The devil’s workshop and justice undone

Published: June 11, 2012

If the Lal Masjid Brigade’s behaviour during the operation counts as self defence, so should the actions of the Sialkot lynch mob. GRAPHIC: JAHANZAIB HAQUE

Justice is supposedly blind, and in the case of Lal Masjid, it is also mute.

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, treason is:

The crime of doing something that could cause danger to your country, such as helping its enemies during a war.

Given, some members of the world community look at Pakistan as being a country full of radicals and terrorist-sympathisers, but I would like to believe that is largely untrue.

Eyewitness testimony says our troops were fired upon while they were still outside the mosque, which according to military protocol is cause enough to breach the complex. So forget helping enemies, those who opened fire were enemies of the state, while those who chose to remain inside in spite of prolonged efforts to evacuate the building, were at the bare minimum guilty of complicity.

Incidentally, the same dictionary defines terrorism as:

The use of violent action in order to achieve political aims or to force a government to act.

The way I see it, kidnapping, torture of a uniformed police official, refusing to disarm when ordered to do so by the state and threatening violence against female Quaid-i-Azam University students fits that definition.

Historically speaking, I am no fan of the actions of our generals, but the eleven soldiers who died in the operation were not just martyrs; they were, and will always remain, heroes. They, like the thousands of their martyred brothers-in-arms who fought the Taliban, died protecting you, me, and every other freedom-loving citizen of Pakistan.

Just for a moment, forget about any accusations of past military or government support for extremist elements and think about that. The jawaans (soldiers) did not take those decisions, nor would they ever be in a position to influence them.

They followed orders, they were attacked, and they followed protocol and retaliated. To call their sacrifices into question, which the court has not, but the right wing certainly has been doing since day one, is to dishonour the armed forces.

And as for the argument that the Lal Masjid crew were acting in self defence, when a solider with a gun says disarm and walk out unharmed, one is supposed to disarm so he may walk out unharmed. If the Lal Masjid Brigade’s behaviour during the operation counts as self defence, so should the actions of the Sialkot lynch mob and anyone who tried to take the law into their own hands and then fought the police to avoid arrest.

Before Operation Sunrise, the military gave Lal Masjid students an opportunity to evacuate, which many took up. Now at the bare minimum, those who refused to leave were defying an ultimatum from the government and the army. They chose to take on the state. Whether the arms they had were due to an intelligence failure or agencies’ complicity, they did take arms against the state.

Like many chicken hawk warriors, their brave leader, Abdul Aziz, was willing to cross-dress to escape rather than die with the youngsters whom he was sending to their graves. For this, he is a free man. Oddly, he was not tried under the FCR to get a sham conviction, because somebody quite rightly thought that as the man ordering the harassment of civilians and the taking of arms against the state, he would easily be found guilty in any court. But then, since some people think that as a dictator, everything Musharraf did must be wrong, the operation was also wrong.

The intelligence agencies could easily disprove this, given that the Aziz family had long been regarded as assets. But they won’t, because like much of the antics of the agencies, a state secret, no matter how well known to the public, remains a state secret. Just like the Taliban, the Afghan Mujahideen, and the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad were not agency-backed.

Mr Aziz’s rants against the state and humanity are nothing new. The SC even had to put up with him wasting their time as he ‘asked’ CJ Chaudhry to bring about Sharia law via suo motu in March. Unsurprisingly, the court asked him to keep his mouth shut to save their time.

This enemy of Pakistan, who built a mosque and madrassa on encroached land (illegal under Islamic Law) has managed to get land allocated to him beyond the dimensions of what the complex actually occupied — land which belonged to the Civil Defence Department, and was supposed to be the site for their offices.

Now, instead of a place for lifesavers to work from, the Jamia Hafsa Brigade, which terrorised parts of the city with their baton-wielding antics, will have a headquarters near most of the city’s major co-ed universities, while Civil defence will have nowhere to work from. This will not end well.

The Supreme Court has shown a surprising degree of leniency towards Mr Aziz, largely because insufficient evidence has been presented against him. That is not at all unbelievable, because the police have shown remarkable laxity in investigating terrorism-cases, focusing instead on petty criminals that pose no real risk to the lives of innocent citizens like small-time gamblers and drug ‘peddlers’ with a few grams of hashish or a single bottle of booze. While they may be sins and indeed crimes, these things don’t kill.

Terrorism and hate speech do.

Mr Aziz walks a free man because the state wasn’t able to present a strong case. Yet, it would be ludicrous to think that such evidence does not exist.

It is up to those withholding information to release it. If not for the sake of justice, then at least to honour those who died fighting a war that wasn’t theirs.

Read more by Vaqas here, or follow him on Twitter @vasghar

Do you think Maulana Abdul Aziz should be behind bars?

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Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

The author is a senior sub-editor on the Islamabad Desk and also reports on diplomatic events. He tweets as @vasghar (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ali Ahsan

    “insufficient evidence” = no one willing to risk his/her life testifying against the Lal Masjid for fear of what those jihadis will do in retaliation

    Then again, the courts let the likes of Malik Ishaq Jhangvi go too.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Your argument makes absolute sense. Much as I would blame the cleric and his ilk, I place a heavier responsibility and blame on those who allowed and still allow this cancer to grow. Recommend

  • :|

    When Dr. Shakeel is put behind the bars on basis on evidence (which is legally and morally and logically correct), you people go against it. But when someone is released because the lack of evidence (which is also legally and logically correct) you go against it again.

    The judges know law better than you I guess. But with westernized thinking the so called liberals can only copy.

    Iqbal said

    Azaadi-e-Afkaar se ha un ki tabaahi
    Rakhtay nahi jo fikar-o-tadabbur ka saleeka Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    Vaqas –
    The nation is indebted to the soldiers that died that day. However, I would like to mention that the operation might have been handled well tactically but it was a strategic failure. First of all, the risk had been building up for days and months and yet Govt. didn’t try to contain it early on and did a sudden show down at the end. Secondly, critics say that there was still room for negotiations, so state didn’t go far enough. Thirdly, many in the religious circles saw it as a clash between religious aggressors and U.S. backed govt. in Pakistan. Consequently, even though they didn’t agree with the clerics, they still had sympathies for them. Because of this, if you notice, that incident alone served as a significant stimulus in helping militants gather support against govt. in the period immediately following that incident in rest of the country.Recommend

  • Ali tanoli

    They are pakistani too dont forget…Recommend

  • Syed

    Kamal Attaturk-style solution to this mullah be applied. I am sick of these enemies of Pakistan and Islam. Mullahs use Sharia card for their own interests; the unbailable blasphemy law should be imposed on these criminal religious fanatics.Recommend

  • jia

    Good one . i don’t think so there is any sense of making madrasa or separate Islamic institutions in which Islamic country,where every aspects of Islam is being taught as core subject. Moreover, where you can get higher education on Islamic studies. No other city of Pakistan knows how this madrasa was terrible for Islamabad citizen, especially women who are driving. Its big threat for women who work. Recommend

  • Adnan Aamir

    This is an example of how much a person can twist the facts to prove his argument right. First of all Those two brothers were assets of Agency.Lal Masjid is situated in vicinity of the HQ of Agency how is it possible that hundreds of armed men including suicide bombers gathered there and no one knew, rationale says that its not possible. The timing of the siege of Lal Masjid is also crucial, it started on 4th of July. Just a day after govt. was fined by Supreme court for spying on judges and it had become apparent that Cj will be restored. So Musharraf started this operation to divert the attention form judicial crisis even APC conducted by PML-N was postponed because of this Lal Masjid crisis.

    The circumstances in which Lt. Col. Haroon-ul-Islam was shot are still mysterious and so is the claim that armed terrorists form Lal Masjid fired first. Tariq Azim, State minister for Information was talking to Abdul Raheed Ghazi through a TV channel, in which Mr. Ghazi had agreed to surrender and come out and discarding these efforts Musharraf ordered SSG to storm the Mosque. That clip can be found on you tube. So that entire massacre can be avoided all together but Mush did not care. People like Shujahat Hussain have repeated this story on numerous occasions. Hundreds of people were massacred in the operation which is condemnableRecommend

  • Ali tanoli

    Behind these problems you ultra secularist peoples are involved. why our secular govt never
    tried to bring them in system why they never made one education system and why u peoples
    allways talk about there faults but never get the bottom of the problem who is the one who used these them against there own intrest i think we should think about it just talking secular
    way not gonna work we are muslim country and we need islam.Recommend

  • Salman Arshad

    If there is no evidence of crime presentable in court, the mullah should be able to do what he wants.

    If you want to talk against someone, talk against those for whom the mullah works.
    You are not very “brave” for talking against a mere pawn of the King.Recommend

  • khalid

    the thing is Lal Masjid operation story, stated above, is still one sided. You didn’t disclose who cruel and atrocious was Pakistan Army, which is largely regarded as ‘mercenaries’, only capable of killing their own civilians. Besides, the write failed to collect evidences about how White Phosphorous was used to bomb Lal Masjid. So, the content here is pretty much one-sided, and in that definition, ‘biased’Recommend

  • umar

    so true true.. i wish your voice could go to masses who dont know this reality becasue many ppl belief dictotor is always wrong because he is a man in uniformRecommend

  • Zainab

    Amazing outlook on what seems to be a forgotten issue. We argue against state sponsored terrorism when these very people – escaping in burqas’ – walk free. There was evidence hence the operation was initiated, but not presenting it to the court is the treachery done to all Pakistanis by the state.Recommend

  • Sajjad Hussain

    Dear Mr. Vaqas,

    I have similar thoughts as you have for which I have come up with a logical argument in my blogs. Please free to view, read and share among your freinds.

    Regards, Recommend

  • Syed Owais Mukhtar

    Shame! Instead of crying upon those who are martyred inside of Lal masjid a debate is going on useless, 11 soldiers were died? What about the 2000 women who were died inside mosque? Do you think it was enough time to evacuate the mosque? where will the female students go in this case? The fact is that you are thinking from the side of army and writing an article form the side of army but not in a neutral way. The situation can easily be handled by police but was done by Army and this created a never ending war in Pakistan. A long debate, maybe my fundamentalist blog might help… .. yes it will be so unbearable for all the liberals to digest a molvis thoughts but if you are liberal then you should know I have the liberty to write, express my feelings like you too!

    Dont be machines, you are human, act like human. Love humanity. Rest in Peace, The Lal Masjid insiders martyred and Rest in Peace the soldiers of Pak army martyred outside. They both were innocents, the Third hand is still busy in spreading war. PEACE PEACE PEACE Recommend