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Lal Masjid re-opened on Pak SC order
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad |
October 03, 2007 23:05 IST
The Lal Masjid, which was freed from occupation by radical elements in a military operation in July, was on Wednesday reopened to the public on the orders of the Supreme Court with President Pervez Musharraf [Images] asserting that militants would not be allowed to take over the shrine again.
The mosque in the heart of Islamabad was reopened after remaining closed for three months in the wake of the military operation that left more than 100 people dead.
Army commandos stormed the mosque and the Jamia Hafsa, its affiliated girls' seminary, on July 3 after the militants refused to surrender. The mosque had been closed since July 3.
It was opened for Friday prayers on July 27 but was re-occupied by radical students, who forced the government-appointed imam to leave the mosque. The government then closed the mosque again but the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the government to re-open it today for morning prayers.
A Supreme Court bench of Justice Nawaz Abbasi and Justice M Javed Buttar also ordered the reconstruction of the Jamia Hafsa, which was demolished by the government after the military operation, at the same site. Around 4,000 female students had been studying in the madrassa.
Admitting that the reopening of the Lal Masjid was a 'sensitive' issue, Musharraf said authorities were always in favour of allowing people to offer prayers at the shrine.
"But what does the government do if someone comes to the mosque and tries to take it over again," he said during an interview with Geo TV.
"If some 200 people come there and take it over, what do we do? We will have to evict them. Nikalte nahi hai, woh ladenge to dande chalenge (If they resist the efforts to evict them, force will have to be used)," he said.
"It is unfortunate that there are elements -- there are not many of them -- but they are there and they are militant. They want to take control of the mosque and challenge the writ of the government. How far can we tolerate all this? The Lal Masjid should definitely be opened but we will not allow anyone to take it over. It is a mosque, there should be an imam and prayers should be offered there. There should be prayers and good things there," Musharraf said.
The deputy imam of the mosque, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, was among 91 people, including seminary students, who were killed in the three-day operation conducted by hundreds of special commandos in July.
The authorities did not allow people to offer morning prayers today. Around 300 people, however, offered morning prayers on the main road outside the mosque. Later, police removed barbed wire fences and cement blocks and opened the mosque for noon prayers. A few hundred residents of the area around the mosque and religious students offered prayers while policemen stood guard.
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