Libmonster ID: SE-330


RIA Novosti correspondent

Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) turned two and a half years ago into the most famous mosque in Islamabad, replacing even the famous Faisal Mosque - an unofficial symbol of the city. The tragic events of July 2007 were the result of a deep crisis in which the regime of the Pakistani military leader, General Pervez Musharraf, found itself. Still, for the first time in the country's 60-year history, Islamists organized a real armed insurgency in the capital, and the army also conducted real combat operations in Islamabad for the first time, and with the use of helicopters and heavy weapons. It was after the Red Mosque that the world began to speak loudly about the threat of a seizure of power in Pakistan by radical groups, and discuss the possibility that the country's nuclear weapons would end up in the hands of religious extremists.

Even then, observers in Pakistan and beyond said that this tragedy would obviously affect not only Musharraf's cabinet, but the entire political system of the country, and that the final results of the "bloody summer" would not be immediately clear. Now, two and a half years later, we can try to analyze what really happened in July 2007 and how these events affected the situation in Pakistan today.


In fact, the main events of the summer of 2007 unfolded not at all in the Red Mosque, but in the Jamia Hafsa women's madrasa located a few dozen meters away: it was this building that the army stormed for a long time, since the government units took Lal Masjid itself easily and quite quickly. And the main fighting force of the Islamists was not at all the parishioners of the Red Mosque (although there were some among its defenders, of course), but students of the" subordinate " male madrasah Jamia Faridia, located a few blocks from the site of the clashes, as well as those whom the authorities called "extremists who arrived in the city". However, it was the Red Mosque that became the "headquarters" of anti-government protests and the ideological center of Islamists who decided to oppose the authorities, so these events went down in history as the Lal Masjid rebellion.

Today it is hard to believe that for a couple of decades before the events described, this mosque was considered a well-respected and loyal religious center to the authorities. Turning the Red Mosque into a center of confrontation with the central authorities is the story of the evolution of Pakistani Islamism.

Lal Masjid began construction in 1965 , at the same time that the construction of Islamabad itself was actively underway.1 The design of the new Pakistani capital was completed in 1960 by the popular Greek architect Doxiadis, who tried to combine modern urban planning concepts and traditional Oriental motifs. Other famous architects of that time also took part in the creation of the city. Therefore, the new city looked quite modern and even avant-garde for its time. Lal Masjid is no exception, which has received quite modern architectural forms. The mosque was nicknamed "red" for the color of the walls and fence, against which the large white dome and white minarets were conspicuous. The nickname stuck and became an official name.

Then, in the 1960s, Islamism in Pakistan was not yet perceived as the greatest threat. The country appeared on the world map in 1947 with the collapse of British India as a state-a common home for Hindustan Muslims. The "founding fathers" of modern India and Pakistan claimed that there were two main nations living in British India - Hindu and Muslim, so for many residents of the young state, Islam was perceived as a kind of nationality, a set of certain religious principles and, of course, traditions, and not at all as a rigid dogma. And the state structure of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was based not on Sharia or Sunnah, but on the principles of secular power.

During the construction of Islamabad, the military leader Muhammad Ayyub Khan, who cannot be called an overly religious statesman, was in power. He was quite a secular leader, not too interested in the problems of faith. In addition, in those years, the idea of introducing sharia law did not enjoy serious support in society.2

Maulana, not yet known to the general public, was appointed Khatib (head) of the newly built Red Mosque* Abdullah. Moreover, this appointment was approved by President Ayub Khan, who was attentive to the new capital. The authorities apparently had no particular objections to Abdullah's candidacy at the time.

Real fame came to the Red Mosque and Maulana Abdullah when Moscow sent troops to Afghanistan in 1979. At that time, numerous jihadist leaders began delivering sermons at Lal Masjid, calling for a holy war against the infidels in Afghanistan. Young people were being recruited in the mosque

* Maulana (from Arabic. - our teacher) - a title attached to the name and indicating respect for its bearer.

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people in the detachments of the Afghan Mujahideen. These actions of the Lal Masjid leaders received the full support of the then military leader of Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haq, who came to power in a coup in 1977.

Zia-ul-Haq became the first Pakistani leader to make a demonstrative bet on Islamism. There are several reasons for this: the crisis of the ideology of Muslim nationalism, caused by the unresolved numerous social problems, and the general's desire to find support in society - after all, he came to power by overthrowing and then executing the rather popular Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Be that as it may, the Red Mosque leadership caught the official "request for Islamism" quite accurately. It was not by chance that the mosque became a de facto court mosque - it was visited by the general himself and other members of the government.3

When it became clear that the Afghan war was coming to an end and the USSR intended to withdraw from Afghanistan, Zia-ul-Haq, as a reward to the mosque leadership for supporting the Mujahideen, agreed to transfer two plots of land in Islamabad to Maulana Abdullah, on which the women's madrasah Jamia Hafsa and the men's Jamia Faridia were soon built. These educational institutions turned out to be under the jurisdiction of Lal Masjid 4. Subsequently, these two madrasas will become a place of attraction for extremist youth in the Pakistani capital.

By the time Zia-ul-Haq was killed in a plane crash in 1988, Lal Masjid had already become a real center of religious radicalism in the city. In the late 1980s, Pakistan began a period of civil governments, often replacing each other. Against the background of increased dissatisfaction with the political leapfrog, the popularity of Islamist slogans began to grow again. Maulana Abdullah's radicalism also grew: his speeches became increasingly harsh attacks on the central authorities, and he also delivered anti-Shiite sermons.

Maulana Abdullah was shot dead by unknown assailants in the courtyard of the Lal Masjid in 1998. Supporters of Abdullah believed that he was killed by militants of underground Shiite groups. The sons of the deceased, the elder Abdul Aziz Ghazi and the younger Abdul Rashid Ghazi, became the new leaders of the mosque and two madrasas under him.5

With the death of the mosque's founder, the radical course of Lal Masjid has not changed. Moreover, after the events of September 11, 2001, when Islamabad supported US actions in neighboring Afghanistan, and also agreed to send troops to the territory of Pashtun tribes on the border with Afghanistan, relations between the central authorities and Islamists sharply worsened. Pakistan's radical religious forces have not forgiven President Musharraf for "betraying Islam." It was then that Lal Masjid became not just an influential center, but a kind of ideological headquarters of the radical Islamic opposition in the capital.


The first high-profile performance of students of the madrasah at the Lal Masjid mosque took place in the fall of 2003, when riots swept through Islamabad caused by the murder of an influential Muslim figure, Maulana Tariq Azam, who was accused by Islamists of

page 27

this murder of Shiite extremists. Students of the Jamia Faridia madrasah staged real pogroms in the capital - they broke shop windows, car windows, destroyed gas stations and kiosks. Students accused the authorities of inaction and demanded immediate punishment of the perpetrators.6

But the Lal Masjid was particularly high-profile in 2007, when the authorities announced the closure of unregistered madrasas, i.e. those that refused to receive official status and bring their program in accordance with the authorities ' requirements. In February 2007, female students of Jamia Hafsa, in protest against the closure of unregistered Muslim educational institutions, attacked with sticks and occupied the building of the municipal city children's library located next to the mosque, expelling readers and staff from there.

After that, the female students of Jamia Hafsa, dressed in black burkas (robes that cover the face and figure), armed with bamboo sticks, began to walk through the surrounding shops selling video discs and videotapes, and threaten the merchants, demanding that they stop "godless fishing". The townspeople jokingly nicknamed them "ninja". However, from the characters of urban jokes, the "ninja" quickly turned into the heroes of a thriller - their behavior became more and more provocative.

So, soon a "flying brigade" of girls from the mosque broke into a private house and captured three women, accusing them of allegedly renting rooms to " vicious women with clients." The captives were dragged to a special room in the women's madrasa, where they were forced to repent, and then they took hostage two policemen who came to deal with the scandal. The detainees were released only after long negotiations.

It is interesting that the active role of girls in such actions was new for Pakistan - previously, the mass participation of women in power actions was not noted here.

2007 was a watershed year for Pakistan: general parliamentary elections were scheduled to be held in the country (which eventually took place in February 2008). A number of prominent politicians, including former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, were expected to return from exile. Political life has noticeably brightened up. And the Islamists, it seems, also wanted to draw attention to themselves. At the same time, according to the Pakistani press, the demonstrative behavior of the leaders of the Lal Masjid - the Ghazi brothers-was also explained by the fact that they wanted to gain an influential position among the Pakistani Islamists, whose leaders, according to local observers, looked at the brothers as upstarts.

Meanwhile, the leadership of the Red Mosque has increasingly resorted to demonstrative actions, clearly designed for a wide public response. The author (who was working as a RIA Novosti correspondent in Pakistan at the time) witnessed one of the most high - profile actions of the Lal Masjid, which took place on April 5, 2007-the burning of "vicious" video discs.

The Islamists proved to be competent PR specialists, warning the media in advance. After Friday prayers at the mosque, young people from among the students of the male madrasah Jamia Faridia, armed with sticks, cordoned off the square in front of the mosque. There was a large pile of hundreds of DVDs, cassettes, and even several DVD players, and a black banner of jihad was stuck in the center of it.

Extremist security guards acted rather harshly, allowing only the leadership of the Lal Masjid and members of the press to pass, and they resolutely brought order to the crowd surrounding the square with sticks. The trees around them were covered with spectators. On the roof and balconies of the nearby women's madrasa, black figures of female students in burkas stood and periodically shouted " Allahu Akbar!"

Abdul Aziz, the eldest of the Ghazi brothers, told the crowd through a megaphone that the leadership of Lal Masjid decided to create its own Sharia court and "a real Islamic system"on the territory of the mosque and two madrasas Jamia Hafsa and Jamia Faridiya.

"Now here, in the capital of our country, there will be real Islam," he said.

He also said that he demands that the authorities close "all brothels and other places of sin" within a month, otherwise he promised to take "active actions". "We are peaceful people, but if someone decides to stop us, we will take tough actions," Abdul Aziz said.

Meanwhile, a line of photo and television reporters lined up in front of the fire pit. Although many students standing in the cordon pointedly turned away from the cameras, hiding their faces, the mosque leaders willingly posed for the cameras. Moreover, they are

page 28

they stressed in every possible way that the press can work freely and shoot whatever it sees fit. So, one zealous young man with a bamboo stick in his hands tried to prevent a photo reporter from a western agency from photographing girls from the women's madrasah standing on the balconies, when two representatives of Islamists immediately approached them and took them to the side of the forbidding one.

Obviously, the leadership of the Red Mosque deliberately relied on a positive public response, for the sake of which they abandoned the traditional prohibitions on photo and video filming for Islamists.

The organizers of the action said that many of the discs that are stacked in a pile were provided by a certain CD and DVD dealer who "became disillusioned with sin" and took the right path. Among the discs, however, I was not able to see the "pornography and corrupting godless films" that the Islamists were talking about. Most of them were Indian melodramas with Bollywood beauties on the covers, and there was a vampire thriller called Van Helsing, and some collections of Western music videos.

Soon the banner was taken out of the pile, someone brought a canister of gasoline, and the fire was set on fire. It flared up quickly, a black column of smoke and the smell of burnt plastic hanging over the city. The flames were greeted with a chorus of"Allahu Akbar!"

In Islamabad, and indeed throughout Pakistan, this action was regarded as an open declaration of war to the authorities.


According to a significant number of Pakistanis, the impunity of activists from the Red Mosque and students of subordinate madrasas was explained by the old ties of the leaders of this mosque with representatives of government and law enforcement agencies. Many people were convinced that the Lal Masjid Islamists ' speeches were part of the government's plan: Musharraf wanted to show the West that if he lost power in the upcoming elections, he could be replaced by radicals. Well-known TV journalist Ishtiyak Ali even called the whole thing "cheating" 7.

But if the government intelligence services really intended to use the radicals for their own purposes, they clearly miscalculated - the activity of Islamists from Lal Masjid rather incited residents of the city against the authorities, who seemed to cooperate with Islamic extremists. In Islamabad, voices were growing louder, demanding an end to the antics of the "ninja" from the Red Mosque. However, the authorities were clearly trying to avoid a sharp confrontation with the Ghazi brothers ' Islamic brigades, possibly fearing unpredictable consequences.

The situation exploded when in June, female students Jamia Hafsa captured a group of Chinese citizens, mostly women, working in a local massage parlor: according to Islamists, this was also a " center of debauchery." The authorities again had to persuade the Islamists to release the detainees, and they released the prisoners. But this time, foreigners were involved in the scandal, and even from a country that is one of the main economic and political partners of Pakistan.

After that, it seems that President Musharraf was only waiting for an excuse to take tough action against the Lal Masjid. And the occasion turned up quite quickly: on July 3, students clashed with the police near the walls of the Red Mosque. The details of the collision are not known, but one thing is clear - the police did not avoid the collision this time, and at the first threats they used weapons. As a result, there were dead and wounded. After that, Islamists began to gather in the square near the mosque and madrasah Jamia Hafsa. Megaphones on the minarets of Lal Masjid blared the word "jihad."

When the author of the article managed to reach the Red Mosque (many city highways were blocked by the police), the death toll was already, according to various sources, 10-12 people. The neighborhood where the mosque is located was surrounded by a special riot police unit. Around the mosque itself was a crowd, mostly of young people, who were warming themselves up with loud shouts. Some speakers periodically started shouting: "Allahu Akbar!", calling for a holy war. Young men in Muslim caps smashed windows in the nearby building of the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Police began firing tear gas grenades at the square, and the crowd responded with stones.

More and more young people were coming to the square, many of them carrying sticks, rebar, and even weapons.

page 29

homemade spears. At a nearby intersection, a makeshift fortification made of sandbags quickly appeared, in which students were standing in gas masks and holding bottles of Molotov cocktails. Another group of students began to break down the curb and build a barricade at the main entrance to the mosque and women's madrasah. When the police threw tear grenades at the crowd from time to time, groups of people with buckets and rags ran out of the mosque gates to help wash the eyes and faces of the victims.

Later, some Muslim leaders accused the authorities of using force against students "armed only with stones and sticks." However, the author of the article himself saw how one of the leaders of the madrasah showed a guy armed with a submachine gun a ditch in which he should lie down. On the roof of the women's madrasa, guys with Kalashnikovs in their hands were also visible, although they tried not to catch the eye.

Soon, the square was surrounded by army units that entered the city. The siege of Lal Masjid has begun. The army was determined - the military opened fire on the armed students. It seems that the Islamists did not expect such harshness from the authorities. The resolve of the defenders of the Red Mosque has diminished. In the next 24 hours, about 1,200 people, most of them female students, surrendered to the authorities. The attempt of the leader of the Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz, to leave the cordon, dressed in a women's burka, caused a great response in the local press - he was going to run away with a group of students. But all the female students leaving the mosque were searched by female policemen, and he was caught.

However, hundreds of Islamists, led by the youngest of Ghazi's brothers, Abdul Rashid, continued to defend the mosque and madrassah. He stated that he was ready to surrender, but demanded guarantees of immunity for himself, in response, the authorities offered Abdul Rashid to surrender without any conditions. He refused.

The blockade of the mosque and madrassah continued until July 10, and every night gunfire and explosions were heard from the quarter - the military claimed that they were punching holes in the fence and the madrassah building so that those who wanted to leave could leave. The assault began on the 10th at dawn and lasted more than a day.

The battle mainly took place in the galleries and basements of the Jamia Hafs women's madrasah. Abdul Rashid Ghazi was also killed in the basement. According to some reports, he already wanted to go out with his hands raised, but his own militants did not allow him to surrender.

According to official army data, more than 100 people were killed in the assault, including 12 military personnel. According to the military press service, there were no women among those killed. An Interior Ministry official, however, soon told the press that " 75 people were killed during the final assault, 50 to 60 of them were militants, the rest were women and children." Even then, these data raised doubts. The opposition media, citing various sources, reported that 500-600 people were killed. The exact numbers of losses are not yet known 8.

Confusion even affected the official name of the operation to storm the Red Mosque. The operation was called Sunrise( Sunrise), but some representative of the army press service, voicing the official bulletin, mistakenly read the name to journalists as Silence (Silence). Under this name, it became known to all the world's media.


The press was allowed to visit the site of the assault only on July 13. For the previous 10 days, no one really knew what was going on in the Lal Masjid and the women's madrasa. The madrasah building was badly damaged, one wing was almost completely destroyed, the mosque was covered with numerous traces of gunfire and fire, but it suffered less. The mosque opened to the public a few weeks later. The Jamia Hafsah building (or rather, what was left of it) was already demolished, and the Lal Masjid was renovated, only the walls of the mosque were repainted in a light beige color.

The evolution of the Red Mosque-from a religious institution visited by government officials to the center of the Islamic opposition-is very significant: it reflects the history of all Pakistani Islamism. In addition, the events surrounding Lal Masjid have become a turning point in the attitude of the Pakistani authorities and religious forces.

It turned out that the Islamists are becoming more active and ready to go on the offensive, and not only in regions where their influence is traditionally high, such as the Northwestern Border Province, but even in the capital. A new generation has grown up in educational institutions that are under the influence of radical forces.-

page 30

The roe intends to take up arms the idea of" authentic Islam " not only in Afghanistan, as it was 10 - 20 years ago, but also in its homeland. And Islamabad is no longer able to direct this process, as Pakistan's leaders did during the Soviet presence in Afghanistan.

At the same time, religious radicals were also disappointed. Thus, the Ghazi brothers ' expectation of broad popular support was not justified - the mutiny of one mosque did not cause any Muslim revolution or even mass demonstrations in the country, as the leaders of the Lal Masjid apparently hoped for. It is obvious that while the influence of the radicals has grown, it is not enough for an uprising.

Nevertheless, the events at the Red Mosque provoked a sharp increase in terrorist activity, especially in the north-western regions of the country. So, the very next day after the storming of Lal Masjid, a militant exploded along with a car bomb, killing three policemen. Then, on July 15, 44 people were killed in two suicide attacks near the town of Matta and in the town of Darra Ismailhan. On July 17, 12 people were killed in a suicide bombing in Islamabad during an opposition rally. In total, from July 2007 to mid-2009, the number of people killed in terrorist attacks in Pakistan was about 2,000!9

The answer to the question of whether official Islamabad will be able to cope with the terror unleashed by religious radicals, as well as stop the growing popularity of Islamist ideas, depends both on the internal political situation and on the state of affairs in neighboring Afghanistan, the instability in which affects Pakistan. But the main thing, obviously, is how much the secular authorities will be able to cope with the numerous social and economic problems, the unresolved nature of which creates a breeding ground for discontent.

Revealing in this sense was the opening of the repainted Red Mosque after repairs on July 27. Then a crowd of parishioners expelled the new imam of the mosque appointed by the authorities and even tried to paint the walls of the building red again. The authorities had to close the mosque again for several weeks, until the passions subsided, and also change the imam to a" more suitable " one for the parishioners. A well-known Pakistani journalist, speaking to the author of the article, remarked in this connection:"The mosque has turned beige, but in fact it remains Red."

Syed Shoaib Hasan. 1 Profile: Islamabad's Red Mosque. BBC. 27.07.2007 -

2 See: Belokrenitsky V. Ya. Islamic radicalism of Pakistan: evolution and role in the region / / Central Asia and the Caucasus, 2000, N 6 (12).

Syed Shoaib Hasan. 3 Op. cit.

4 См., напр.: Muttahida issues report on Lai Masjid // The News International, 23.04.2007.

Hassan Abbas. 5 The road to Lai Masjid and its aftermath // Jamestown Foundation -[tt_news]=4322

Baqir Sajjad Syed. 6 Changing colours of Lai Masjid // Dawn, 05.07.2007.

7 См.: Troops storm Red Mosque, Musharraf tightens grip // Inter Press Service News Agency, 10.07.2007 -

8 See: The Red Mosque in Islamabad is still surrounded by the military / / RIA Novosti, 14.07.2007.

9 See, for example: At least 39 militants killed in Pakistan's Swat // AFP, 12.06.2009.


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