One-man Lal Masjid commission fails to apportion blame

Published: April 26, 2013

Lal Masjid. ILLUSTRATION: ANAM HALEEM

ISLAMABAD: 

The one-man Lal Masjid Commission probing the bloody 2007 incident has avoided fixing responsibility for the military offensive launched against the Red Mosque. The assault had left more than a hundred people dead.

However, the commission report categorically states that no evidence suggests that military assistance was not required to thwart the adverse law and order situation created by “miscreants” – and that such an intervention was a legitimate one in light of Article 245 of the Constitution.

But key questions remain unanswered: is there any evidence that peaceful negotiations were not a possibility? Also, who authorised the offensive?

As the commission, led by Justice Shehzada Sheikh of the Federal Shariat Court, documented all recorded statements by witnesses, the available evidence indicated that former president Pervez Musharraf and former prime minister Shaukat Aziz took the “final decision.” But the commission stops short of treating the former leaders as responsible, and merely says that statements by “volunteer witnesses and court witnesses” suggested so.

“From the statements, it is clear that volunteer witnesses and court witnesses described the deaths as avoidable….They held Pervez Musharraf, then occupying the public position of president, as the person responsible for the incident,” the commission wrote.

Advocate Tariq Asad, counsel for Lal Masjid in the Supreme Court case, also noted that the commission did not fix any clear responsibly for the offensive which killed 103 people, thereby steering clear of its mandate. Asad also said that in its reports the commission had not ascertained the correct number of fatalities in the Lal Masjid operation.

‘I am not aware’

But despite ambiguity, the commission was clear in asserting that lawmakers of the time were responsible for supporting whoever made the decision. “Even if there was the allegedly hidden agenda of anyone, or there was a motive, subtle ‘moves’ or machinations for the terminal punch, all the partners in power, more than willingly…defended all his dictates,” said the commission.

Some ex-lawmakers, who were on the forefront of negotiations with the Lal Masjid administration in 2007, say that had they been given enough time to negotiate, a peaceful resolution to the law and order challenge would have been possible.

In his statements before the commission, the then interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said “I am not aware” in reply to seven questions asked about the offensive. Like Sherpao, the then minister for information and broadcasting Muhammad Ali Durrani came up with the same reply.

However, the head of the team which was mandated to negotiate with the Lal Masjid administration, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and the former minister for religious affairs Ijazul Haq squarely put the blame on the then president Musharraf “for first prolonging the military operation and then going ahead with the offensive despite chances of success of negotiations.”

However, the commission quoted from President Musharraf’s 2007 address: “This process (negotiations) failed because the first demand of Rasheed Ghazi was to provide him a safe passage, which meant that there should be no trial against him and the second was that he and his companions get general amnesty,” the commission quoted Musharraf as saying, while justifying the motive behind the final and decisive assault.

The commission’s report clearly stated that those belonging to Musharraf’s team placed responsibility squarely on him, although it is clear from their admissions that Shaukat Aziz was also in the loop along with his cabinet members and coalition partners.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • Mirza
    Apr 26, 2013 - 9:08AM

    Like most commission reports this report is also useless and meaningless. If Abbottabad commission report ever comes out it would also not find anybody responsible for hosting OBL.

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  • Maddah Safdar
    Apr 26, 2013 - 10:17AM

    An exercise in futility.

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  • Ghost
    Apr 26, 2013 - 11:16AM

    Lal Masjid will remain a black spot on Army for a very long time.

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  • Baba Ji
    Apr 26, 2013 - 12:15PM

    who were those militants inside the premises wearing gas masks and automatic weapons ? If such a character is inside your house would you resort to “negotiations” or put up all your resources and best efforts to thwart him/her ???Recommend

  • AAA
    Apr 26, 2013 - 12:33PM

    O come on people…they totally deserved it…i remember the negotiations went for weeks but the molvi brothers were not coming to any point. throwing acid on the female drivers…taking over the liabrary…kidnapping and giving a stiff armed resistence to the army for days…which mosque does all of that. I remember, media, politicians and the civil society at large were all asking why govt is not taking actions and when he took actions they all were shouting why did the govt take action….

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  • pakiguy
    Apr 26, 2013 - 12:40PM

    Can somebody please tell me as to why nobody (legal courts) asks about the how the defenders of LAL masjid got access to all sorts of guns. What were those guns doing inside the mosque? If they were totally innocent why was the Cheif Maulana trying to escape in a burqa? Please lets just look past the army and Musharraf and answer the above questions.

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  • bubba
    Apr 26, 2013 - 1:51PM

    The rest of the World witnessed extremist using a Mosque as an armed base for implementing vigilante justice – witnessed a prolonged unsuccessful negotiation – witnessed the prime instigator fleeing the scene dressed as a women. Somehow all that got missed by Justice Shehzada Sheikh?

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  • Maddah Safdar
    Apr 26, 2013 - 2:24PM

    Does the report insinuate that Musharraf had an agenda? If so, what was it? Why did Chaudhury Shujaat think that a peaceful solution was there but not taken? If your kids go awry you have the right to discipline them but discipline them so that they are reformed, not eliminated. Even if your kids rebel at you, you do not shoot them down!!!

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  • Aahjiz BayNawa
    Apr 26, 2013 - 2:32PM

    Limited power may only be effective (if only for a while) if used negatively. The Lal Masjid occupants are an example. But Musharraf’s power was unlimited as compared to the Lal Masjid rebels, so why did he have to use it negatively? It is easier to deny life than to civilize it.

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  • GIlani
    Apr 26, 2013 - 2:36PM

    Our Armed Forces sacrificed its two most promising officer including Lieutenant Colonel Haroon and Captain Sulman ex SSG along with eight other brave soldiers. I attended the funeral prayer of the shaheed Colonel. There was fragrance all around with a drizzling of rain and clouds and suddenly the weather turned pleasant in hot month of July at Army graveyard in Lahore.Every eye was full of tears irrespective of his relation to Shaheed. I have no doubt in saying that they fought against self righteous and self proclaimed infidels responsible for creating this blood Saga.The so called mullah ran while Clad in BURQA…… leaving behind his followers to die the death of traitors…

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  • Rumormonger
    Apr 26, 2013 - 3:06PM

    Well, the commission did establish the actual number and gender killed. The number of women killed was grossly inflated by the some lady who claimed that she lifted the bodies of 70-80 women who died.

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  • jamal
    Apr 26, 2013 - 3:18PM

    Lal masjid episode is a shining example of how to treat terrorists. Well done Pakistan Army.

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  • antanu
    Apr 26, 2013 - 3:32PM

    At least Musharraf had taken a firm stand against religious extremism through Lal Masjid.It is sad that he is being criticized for the sake of criticism. Had he not taken action, he would have been blamed for having soft corner for terrorists……It is irony..Pakistani Press Media runs both ways.

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  • Awam
    Apr 26, 2013 - 3:52PM

    whatever it was but one thing is clear… This is nothing but personal war and abuse of power for personal interest.. for God sake!! please stop it… Anyone who took steps for the betterment of Pakistan and the betterment of awam suffered severely..

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  • MSShaikh
    Apr 26, 2013 - 3:53PM

    If this episode had happened in any ‘democratic’ govt no one would even talk about it? It is Musharraf, silly! By the way, we had been hearing of score of female and kids dying. Whatever happened to that?! All Musharraf-specific!

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  • Arsalan khan
    Apr 26, 2013 - 4:14PM

    Does anybody know who is this one man commission? Who is Justice Shehzado Sheikh?

    Infact its just mockery of law. Mr Shehzado Sheikh has no background of law except that he passed law exam long ago.

    He was a CSS officer in Audit n Accounts Service of 1971 batch where he worked for 38 years. He was a well connected person so he remained Secretary in Sindh Govt. He retired as Secretary Population Division in 2005 or 2006.

    He has recently been appointed as Aalim judge of Shareea Court. He has no knowledge of Arabic or Fiqh.

    Lal Masjid probe should be handled by someone having background of judiciary.

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  • A J Khan
    Apr 26, 2013 - 4:36PM

    This was a clear case of mutiny against the state of Pakistan. in which arms were taken up against the Government of Pakistan. The courts and commission has just tried to make it a mess. The terrorists of Lal Masjid have been dealt judiciously by the then Government. However I do not agree with the verdict of the court in which they had asked government to pay money to the dead terrorists and once again make a den for them.

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  • Ali Bukhari
    Apr 26, 2013 - 5:43PM

    This report is clearly incomplete and one sided. The assault began by a bullet fired from their sided. It mentions the intentions of Musharraf carrying out the attack but fails to mention the readiness of Lal Masjid’s inhabitants to kill anyone who comes in their way.

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  • Firaaq
    Apr 26, 2013 - 5:44PM

    @Arsalan khan:
    Do you mean to suggest that knowledge of Arabic or otherwise is a critical factor in determining the capabilities of a judge or investigating officer?

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  • Raj - USA
    Apr 26, 2013 - 6:38PM

    When Saudis took similar action in the holiest Mecca Mosque, everyone supported, it is rational to think that everyone would support Musharraf when he acted on Lal Masjid. When you take huge quantity of arms and ammunitions, even Stinger missiles the mosque lost its sanctity. “Woman and Children” are often used words to justify acts of terror. Why should they be there in the company of terrorists in the first place? I do not like Musharraf for Kargil and Kandahar, but think he was 100% correct in Lal Masjid.

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  • Maddah Safdar
    Apr 26, 2013 - 7:20PM

    What is common between Musharraf and Lal Masjid rebels? Both defied the writ of the Government of the day. Musharraf did it by overthrowing the legal and Constitutional Government in 1999, subverted the State and its Constitution. And, again in November 2007. he suspended the Constitution. The rebels defied Musharraf in July 2007 and the writ of the Government, much as Musharraf.

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  • Maddah Safdar
    Apr 26, 2013 - 7:40PM

    @jamal:
    As the Lal Masjid occupants openly called for overthrowing the Government of Musharraf, the operation had a dimension of personal vendetta and as such Pak Army only obeyed orders.

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  • Apr 26, 2013 - 8:07PM

    I have never seen any parents of “innocent” girl who was “martyred” in Lal Masjid, on media or before “absolute judiciary”. The innocent girls of Lal Masjid killed a ranger sepoy outside the Mosque. Those supporters of Lal Masjid “victims” i wish that such warriors are born in your house and then i ask u

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  • Anti-Democracy
    Apr 26, 2013 - 11:16PM

    Religious Molvis, why don’t you understand. It was a state within a state. Go read the laws of the jihad you believe in. Ahl al-bagye (those who stand against the government) are to be fought with. Musharraf did the same.

    The one who fought with the terrorist is being questioned and humiliated, while those who kill others on the name of religion roam freely. WAH MOLVI WAH!

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  • Rex Minor
    Apr 27, 2013 - 5:00AM

    @Arsalan khan:

    Are you the Soloman they should be asking fo justice?

    Rex Minor

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