LAHORE: A high-level, independent inquiry into the Lal Masjid operation, the clumsy manner in which it was carried and the deaths of an as yet undisclosed number of persons is essential.
HRCP is appalled by the killing of so many, by the disproportionate use of brute force and the arbitrary action taken to deal with the situation.
The question of the long delay in the conduct of the Lal Masjid operation, the confusion over the game plan under which ulema and government members conducted negotiations with Lal Masjid clerics and the lack of a clear-cut strategy regarding those who voluntary surrendered must also be probed. The absence of a coordinated plan in this regard hampered the operation and added to the confusion prevailing amongst people across the country. The homage paid by government members and others over the last many years to clerics such as those running the Lal Masjid and the obsequious manner in approaching them has also quite obviously emboldened them.
The situation at the Lal Masjid did not crop up overnight. The build-up of arms and the training in their use imparted to students had obviously continued for years, with the help and connivance of authorities. It also defies belief that the authorities learnt of the presence of alleged militants within the masjid only hours before the operation. The whereabouts of these individuals should not have been unknown to the vast intelligence network based in Islamabad.
Even now other seminaries exist, where militants are trained and arsenals of arms stocked. The existence and location of these seminaries are well known to authorities Indeed, the violent events seen at the Lal Masjid are an outcome of the collusion between the military and militants backed by the clergy that has continued for decades.
The allegation that women and children were used as a human shield by militants at the Lal Masjid is appalling. Such exploitation of children by seminaries must end and an investigation made into the exemption granted to the seminary from regulating and monitoring its pupils.
The government, with its ham-handed handling of the situation, has in fact created the potential for further problems ahead. The deaths of so many at the hands of State forces may act only to pave the way for greater extremism in society and support for the violent cause militants espouse.