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Lal Masjid to be painted green
July 19, 2007 19:37 IST
Pakistan's Lal Masjid, whose radical clerics and students were involved in a bloody standoff with the government, is all set to wear a brand new look -- with a new name, a moderate cleric heading it and its colour changed to green instead of red.
Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao has approved a Rs 13 million plan to renovate and remodel the mosque complex, which was badly damaged during the eight-day battle between troops and Islamic radicals holed up inside it, in an effort to erase the memory of its bloody past.
When the mosque is reopened for prayers in the first week of August, worshipers will find it bathed in apple green colour and perhaps with a new name, The Dawn newspaper reported.
"We are changing the red colour of the mosque to dilute its bloody memory," an official said, according to the report.
The sprawling mosque complex in central Islamabad is one of the rare mosques to have a name not connected with Islam.
The red colour is usually shunned by radical Islamists because it is synonymous with communists or atheists whom they regard as "Kafirs," meaning infidels.
True to its name it remained a centre of defiance ever since it was constructed in 1965 even though it was managed by the government.
Ghazi's father Abdullah was appointed as its "Khateeb" (cleric) by the first military ruler Ayub Khan and was later nourished by another dictator, Zia ul Haq during whose time the Lal Masjid became a centre of pro-Taliban and al Qaeda militancy.
After its renovation, the mosque will be handed over to the Auqaf Department which will appoint a new cleric for it.
Over 200 masons, carpenters and labourers have been employed to undertake the renovation work, which includes knocking down the complex's 10-foot high boundary wall. Other changes to be made include expanding the ablution area of the mosque and adding more bathrooms.
Doors, concrete grills and the bullet-riddled iron sheet cover over the mosque's courtyard are also to be replaced. The courtyard is to be given a concrete roof, an official said.
A new sound system will also be installed as the old one in the mosque was destroyed during the eight-day fighting.
It is not yet known whether the government would demolish the girls madrassa attached to the mosque. The Jamia Hafza seminary housed over 3000 burqa-clad girls before the July 11 siege.
The government also has to decide about a boys madrassa controlled by the mosque located in the capitals' posh E-7 sector.
Some religious groups are reportedly trying to grab both the properties.