Bloodbath at the Red Mosque

Pakistani soldiers return after storming the Lal Masjid, or Red mosque, in Islamabad July 10, 2007. Pakistani forces killed the leader of the mosque and 50 of his followers.

The fighting between the students of Lal Masjid and the Pakistani army has left more than fifty dead and many injured. Before the final assault, President Musharraf issued the following provocative statement: "If they do not surrender so I am saying here today that they will be killed. They should not force us to use force. They should come out voluntarily; otherwise they will be killed..." Even before Musharraf's ultimatum, his government was swift to attribute the entire blame for the current crisis on Abdul Rashid Ghazi--the principal of the seminary. However, a close examination of the events preceding the current carnage, suggests that the saga has been facilitated by the Pakistani government. 

For the past six months the Musharraf government has tolerated the behavior of the students whenever they chose to challenge its writ. The accumulation of illegal arms, the abduction of Pakistani socialites and policemen, and the seizure of six Chinese women was met with muted criticism from government officials. Furthermore, these activities were not clandestine, and were planned and executed in full view of ISI's headquarters located in close proximity to the confines of the Lal Masjid. The frequent visit of ISI officials and government representatives negates government claims that it was exploring an amicable outcome-- especially when measured against the ferocity of the Pakistani government's response to similar incidents in tribal agencies and elsewhere in Baluchistan. So why did the Pakistani government wait so long to attack the Masjid with overwhelming military force. 

An injured student of the Red Mosque seminary is evacuated to a hospital after an assault by Pakistani forces.

This question can only be answered in the broader context of the challenges facing Musharraf's rule. At present the Musharraf government has had to contend with both the secular opposition and Islamic forces calling for his removal. The secular forces championed by the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) and Chief Justice Iftikhar have gained momentum and have frustrated America's initiative to get Musharraf re-elected. To diffuse this threat, Musharraf under US auspices has held secret talks with certain leaders of the secular opposition and has deployed force against others. As far as negotiations are concerned, the US on Musharraf's behalf is already engaged in advanced talks with Benazir Bhutto with the aim to break the back of the secular opposition and secure a second presidential term for Musharraf. This also explains Bhutto's recent ambiguous stance on the All Parties Conference (APC) in London, which she has shunned so far. 

Whilst the Islamic opposition unhappy with Musharraf's pro-American policies and his neo-liberal attitudes have taken upon themselves to oust him from power. Some have resorted to militancy and others have engaged in protests to vent their anger. But the wellspring of their resentment is fuelled by the religious seminaries which America has identified for secularization or closure. Unlike the secular opposition--where America was keen to compromise and broker a deal- the Islamic forces in the eyes of American policy makers must be secularized at gun point, and any resistance must be crushed. Hence the attack on the Lal Masjid by the military in the absence of martial law, the humiliation of Abdul Aziz Ghazi on Pakistan television, the abrupt cancellation of talks, the media black out and the announcement of 'surrender or die' as a solution to the crisis is an ominous sign for the future of religious seminaries in Pakistan. 

What has transpired at Lal Masjid has all the hallmarks of becoming a template for Musharraf to deal with other religious schools and institutions--a recipe for civil war. Not to mention that the timing of the crisis suits Musharraf, as it deflects the public's attention away from the secular opposition and the government's disastrous response to the floods in Balochistan. 

What is evident is that the utilization of force by the government to deal with both secular and Islamic forces exposes the lip-service of General Musharraf's mantra of "enlightened moderation." Instead of employing thoughts to battle the ideas of the opposition, Musharraf has resorted to force. The same method has been repeated by Musharraf's allies--America, NATO and Israel-- under the guise of 'battle of hearts and minds' and both have failed to crush the resistance movements in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. So what chance does Musharraf have? 

Abid Mustafa is based in the UK and specializes in Muslim affairs.

Related Suggestions

The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Older Comments:
I dont understand how any 1 can be happy for the killing of thier brethren? Even if u are not islamic, a pakistani killing another pakistani, just because they are not your own family yopu think the army should just kill them?

It is unfortunate that the affair of the Masajid is in the hands of misguided Mullahs, who do not have enough education to start with. The culprits like this force upon people their brand of religion; they are astray and totally away from what Islam teaches us. Any body who supports extremist activity is one of them.

It seems that Pakistan is becoming a failed state because it is not living up to the values espoused in it's "Islamic Republic" and practising it. Dictatorship and democracy has apparently not worked. Why? Simply because Pakistan has not followed the values and principles esposed in the Qu'ran and the Sunnah.
Why call yourself an "Islamic Republic" when you cannot follow those principles? Remove the word "Islamic" if you cannot adhere and practise those values because that's what is happening now in Pakistan! I pray to Allah to show the right way and guide Pakistan

Please don't use the language an apostate government agents use for coverup. Please
be just to any reporting. What has happened history will bring the truth out and take the account of it.

Mr. Abid Mustafa's shallow analysis of the issue is part of the pattern of some organizations to put politics above truth.

While Musharraf may be power hungry, were the Ghazi brothers any different? Have these organizations given any thought to the lives of the students who were enrolled at the Madrassa to gain Islamic knowledge and whose obedience to their teachers was manipulated in the most shameless way possible?

I love Islam, but I am enraged by the lack of objectivity of those who choose to speak in its name. It is unfortunate the cannot find better writers than Abid Mustafa.


I also want to add that anybody who takes weapon in
any Musjid has already committed a sin and they will die as enemy of matter what their cause maybe..I hope all the Muslims in the world knows this and before one judges the causes he realizes that taking weapon in Musjid is the biggest crime of

I really think that all the Mullah's of Pakistan, who have just become mullah's without going to school should be sent to some far away island so they can really ponder and educate themselves, what God is teaching in Quran. I am very happy that President Musharaf is taking this bold step and that
people of Pakistan will stand next to him and we too should make a long wall so the people of Afghanistan and rest of Arab world stay where they
belong and leave my country alone and practice
their religion in their region.
To all the Afghans and all the Arabs..fight yr
battle in your own country and leave my country alone and mind your own business..

Well thought out, also seems like current regime is going to use orchestrated increased polarization(secular-religious) of Pakistani as a reason to reamain in power under guise of 'stability and security of Pakistan.' Like Bush regime tactics that got him elected secont term, and typical mantra of many Isreali regimes.

Assalaamu alaikum,

It is the Muslim Ummah's profound misfortune that commentators like Abid Mustafa cannot interpret events in terms other than geo-politics. Instead of condemning the mockery of Islam and the cynical manipulation of students, Mr. Mustafa has chosen to reserve his ire only for Musharraf.

While Musharraf may be a power hungry ruler, were the Ghazi brothers any different?

News clippings of the Lal Masjid students, marching with sticks, clearly shows the students as a motivated lot. It is clear that they were not paid for their actions.

In a sense, these students "volunteered" for the extra-curricular activities their Madrassa deans planned for them. The question is, did they have a choice? What kind of hold did the Ghazi duo have on their students? Even if we assume that Ghazi brothers were megalomaniacal, how could the students participate in such self-destructive activities that have made a mockery of the noble concept of Jihad?

Its evident that the Ghazi brothers were emboldened in their bravado by the unquestioning obedience of the students who had enrolled at their Madrassas. What does this tell us about the IQ or EQ level of these students?

The students who would have graduated from Lal Masjid, would have certainly considered themselves more knowledgeable in Islam than the average Pakistani. Many of them would have gone on to use titles like "Maulana", "Mufti" or even "Grand Mufti". How could these "elite" forget that Tawheed is the foundation of Islam, and that it implies that there is no obedience to the Creation?

The time has come for us to acknowledge that many of our Islamic institutions are reeling under the same authoritarian and dictatorial systems that they are so eager to abolish from national politics.

Abdullah Momin

Assalamualaikum and greetings to all.

I am saddened that the blood bath had happened. General Musharaf should have negotiated with them. Look, I am not for the rebels that hold the mosque but neither am I a fan of Musharaf and his antics.

What musharaf should have done is to give time for a surrender, and consider that women and children were also in, thus the use of force should be ruled out.

Why is he in a hurry ? There was no apparent unrest in Islamabad. Why can't he give more time to save more lives ? Those in the Red Mosque couldn't possibly overthrow him. Is he pressured by the wrong advisers to close in for the kill ? Why and why, and far too many why's along the way.

Is it because there are already mounting uprisings against him since the sacking of the Chief Justice ? Is it that there was already meting of the alliance of opposition parties in London, calling him to step down ?

He is not a democratically elected leader and he has neither the " de fact " or " de jure " justification to remain at helm. He had forced institutions such as the Courts to legitimise his possibly illegitimate rule. And he kept on making errors and mistakes, and by storming the mosque h is giving the message that he is willing to do any favours for his " masters ".

Whatever said and done, the Lal Masjid leaders had no business indulging in unlawful activities. Presence of foreign terrorists implicates Abdul Rashid Ghazi all the more. Irrespective of Musharraf's intentions, Ghazi had it coming and he should have known better.

There is no country on earth that can tolerate a group of armed fanatics holding up in a place of worship while keeping hostages. In this case, it's notable that the cowards resorted to keeping women and children hostage. Good for Musharraf that he sent in troops to restore law and order. That's the job of the government.

I dont know what else could have been the solution. Whether you like Musharraf or not what else should you have done. You have these radicals sitting in the capital, taking hostages and demanding as of how the nation should be run. Eight days of negotiation could not bring out anything. What is the solution Mr. Abid offers instead?

I never side with Musharraf but I think he did EXACTLY the right thing.

In reply to Mrs. Rahman, I do not believe that Musharraf "attacked [their] religion" in any way. I believe that the Lal Masjid initiated this entire incident, and I don't think that they should have used violence as a way to promote Islam (a word which, by the way, stands for "Peace"). However, I do respect your opinion and am glad you voiced it.

According to the verse 9:12 of the Holy Quran:

"But if they violate their oths after their covenant, and attack your religion with disapproval and criticism, then fight the leaders of disbelief (ie, Musharraf, and his pro-American beliefs which he follows)--for surely their oaths are nothing to them--so that they may stop evil actions (ie, The chinese massage parlor that started all this)."

Red mosque is [..] breeds hatred of nonmuslims and women and muslims from other sects. These [..] abducted prostitutes who are simply trying to making a living - if they really cared about prostitution they would have gone after the men who visit these brothels. But ofcourse they wouldnt dare do that, it is much easier for impotent men like them to push around a poor woman nobody cares for coz she is a prostitute than it is to go after the many men who visit her. I am not shedding any tears for these [..] and I hope this time this comment actually gets posted. I was under the impression that iviews is a classy site that welcomes all viewpoints even those of muslim women who like to speak their mind!

The title of the article is a misnomer. I don't find the author describing the attack and the consequnces as 'bloodbath'; rather, he seems to imply that the attack on the mosque should have come six months ago.

He also writes "What has transpired at Lal Masjid has all the hallmarks of becoming a template for Musharraf to deal with other religious schools and institutions--a recipe for civil war.". I wonder if that is true. So far, the commando-general-president Musharraf has shown no "enlighended moderation"; rather he has only shown "enlighened political expediency" by aligning with MMA leading to "enlightened cowardice". Well, the world will be watching Pakistan and General Musharraf.

Lal Masjid has been a second headquarter of ISI. This whole situation has been engineered by ISI. Why? The answer is simple; the government can now detain anyone at will on the fictitious charge of being a support of religious group. Gen. Musharaf is does not care how many he will kill. According to figures produced by Baluch sources, there are approxmately 8000 Baluch being abducted by ISI.

The author doesnt know what he is talking about