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More trouble in Pak: Govt, mosque face-off
May 21, 2007 11:38 IST
A radical cleric warned authorities that a raid on his Red Mosque in Pakistan's capital, where two policemen have been held hostage, would lead to holy war as authorities deployed 10,000 security forces around the area and stepped up security in the city.
Clerics of the mosque are spearheading a campaign to impose Islamic in the capital and have been involved in a standoff with authorities for months.
The two officials -- an assistant sub inspector and a Constable -- were abducted by the students of madrasas controlled by the Red Mosque after 11 of their colleagues were detained by police.
The chief administrator of the mosque Abdul Rashid Ghazi alleged that 200 students of their mosque have been detained by police and threatened heavy retaliation if any police operation was conducted.
He also threatened retaliation by suicide bombers.
Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said the government has observed restrain for over three months despite provocations just to avoid bloodshed but the clerics of Lal Masjid have pushed law-enforcement agencies to be ready for an operation.
"Now, the law-enforcement agencies are free to make a strategy to maintain the writ of the government," he said.
However, in-charge of the National Crisis Management Cell Javed Iqbal Cheema said the government did not want to use force to resolve the issue.
The use of force was the last option for the government and the deployment of paramilitary forces was a routine matter, Cheema said.
The News quoted some officials as saying that no raid would be made on the mosque.
"This was only a morale boosting meeting to rehabilitate the buoyancy of the depressed police force."
Hundreds of boys of madrassas controlled by the mosque, some armed with guns while many with bamboo sticks, took positions all around the mosque and even closed the roads in front of the mosque with barricades.
As part of the build up, police has blocked all roads leading to the mosque and declared a state of emergency in the local hospitals to deal with casualties in the event of any operation.
Personnel of the Rangers, Punjab and local police and other law enforcers were seen patrolling important roads of the capital.
Punjab and Frontier Constabularies had also started arriving in Islamabad to reinforce the civil administration here as tension gripped the entire city following the deployment. Earlier the two pro-Taliban clerics who control the mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz and Abdur Rashid Ghazi warned that Jihad would be declared against the government throughout the country in case of an attack on the mosque.
In fact, announcements over the loud speakers said jihad has already been declared as the clerics.
Ghazi said the government was responsible for creating tension in the capital. "The government is worsening the situation by its dual policy. It is negotiating on the one hand and arresting seminary students on the other hand."
"They are committing extra-judicial offences by kidnapping our people," he alleged.