Controversial legacy: Lal Masjid operation returns to haunt Musharraf

IHC orders police to book former president if the 2007 raid was a cognisable offence.

Umer Nangiana/obaid Abbasi July 13, 2013
Pervez Musharrafs. PHOTO: FILE

Confronted by a slew of charges and confined to his farmhouse on the edge of Islamabad, former military ruler Pervez Musharraf’s troubles appear to be multiplying. The 2007 bloody Lal Masjid raid has come back to haunt him after six years.

Admitting a petition filed by the son of Lal Masjid’s deceased deputy cleric Abdur Rashid Ghazi, the Islamabad High Court on Friday directed the Aabpara police that if the Lal Masjid operation was a cognisable offence, a case be registered against Musharraf for the death of Ghazi and his associates.

In his written order, the judge also directed the police to record petitioner Haroonur Rashid Ghazi’s statement.

Talking to The Express Tribune, a senior police officer said they have already determined that Musharraf cannot be booked under murder charges for the Lal Masjid operation.

“In reply to an earlier petition filed by Ghazi’s son in a sessions court, the police said the Lal Masjid operation was a military operation against people who challenged the writ of the government,” he said. He added that Musharraf was also not directly involved with the operation.

The former president has maintained that the action was carried out on the directions of the government and the then prime minister.

“The commission formed on the Lal Masjid operation by the country’s highest court did not recommend the registration of an FIR against Musharraf in its final report as well,” said the officer.

An officer of the Aabpara police said they had yet to receive the court’s written order. He added that they would decide whether to register an FIR against the former president after seeing the order.

An Aabpara police officer told The Express Tribune that the police were yet to receive court’s written order. After seeing the order the police would decide on registering an FIR against Musharraf or not.

“It is a complex situation… there is no evidence linking Musharraf directly with the deaths of anyone. It was a military operation, with casualties on both sides… it is unclear whether the deaths can be qualified as murders to begin with,” the officer maintained. He said that although they will inform the court of all developments and evidence in the case while acting upon the order, they would not necessarily have to arrest anyone.

Haroon, in his petition, claimed that Musharraf not only initiated the operation, but was directly responsible for the deaths of his father and grandmother inside Lal Masjid. His counsel, Advocate Tariq Asad, argued that both the Lal Masjid commission’s report and the statements of witness held the former president responsible for the military action. Asad maintained that the families of the victims of the operation had approached police for registering an FIR, but were denied.

Musharraf’s counsel Advocate Ilyas Siddiqui opposed the argument. He said that the operation was the cabinet’s decision, under the supervision of the then prime minister and maintained that the former president could not alone be held responsible for the decision. He urged the court to reject the application.

A similar plea by Haroon was rejected by a lower court in April after being termed a ‘cheap popularity stunt’.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2013.