Lal Masjid issue engineered to eclipse other issues, says Babar
Daily Times, July 10, 2007
ISLAMABAD: The Lal Masjid standoff is a “calculated attempt” by the government to divert public attention from other issues and to achieve political advantages, said participants of a seminar on ‘Lal Masjid Episode: Lessons and Repercussions.’
The Pakistan People’s Party’s Fahatullah Babar and the SAFMA’s Prof Ashfaq Saleem Mirza were the main speakers at the seminar orgainsed by the SDPI on Monday. Babar questioned the timing, manner and changing strategy of the operation against Lal Masjid. The government has staged and “re-engineered” the issue to overshadow important matters and win an international support, which was wearing down, Babar said.
“On the domestic front, it is a skillful effort to divert the public attention from the all parties’ conference, the chief justice’s case and the government’s failure to handle the flood situation and the presidential re-election,” he said.
The PPP leader said the mosque standoff would help lessen the pressure from America and its Western allies, who had demanded that the Pakistani government do more in the ‘war on terror’. Military governments have a tradition of staging such artificial crises to eclipse the main issues, he added. “In 1981, opposition parties joined hands under the umbrella of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) against the dictatorship of Ziaul Haq and the Balochistan High Court had admitted a petition challenging the martial law. Lawyers and teachers went on a strike. The MRD set March 2 as the deadline for lifting the press censorship and March 23 for the complete restoration of democracy. But on March 2, a PIA plane was hijacked and all issues were deflated,” Babar said.
He claimed the government had deliberately prolonged the PIA hijack drama for 13 days. He said Zia had banned unions, cut down political dissent, changed the Constitution by promulgating the PCO and made the SC subservient to military courts under the cover of the hijack drama. He said the current government had allowed the Ghazi brothers to spoil society for months; take over a public library; kidnap women and infants, policemen and foreigners; parade heavy arms in the open; vandalise private property and shops; issue suicide bombing threats; set up parallel courts in the capital and castigate Nilofur Bakhtiar, a former minister. “Indeed the Lal Masjid issue has been allowed to keep boiling up as it suited the Musharraf regime,” he said.
Prof Mirza held the government responsible for the Lal Masjid crisis. He said the government had encouraged fundamentalists by giving them a free hand. He said the process of promoting “mullahism” had originated from the Objective Resolution in 1949 and still continued. staff report