The Pakistani government's assault on the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) complex in Islamabad is finished, and some of the bodies have already been buried. Pakistani officials have said that 73 militants and 9 soldiers died in the attack, bringing to 106 the number confirmed killed since the siege of the mosque began.
Many of the bodies have already been fingerprinted, photographed and buried, in numbered coffins in unmarked graves and without the usual formalities, perhaps to be claimed by relatives.
But more than two thousand people attended the funeral of the former leader, Abdul Rashid Ghazi. His brother, Abdul Aziz, and other family members who had been arrested, were allowed to attend.
In Peshawar, hundreds of anti-government protesters marched and chanted. And Al-Q'aeda front-man Ayman al-Zawahri has urged Pakistanis to revolt against their government following the assault on the complex.
Meanwhile, the "hundreds" of civilian noncombatants who were supposedly in the complex have not been found. Neither have the "mass graves" in which "hundreds of bodies" of people who were supposedly killed before the assault began.
Could it be that they were never there? All the "innocent women and childred", who were later described as "human shields" and then "hostages" -- could they have been mostly fictional? Could their "existence" have been fabricated by the militants in a story they thought would protect them? If so, the tale backfired, as it was used as a pretext by which the government justified the assault.
But if the innocents really were there, where are they now? Families searching the Islamabad hospitals would like to know. It is also possible that the death toll is quite a bit higher than the officially announced numbers, and that the government is "managing" the "news" in order to release the actual information in the least damaging way possible (if at all).
President General Pervez Musharraf is scheduled to address the nation today on television, but it's entirely possible that he will fail to answer any of these questions. On the other hand, I will continue to keep my eyes open.
tenth in a series