Islamic hardliners mark Red Mosque operation anniversary

July 6th, 2008 - 3:53 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
Islamabad, July 6 (DPA) Thousands of hardline Islamists Sunday gathered in Pakistan’s capital to commemorate the first anniversary of a military operation against the extremists in the Red Mosque. Dozens of religious leaders from across the country and more than 3,000 people, mostly students from Islamic seminaries, chanted “God is great” and “We want martyrdom” during the rally held outside the mosque known as Lal Masjid.

Around 4,000 policemen were deployed to guard the venue for the rally, named the “Red Mosque Martyr Conference.”

The roads leading to the mosque were blocked with barbed wires for vehicles. Four walkthrough gates were installed and the participants were being checked with metal detectors.

The speakers condemned President Pervez Musharraf for ordering the violent July 10, 2007 operation.

“The Pharaoh of the age (Musharraf) killed thousands of our children whose only crime was that they were learning the Kuran,” said Qazi Nisar, a radical cleric whose followers blocked the highway that connects Pakistan and China across Korakoram mountains for several days during the standoff a year ago.

“We will never forgive him for his atrocities against the innocent people,” he added.

Security forces surrounded the mosque on July 3, 2007 following clashes between the police and the seminary students, who had abducted several women alleging them to be prostitutes and threatened music shop owners to give up the trade under an “anti-vice” campaign.

A week later military commandos stormed the mosque in a pre-dawn operation. According to the government 100 people, including 12 soldiers, were killed in the action.

Abdul Rashid Ghazi, younger of the two radical brother clerics of the mosque, also died while fighting the troops.

The elder brother, Abdul Aziz, was arrested a few days before the final assault fleeing while disguised as a woman. He remains in police custody since then.

The operation is considered a major incident in the recent history of Islamic militancy in Pakistan, as it was followed by a series of suicide attacks on security forces which killed more than 3,000 people during the past year.

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