ISLAMABAD, Dec 31: It was his first public appearance after a long time but the former chief cleric of Lal Masjid Maulana Abdul Aziz had not lost his ability to provide sound-bytes.
Appearing before the one-man inquiry commission constituted by the Supreme Court to probe the 2007 military operation on his mosque, on Monday, the Maulana was careful enough to blame the former president and army chief, Gen (retired) Pervez Musharraf, but not the military for the assault on the mosque.
Describing the military as a powerful and neutral organisation, he argued that Musharraf used the army “to please the United States”.
Justice Shazado Sheikh of the Federal Shariat Court, comprising the commission, started recording statements of the heirs of those who went missing during the 2007 operation. Ten persons were to record their statements on the opening day but one did not turn up.
“Gen Musharraf was against our religious ideology. In his tenure the district management started demolishing 80 mosques in the federal capital. That was why students of Jamia Faridia started protesting against him,” Maulana Aziz told the commission.
Gen Musharraf branded them as terrorists and ultimately launched the military operation, he said.
Careful as he was to not launch any attack on the military, the maulana did remark that the superior judiciary seemed to spare the retired army generals it recently accused of corruption and corrupt practices – a reference to the Supreme Court proceedings in the Asghar Khan case.
Hence, he said, it was going to be very difficult for the judicial system to punish the serving ones. Maulana Aziz then hastened to add that he never wanted revenge, in fact had forgiven everyone.
“I lost my mother, brother, son and two cousins in the military operation but I am against the award of punishment to those who carried out the operation. I have pardoned them.
“I don’t believe in revenge but wish that the government would impose ‘Sharia’ to compensate the aggrieved families,” he added.
But despite repeating his disinterest in revenge, the cleric declared that the nation was facing electricity and gas crises because the government in 2007 had disconnected the electricity and gas supplies to the Lal Masjid.
The cleric also revealed that the Lal Masjid administration did not compile record of those who went missing or expired during 2007 operation.
He claimed that the traumatised students of Jamia Faridia and Jamia Hafsa – the male and female seminaries attached to Lal Masjid – were scared of appearing before the commission.
Justice Sheikh asked him whether he compiled any record of the people and students who were present in the Masjid and died or went missing in the military operation. The cleric replied that he could not because he was in the custody of the law enforcing agencies after the operation concluded.
However, according to him, around 4,000 male and female students were present in the mosque complex when the operation began.
The government had officially announced 103 deaths in the Lal Masjid operation, including 11 army personnel and 16 passersby. The nine witnesses who deposed before the commission on Monday but due to absence of a witness had recorded statement of nine included a driver of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) whose son was killed during the operation.
Imtiaz Ahmed, the driver, told the commission that his 16-year-old son Asbaq Imtiaz was hit by two bullets as he came out of the mosque after offering Asr prayers.
“I learnt about his death through the media and according to the media reports some army persons had opened fire on my son,” he said, adding that the SHO of Aabpara police station refused to register the FIR about the killing of his son.
Another witness, Mohammad Din, deposed that his brother Hafiz Ziauddin, studying at Jamia Faridia, went to Lal Masjid on July 3, 2007.
“After the military started the operation he telephoned us and said that he wanted to come back home,” he told the commission.
Ziauddin twice tried to escape from the mosque on July 7 and 8 “but could not make it because of firing from the outside,” he said.
According to Mohammad Din, he was told after the operation that Ziauddin was killed in the operation and buried in grave No.
148 in the local graveyard. But instead of a body he found a plastic bag containing “blackened, burnt bones” which the family refused to accept as the body of Ziauddin “because it was beyond identification”.
The Islamabad administration had informed the family about the remains of the deceased following a DNA identification by the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.
The commission would record statements of 15 other witnesses on Tuesday.