and Lal Masjid cleric
Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi failed on Wednesday night after he refused to
The head of the delegation, Maulana Zahoor
Alvi, said Maulana Ghazi was not ready to surrender till the troops surrounding
the mosque were withdrawn.
He said that during his visit to Lal Masjid he
had seen bodies of five students lying in the mosque. He said he had also seen
children aged five to eight there and asked Maulana Ghazi to let them go out.
But Maulana Ghazi said they were his children and he could take care of
MAULANA Abdul Aziz, the leader of the Lal Masjid brigade, was
arrested while trying to flee in a burqa.
"After all the things he has
said and all the oaths he took from his students that they should embrace
martyrdom with him, look at this man," Minister of State for Information Tariq
Maulana Aziz was caught after a group of 50 burqa-clad women
from the mosque started screaming as they were taken to a nearby school for
security checks after giving themselves up, saying the procedure was
"Our officers spotted his (Aziz's) unusual demeanour. The
rest of the girls looked like girls, but he was taller and had a pot-belly," an
ISLAMABAD, July 4: The government's strategy of a massive
display of military might, with machinegun-mounted armoured personnel carriers
laying siege to the militant-infested Lal Masjid and security officials'
warnings of a ruthless crackdown worked on Wednesday and more than 1,100 men and
women members and supporters of the radical brigade capitulated and surrendered
The public spectacle of the surrender continued
throughout the day, during
which everyone who came out of Lal Masjid and
the adjoining Jamia Hafsa was made to walk through metal detectors and was
frisked by security officials and policewomen. Most men were also asked to walk
with the belly showing as the authorities wanted to be sure that none of them
carried suicide bomber's explosive belt.
But perhaps the biggest blow to
the heavily armed militants, who on Tuesday had vowed to continue their 'jihad'
till the last drop of blood, came when their leader and chief khateeb Maulana
Abdul Aziz was caught while trying to escape in disguise, wearing a
"Yes, I confirm that Maulana Abdul Aziz has been arrested along
with his wife while he was trying to escape wearing burqa," Deputy Commissioner
Islamabad Chaudhry Muhammad Ali said. Religious Affairs Minister Ijaz-ul-Haq
later justified the arrest of the cleric's wife, saying that she was one of the
key figures behind every thing that had happened there, and even on Wednesday
had tried to prevent women students from leaving Jamia Hafsa.
minutes of his arrest, Maulana Aziz was whisked away by intelligence operatives
to an undisclosed place.
Known for his firebrand speeches, calls for
jihad and open threats in Friday sermons about having a brigade of suicide
bombers inside Lal Masjid, Maulana Aziz tried to slip away by posing as one of
the 50-odd women students who had offered to surrender.
But for an
eagle-eyed woman head constable of the Special Branch, Maulana Aziz would have
managed to slip away along with his wife.
A security official said that head constable Maryam was standing close to the outer gate observing all
the women who were moving towards the parked buses when she got suspicious of
the way two of the women were behaving. All other women were allowed to pass,
but burqa-clad Maulana Aziz was stopped and Maryam surprised him by asking his
name and he did not respond. It was soon revealed that behind the black burqa
was the man, who for the last six months had been keeping the entire
administration and the country in a state of panic.
It was ironic that a
man who rarely got himself photographed was now making headlines with his image
splashed on television channels showing him in an all-covering black
So embarrassing was the revelation for most radical and moderate
Islamists that no one was prepared to justify the act. However, his younger
brother and perhaps the more militant of the two, Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi,
remained defiant till the filing of this report and even expressed his annoyance
over Maulana Aziz's attempt to escape. (Some private TV channels reported late
in the night that he had agreed to surrender).
But for most other people
in Islamabad, and in other parts of the country, the incident was used to make
fun of the militant clerics. Throughout the evening, jokes were doing the
rounds, with people feeling a marked reduction in tension in the city.All this
went on with the residential district of G-6, where the mosque is located, being
under curfew. Only a small group of journalists managed to get some access to
the area, which was much in contrast to the happening of the previous day when
the pitched gunbattles between security forces and madressah militants took
place with journalists and other watching.
It was also a conscious
decision of the authorities to keep the media at bay in case a full-fledged
security operation was to be launched.
On Tuesday, the area had seen some
of the worst clashes ever witnessed in the capital. The daylong battles had left
10 people dead and over 150 injured. On Wednesday, another passerby became
victim of firing by security forces in the curfew zone, where shoot-at-sight
orders were enforced. Bodies of a number of people killed in overnight clashes
were also found and officials said the death toll since Tuesday's fighting stood
On Wednesday morning, the situation appeared different as people
of G-6 area woke up to realize that the entire locality around Lal Masjid had
been handed over to the army. There were APCs all over and army units in trucks
fitted with machine-guns were patrolling G-6 and nearby localities.
though a military operation had appeared imminent after the deployment of army
in the wee hours of Wednesday, it turned out that the authorities were using the
policy of the carrot and stick with the help of religious leaders like Maulana
Fazlur Rehman and Maulana Ghafoor Hyderi of Jamiat Ulema Islam(F), who were
involved in proximity talks aimed at securing unconditional surrender of all
those holed up inside the mosque.
Maulana Hyderi was at one point quoted
as saying that the younger Maulana, Rasheed Ghazi, was also willing to give up
provided the security forces were withdrawn from the area, but senior officials
said they were not prepared to discuss any such condition.
authorities also took advantage of President Gen Pervez Musharraf's earlier
announcement of a general amnesty to all those who had surrendered and who had
no criminal records. However, officials said that all the men who surrendered
were being taken to Adiala jail and would be released only after their record is
checked for any criminal activities. Those found innocent would be given Rs5,000
to enable them to travel back home as most of them belong to the North-West
The women of Jamia Hafsa were being kept at the Haj
Terminal in Rawalpindi, and the authorities were yet to decide about their
Meanwhile, local police registered a fresh case against Maulana
Aziz, Maulana Ghazi and their spokesman Abdul Qayyum under Anti-Terrorism Act
and six other sections of the Pakistan Penal Code relating to murder, wrongful
confinement, assault on public servants, rioting with deadly weapons and
The day started with the killing of an unidentified
man who had entered the 'no go area' from the Melody Market side. He was
reportedly hit by a sniper deployed around Lal Masjid and on the roof of houses
in the adjoining areas. His body was taken to the CDA Hospital.
overnight siege of the area by SSG Commandos, 111 Brigade personnel and Rangers
intensified on Wednesday after they were reinforced by more security personnel
and four helicopters started aerial surveillance.
started surrendering at around 11.15am when the mosque administration was given
the first deadline of 11.30am to surrender. Till the filing of this report,
about 1,100 had surrendered.
The crossfire between militants and security
forces continued throughout the day with brief intervals.
continued in Sector G-6 till Wednesday night. Power supply to the area remained
suspended for the second day.
Interior Ministry spokesman Brig Javed
Iqbal Cheema said that residents would be provided food and water through vans.
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