Lal Masjid Commission
THE Supreme Court has constituted a one-man judicial commission to investigate the Lal Masjid operation. The commission has been asked to furnish its report in 45 days. Terms of reference given to the commission have been reported in the press. However, the following two important aspects have been ignored.
One, during an important press conference of former president Pervez Musharraf about a month before the operation, media leaders had subjected the ex-president to severe criticism over the government’s inaction to control illegal activities and terrorism of the residents of Jamia Hafsa and Lal Masjid. The media even went to the extent of stating that the government had itself staged this ‘drama’.
In reply, the Musharraf had said the government was doing its best to resolve the issue peacefully. As the militants were residing inside the Lal Masjid premises, as a result of military operation about 150 people, including innocent people, might be killed and then the media would blame the government for killing women and children.
If the Lal Masjid operation was not justified, then it was the media which had instigated the government to launch this operation. Therefore, the media cannot be absolved of its responsibility. Each and every word of that press conference should form part of the investigation.
Two, PML(Q) Chief Chahdhry Shujaat Hussain and a few other persons claimed that the militants had agreed to leave the premises shortly after the commencement of operation. If this claim is based on facts, then it would have been appropriate and wise on the part of the government to let the militants leave by announcing a temporary ceasefire, in order to avoid further loss of lives. Had the militants backed out later, the operation could have been resumed.
As a citizen of Pakistan, I feel that the former government was forced to launch the Lal Masjid operation as no government can afford to tolerate illegal activities and terrorism in its capital for a long time. Therefore, the decision to launch the operation was correct. However, if the claim of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and others proves true, then the former government can be guilty of using excessive force.
During the hearing, the Chief Justice of Pakistan also remarked that investigating agencies had failed to prove that the killed people were terrorists. While it may be true that all the people killed were not terrorists, it need not be proved any further that militants were residing inside the Lal Masjid premises and they were involved in terrorist activities.
Kidnapping and confinement of five policemen, abduction of Chinese women, death of a Rangers’ person due to a bullet fired from inside the Lal Masjid, death of a lieutenant-colonel and 10 soldiers of the elite Special Services Group during the operation and recovery of 14 Kalashnikovs are undeniable proof of the presence of terrorists. In the light of these facts, the remarks of the Chief Justice are contrary to the facts.
The Judicial Commission has also been asked to ascertain whether action had been taken against the persons responsible for the army operation and what action can be taken at this stage.
It is amazing and tragic that the Supreme Court has labelled the persons responsible for the operation as guilty, even before the start of the investigation. The blame can only be apportioned after a thorough and impartial investigation.
MUHAMMAD ASLAM WARRAICH