Monday, July 9, 2007

Lal Masjid Negotiations: News Updates From Dawn

A collection of Lal Masjid-related news items from Pakistan's Dawn, for the record.

July 9, 2007

Gunfire at Lal Masjid, siege in 7th day
ISLAMABAD, July 9(Reuters): Islamist militants in a Pakistani mosque compound exchanged fire with security forces on Monday, but there was no sign of an imminent assault the morning after the government gave “a final warning” to surrender.

As the stand-off entered its seventh day, Muslim clerics said they were trying to persuade the government to hold off, while they tried to find a way to avoid a bloodbath in the heart of the Pakistani capital. (Posted @ 11:45 PST)
Thousands of Pakistani tribesmen vow mosque revenge
KHAR, Pakistan, July 9 (AFP) Around 20,000 Pakistani tribesmen vowed Monday to take revenge on President Pervez Musharraf for the siege of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid, witnesses and officials said.

“We are ready for jihad!” cried the protesters - some of them armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers - who rallied near Khar, the main town in the Bajaur tribal district bordering Afghanistan.

Local pro-Taliban commanders told the gathering that there should be a holy war in return for the Lal Masjid standoff. The confrontation has so far left at least 24 people dead, according to the government, but the mosque's leaders say more than 400 students have been killed. (Posted @ 12:15 PST)
President Musharraf meets top officials to discuss Lal Masjid standoff strategy
ISLAMABAD, July 9 (AFP) President Pervez Musharraf met top officials Monday to consider an assault on militants holed up inside Islamabad’s Lal Masjid.

“We are trying hard to reach a compromise on ending the crisis in a peaceful manner,” Hanif Jalandri, the head of the Wafaq-ul-Madaris, the main religious body that oversees seminaries in Pakistan, told AFP.

“There are certain proposals and we hope we will succeed.” “At around midnight senior government officials were in contact for last-ditch efforts to convince Abdul Rashid Ghazi to give up,” chairman Maulana Tahir Ashrafi said.

“It is time for difficult decisions,” a senior security official said of the meeting between Musharraf and his top advisors. “Last-ditch efforts are being made by the ulema (Islamic scholars) and people associated with madrassas.”

But the official insisted there was no question of meeting Ghazi's demand for safe passage out of the mosque, adding: “We cannot, where will they go? India, Afghanistan, neighbouring countries - no one will accept them.” (Posted @ 13:55 PST)
Former Pakistan PM to lead final mosque negotiations
ISLAMABAD, July 9 (AFP) President Pervez Musharraf Monday appointed a former prime minister to lead last-ditch talks with militants holed up with women and children in Islamabad’s Lal Masjid, officials said.

At a meeting with top officials, Musharraf authorised Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who served as premier for three months in 2004, to work with a delegation of leading Islamic scholars to persuade the rebels to surrender.

“The meeting authorised Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to make a real last-ditch effort to convince the militants holding women and children to release them,” a senior government official who attended the talks told AFP.

Musharraf emphasised that the priority continues to be to save the women and children inside the mosque, whom the government says are being held by the militants as human shields. “They must be released by the hostage-takers,” the official quoted the president as saying.

The official would not say what the government is offering in return to the mosque's de facto chief, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, and the militants. (First Posted @ 13:55 PST, Updated @ 14:54 PST)
Pre-mature to link Lal Masjid issue with Chinese killing: Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, July 9 (PPI): Pakistan says it was pre-mature to create any linkage between Lal Masjid issue and killing of three Chinese nationals in Peshawar, reiterating Pak-China friendship was strong enough to withstand such incidents.

“It is premature ... investigation is continuing (and) at the moment, we cannot make out or rule out any connection,” Foreign Office spokesperson Ms Tasnim Aslam told newsmen Monday at the weekly briefing.

She replied in the negative when asked whether Chinese government had sought information about any Uygar terrorists inside Lal Masjid. “No, they have not raised it (question) and we have no information that Chinese terrorists were inside mosque.”

She also said that President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had sent separate condolence messages to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

An immediate enquiry was ordered in incident and government was making all efforts to ensure security of Chinese nationals in Pakistan, she said.

The government had already intensified security at foreign missions and consulates in other cities of the country. (Posted @ 18:38 PST)
President directs security forces to ensure hostages security
RAWALPINDI, July 9 (PPI):- President General Pervez Musharraf Monday directed security forces to ensure security of people and children held hostage in Lal Masjid compound in Islamabad.

Chairing a high level meeting at his Camp Office, also attended by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, he appreciated “exemplary restraint” shown by security personnel in ongoing operation and lauded the cooperation by the residents of G-6 area with the administration and the law enforcement personnel.

He directed swift measures to ease their hardship, including immediate restoration of power and gas supply to those living in the vicinity of Lal Masjid-Jamia Hafsa compound.

He also asked the authorities to facilitate staffers of banks located in area, and provision of household goods to the affected people. (Posted @ 18:44 PST)
Lal Masjid cleric agrees to talks, govt offers house arrest: PM
ISLAMABAD, July 9 (AFP) Lal Masjid’s cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi under siege in his mosque agreed to hold crunch talks Monday with ministers and religious scholars via loudspeaker in a bid to end the crisis, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told newsmen.

He said the government was ready to offer Ghazi the option to be held under house arrest along with his ailing mother if he surrenders and leaves the mosque.

A seven-member negotiating team headed by former premier Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain will try to persuade Ghazi to give himself up and to free women and children inside the complex, the prime minister said.

“The team will negotiate through a speaker system so that all team members can hear whatever Ghazi says,” Aziz said at his official residence in Islamabad.

“We are not sending any negotiating team inside the mosque as they are unpredictable people and have also taken six parents as hostage,” Aziz added.

“We are trying to avoid loss of life and using all negotiating options to end this crisis, including house arrest for Ghazi and his old mother,” the premier added. (Posted @ 18:54 PST)
Negotiating team reaches Lal Masjid
ISLAMABAD, July 9 (Reuters) - A delegation of Muslim scholars along with ex-premier and head of the ruling PML Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain assembled outside the besieged Lal Masjid with loudspeakers late Monday afternoon to beseech Abdul Rashid Ghazi and his militants to send out dead and wounded along with women and children.

They were mandated earlier in the day by prime minister Shaukat Aziz to make yet another attempt to end the seven-day old crisis.

“We have come here to make a last request,” Shujaat told reporters as he approached the barbed wire cordon.

“We are here to request them to hand over bodies to us and send injured for treatment. We will try to take forward the negotiation process.” (Posted @ 19:30 PST)
SC rejects plea for halting Lal Masjid operation
ISLAMABAD, July 09 (PPI) - The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a plea to halt the ongoing security forces' operation against Lal Masjid. However, it directed the authorities to facilitate a meeting of seven-member Ulema delegation with Abdul Rasheed Ghazi.

On a court query, Attorney General Makhdoom Ali Khan, who appeared on notice assured the court that the protection of those who will surrender would be ensured and they will be dealt with in accordance with the law.

The court, however, did not pass any order or observation regarding the appeal of Abdul Rasheed Ghazi seeking safe exit.

However, the court said those willing to surrender, may surrender before a District and Sessions Judge.

The spokesman of Interior Ministry and Chief of National Crisis Management Cell Brig (r) Javed Iqbal Cheema told the court that government wanted to end the Lal Masjid standoff. He said some wanted extremists are present inside the mosque, who had been keeping hostages to the female and male students.

The Acting Chief Justice (ACJ) of Pakistan, Justice Rana Bhagwandas had taken suo motu notice on Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa situation on Monday and constituted two-member bench comprising Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi and Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar to hear the case. Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi taking notice of the situation as reported on various TV Channels, had placed the matter before the ACJ for appropriate orders. (Posted @ 21:16 PST)

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