Lal Mosque's Terror Link
Muhammad Amir Rana
South Asia Net: May 25, 2007
Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies
Taking inspiration from the ‘courage’ of Lal Mosque’s administration, Muttahida Ulema Council of Bagh, Azad Kashmir has also announced to set up Shariah courts in the district. Interestingly, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl Group) has denounced the action of those at the helm of Lal Mosque, and Wafaqul Madariss Al-Arabia (WMA), the educational board of Deobandi Madariss, has also abrogated the affiliation of the 12 Madariss run by the Mosque administration, but the movement is still catching momentum.
Jamiat Tauheed-wal-Ishaat Quran-wal-Sunnah (JTIQS), the banned Therik Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) and Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan (new name of Sipah-e-Sihabah) are openly supporting the Lal Mosque administration. JTIQS and TNSM have great influence in Malakand, Dir and Federally Administered Tribal areas (FATA). Maulana Fazl Elahi, a TNSM leader, has threatened that he, along with his thousands of followers, would rush to Islamabad if the Lal Mosque is attacked.
Lal Mosque administration is also enjoying support of several leading clerics like Maulana Sher Ali Shah, a respected religious teacher among jihadist, and Senator Maulana Samiul Haq of Jamia Akora Khattak. After the cancellation of their Madariss’ affiliation with WMA, Maulana Abdul Aziz announced establishment of a parallel educational board ‘Wafaqul Madariss Islamia’. Just after his announcement, more than 1000 Madariss applied for the affiliation with the new board. Out of which 138 are from Balochistan, 81 from Kashmir, 450 from NWFP, 186 from Punjab and 9 Madariss are situated in Northern Areas. This step might force the WMA to review its decision because the division among Madariss would damage Madrisa system in the country.
The head of Lal Mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz formally announced establishment of Shariah courts on April 6 and threatened of using suicide attacks against the government, if a crackdown was launched against the seminary.
It was the fallout of the three month occupation of children library near the mosque. The movement was started when Capital Development Authority (CDA) razed Ameer Hamza Mosque on 24th January 2007 in Islamabad. To respond, the Maulana Abdul Aziz, his brother Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi and their 10,000 pupils started a strong protest. A ‘baton force’ was formed for countering the use of force by the government. Veiled female students took the positions and many students across the country came to Islamabad to support Madrissa in case of a full-scale clash with the government. Government tried to resolve the issue through talks and engaged the WMA’s religious scholars for mediation. The Government accepted their all demands for rebuilding the destroyed mosque and Lal Mosque administration as well agreed but Maulana Abdul Aziz changed his stance suddenly and refused to vacant the children library and announced Shariah enforcement movement.
A few analysts believe that the motive behind the Shariah movement was to keep their possession on the government land as no one dared to raise objection on their illegal occupation over precious land before.
This is not the first time that Lal Mosque created problem in the capital. Maulana Abdullah, father of Maulana Abdul Aziz and Ghazi, was very popular among Deobandis because of his anti-Shiites speeches. He had very close links with sectarian outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba. Shia community had serious reservation against him and when he was assassinated in 2001, it was declared a sectarian-related killing. Maulana Abdullah, the favorite religious scholar of General Ziaul Haq because of his pro-jihad speeches, had close association with Afghan Jihad leaders; Abdul Rab Sayyaf, Jalaluddin Haqqani and Ahmed Shah Masood and later he affiliated himself with the Taliban. He was one of those Deobandi religious scholars, who started campaign for the release of Maulana Masood Azhar when he was arrested in Indian Occupied Kashmir in 1994.
His sons, Ghazi Abdul Rasheed and Maulana Abdul Aziz continued with their father’s ideology for jihad and mysticism. They were the mastermind behind a religious decree that insisted Pakistan army personnel killed during clashes in South Waziristan be denied a Muslim burial. The Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa were in the news in July 2005 when Pakistani security forces tried to raid the mosque following the suicide bombings in London. And it was the Jamia Hafsa which a British school girl Misbah Rana Molly Campbell was reported to have been interested in joining after arriving in Pakistan at the centre of an international custody row.
The more important was the Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi’s links with Al-Qaeda, which came on surface in 2004, when Osama bin Laden’s driver Usman was arrested in Islamabad in connection with alleged sabotage activities in the capital. He was Maulana Abdul Rasheed’s guest and traveling in his car when arrested on August 11, 2007.
Calls from Usman's phone to Mustafa, the alleged Al-Qaeda terrorist in Karachi, were traced and he was also arrested. After Usman’s arrest Abdul Rasheed Ghazi disappeared and re-appeared on the scene after two weeks. Surprisingly he was not pursued in Usman’s case and set freed.
When riot erupted in the capital after the murder of Maulana Azam Tariq, head of Sipah-e-Sahaba in 2003, the Jamia Faridia’s students were leading the mob which ransacked public and private property.
Recently suicide attacks in Islamabad on Marriot hotel and Airport as well have links with Lal Mosque. According to the reports both suicide attackers stayed in Jamia Mosque before going for the operation.
Is there only one Shariah court in Pakistan?
After announcing setting up Shariah courts, Maulana Ghazi Abdul Rasheed argued that if Jirga and Panchayat system are not considered a parallel judicial system, why Shariah court is being called a parallel system.
It is pertinent to mention that Shariah court is not at all a new phenomenon in Pakistan. Right now, 54 private Shariah courts are already working in the country. Out of them, 24 are run by Jamat ud Daawa, five by banned Sipah-e-Sihabah and others by local Taliban, not only in tribal areas but in Tank and Bannu as well.
The JUI was the first to introduce the idea of private Shariah courts in 1975. At the JUI annual convention in Gujranwala, Mufti Mehmood and Maulana Abdullah Darkhuasti had presented the idea of the private courts. The participants approved the idea and a Shariah committee, comprising Mufti Mehmood, Abdul Karim Qureshi and Maulana Sarfaraz Khan, was formed to decide about the mechanism of the courts. The plan for private courts was made the part of the JUI’s constitution and manifesto in 1976 but was not implemented because of Ziaul Haq’s martial law.
Following the same plan, Sipah-e-Sahaba set up Shariah court in district Jhang in 1998. Jamat ud Daawa’s head Hafiz Muhammad Saeed had announced establishment of Shariah courts on September 15, 2005 in Lahore. The JD plan was to set up these courts at district level and now 24 courts have been operating in Punjab and Interior Sindh. These courts are working as mandatory for rival parties to submit an affidavit that they would accept the court’s decision.
After the Shakai agreement in 2004 between Baitullah Mehsud and the government, Mehsud was allowed to enforce Shariah in the area. He not only established the courts but also formed the Shariah police to watch law and order. Following his footsteps religious Scholars in Dera Ismail Khan and Bannu districts adopted the same system. Khyber agency has two Shariah courts, established by the rival sectarian groups, Lashkar-e-Islam and Ansarul Islam.
But the Lal Mosque’s Shariah courts plan is very much similar with Sipah-e-Sahaba plan which was announced by Maulana Azam Tariq in 2000 in the 7th International Difa-e-Islam Conference in Karachi.
Maulana presented a proposal of converting twenty-eight big cities as model Islamic cities. The initial agreed-upon five points were:
The shops must close with Azan.
Friday should be a holiday
Bribes and impermissible business must be stopped
Cable network must be terminated
Every decision should be taken in consultation with Ulema
In his address, he said, “Let all the shops be closed with the calling of Azan. If any trader does not obey, let other traders boycott him and thus compel him to fall in line. The traders must be persuaded that they should not allow sale of adulterated goods, narcotics, wine and other impermissible items. The traders in these cities, in conjunction with Ulema and other individuals, should prevent fixing of dish antennae and operation of cable network. For resolving their dispute they should not go to the court or the police but approach the mosque where the Ulema would resolve their disputes according to Islamic laws, as it is done in Jhang.”
Sipah-e-Sahaba sources claimed that Maulana Abdullah was behind the idea and Maulana Azam Tariq promised him that his party would make his dream come true.
Government writ was already at stake, but Lal Mosque administration just exposed it in the federal capital. If the Mosque and affiliated seminaries had done the same somewhere else in the country, the government, possibly, would have not taken it seriously as it did in Faislabad case where students of Jamia Qasmia, Ghulam Muhammad Abad raided an alleged brothel house and did whatever they could.
Lal mosque movement is getting success in its agenda. Even if the government now controls the situation by using power, the Lal mosque has set a precedent of implementing radical agenda by gun. In Pakistan such radial Madariss exist every where and they can start challenging the state’s writ. (24-5-2007)