Jul 4, 2007

Siege of Pakistan's Red Mosque

According to our sources, approximately 50 people have been killed and another 200 injured as the battle continues this evening. Official reports cited from the Pakistan newspaper "Dawn" put the death toll now at 10 with more than 150 injured. The death toll is expected to rise in the days ahead.

This morning at 1100 local time as the first deadline for surrender approached, approximately 500 students mainly women and children gave themselves up and accepted the government's offer of 5,000 rupees (US$82.61) to each student who surrenders. More than 3,000 students however remain in the compound.

As the situation continues to spiral out of control many Pakistanis in Islamabad and elsewhere in the country are growing not only impatient but angry and demanding that the the government stop the siege. In a disturbing analogy, one of our sources in Pakistan this evening described the situation as being worse than the United States government's 1993 attack on the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas. As a virtual siege encompasses the area around the mosque as well as much of the city, the line that separates extremism and fundamentalism is beginning to blur in the minds of many ordinary Pakistanis who are starting to feel themselves emphasizing with the plight of the students (many of whom are women) remaining inside the compound.

red mosque

Above you can see exactly where the Red Mosque or Lal Masjid is located, it's just a few blocks down from the Islamabad Holiday Inn. The white building southeast of the Holiday Inn is a Poly Clinic where many of the injured have been taken. The library is adjacent (northeast) to the mosque and is where you see the women gathered in the video below.

According Pakistani newspaper reports, "...a number of members of the National Assembly from religious groups and some other people tried to mediate, and even attempted to persuade Lal Masjid’s top cleric Maulan Abdul Rasheed Ghazi and others to back down, but without any success. The Lal Masjid brigade that had been on a path of defiance since January, when its members along with Hafsa girls had occupied a nearby children’s library and later abducted a number of policemen and private citizens, was by now giving out a clear message that they were prepared to fight it out, even if it meant heavy casualty on both sides."

Whatever is the outcome, the longer the siege and standoff continues, the worse the situation gets outside. If the Lal Masjid clerics can hang in there until this Friday, they might begin to find overall sentiment of many Pakistanis start to shift heavily in their favor.

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