Former commissioner also alleges: Khalid Khwaja brought Lal Masjid tragedy
ISLAMABAD, Feb 11: Former commissioner of Islamabad Khalid Pervez affirmed that the well-known spy Khalid Khwaja was to blame for the bloodbath in Lal Masjid in July 2007.
Mr Pervez told the one-man commission of Justice Shehzado Sheikh of the Federal Shariat Court that the clerics of the mosque had reached a settlement with the government the previous month, and that the clerics were about to hand over the keys of the Children Library next to the mosque that their students had occupied, when the retired ISI officer disrupted the peaceful settlement to the six-month old confrontation.
Earlier on January 20, the Islamabad administration in its written reply submitted to the one-man commission claimed that Khalid Khawaja disrupted negotiations between the local administration and the management of the mosque which led to the military operation.
Khalid Khwaja went missing in March 2010, reportedly on a trip to North Waziristan and a few weeks later was found murdered.
The Asian Tigers group that claimed responsibility for the crime had never been heard before.
In a videotape released about the same time showed Khwaja making some startling statement – apparently under duress – that he was a double agent for ISI and CIA and had convinced Maulana Abdul Aziz, the chief cleric of Lal Masjid, to come out of the besieged mosque in a burqa.
That episode of July 4, 2007, the day after the military launched its operation against the hardliners holed up in the mosque, had dominated the proceedings of the commission on Friday. However, it remains a mystery who manipulated the spectacle.
Former commissioner Khalid Pervez also traced the origin of the confrontation between the mosque elements and the government to the violent protests that madressah students staged over the murder of Maulana Azam Tariq, chief of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) religious group, in the federal capital on October 6, 2003.
Pervez, now a secretary in the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said the students of Lal Masjid overwhelmed the staff of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, seized the body of Azam Tariq and brought it to D-chowk for the funeral prayer.
After the prayer the crowd took to violence which resulted in the death of one person and injuries to many. Inspector General of Islamabad Police was transferred for that.
In the following year, he said, Maulana Abdul Aziz, Khateeb Lal Masjid, and some other clerics, issued a fatwa terming the Wana operation in South Waziristan Agency un-Islamic and forbidding Muslims from offering funeral prayers of the soldiers who die in the operation.
Since being an employee of the Auqaf Department he was not supposed to issue such decrees, he said the government dismissed Maulana Aziz from service.
As tensions build up the Islamabad district administration called in the army to maintain the writ of the government, because, on a number of occasions the mosque clerics and their students abducted local police officers, he added.
Tariq Mehmood Pirzada, the present commissioner of Islamabad, told the commission that relations of the government with Lal Masjid management are stable now and the clerics are happy with the policy of the government of the day.
He informed the commission that after the military operation the government allotted the management 36 kanals of land for extending the Lal Masjid and building a new Jamia Hafsa in place of the girls seminary that was destroyed.
According to the reply of the district administration the land agreement was signed with the Lal Masjid Khateeb Maulana Aziz in 2011. Under the agreement, a 16 kanal land adjacent to the Lal Masjid has been given for its extension in the future and 20 kanals for Jamia Hafsa.
Brig (retired) Javed Iqbal Cheema, the then director general National Crisis Management Cell, in his statement to the commission, said that a large number of the male and female students of Jamia Faridia and Jamia Hafsa had left the mosque complex during January to June 2007.
He said that “during July 3 to July 10, 2007 (that the military operation lasted) a total of 1,132 students came out from the Lal Masjid. The 103 who did not surrender faced military operation by the Special Service Group of army”.
He denied the allegations that the army used chemical weapons in the operation.
“Since Pakistan is a signatory of the convention against chemical weapons, it cannot produce chemical weapons, or use them against anyone,” he said.
The commission on Monday once again summoned former military ruler General (retired) Pervez Musharraf and the former prime minister Shaukat Aziz for February 12 (today).
Earlier, the commission had directed them to appear before it on February 8, but neither hey appeared nor their counsel joined the proceedings.
While the summon for Mr Musharraf was delivered at his Chak Shahzad farmhouse, that for Mr Aziz was sent through courier service to his London residence as well as on his personal email address.