Al-Qaeda prepared an uprising in Pakistan in 2007 to thwart efforts to stop them in Waziristan. Sheikh Issa al-Masri, an Al-Qaeda member, travelled to Pakistan to speak with religious leaders. Sheikh Issa met Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Hafiz Saeed, and Dr. Israr Ahmed. He requested the issuance of a fatwa against the government and security services of Pakistan. What was the reaction of these religious leaders to his demand? On Friday, April 6, 2007, the Lal Masjid officials declared the introduction of Shariah.
Along with wearing black burqas, thousands of students holding rods descended along the streets. What transpired next? Why did the last attempt to save Lal Masjid by the Imam of the Kaaba and Mufti Taqi Usmani fail? This episode of DSJ’s History of Pakistan series features all of this, and I’m Faisal Warriach. Pervez Musharraf was given information regarding the Al-Qaeda assets in Pakistan in 2007 by the CIA and Pakistani intelligence. All of the locations and individuals who supported Al-Qaeda were listed in the descriptions of these assets.
The name Lal Masjid was at the top of the list of these properties. Then there was Mullah Fazlullah and Swat Valley. The list also included Sufi Muhammad of Tehreek-e-Nifaz Shariat-e-Mohammadi. The Red Mosque was the most significant of these, but it wasn’t the only one. Additionally, Jamia Hafsa, Jamia Faridiya, and all other seminaries connected to Lal Masjid fully supported Lal Masjid. The last 40 years has seen the unauthorised establishment of several institutions. This indicates that these seminaries were not granted NOCs by the government.
The Ghazi brothers did not view the construction of unauthorised mosques and madrassas as improper. According to Maulana Abdul Aziz, it is a religious obligation to erect mosques and seminaries on public property. He asserted that academics and other Muslims were required to do that if the government didn’t accomplish this. In this manner, more than 70 mosques and seminaries were constructed. Between 6,000 and 8,000 people study in these seminaries. The majority of the pupils were from the KPK, particularly Malakand and Swat. There were also a lot of pupils who came from distant parts of FATA.
All of these folks had close relatives who had participated in acts of jihad against Russia in Afghanistan. Their loved ones had perished in Kashmir or Afghanistan. These students grew up in a Jihadi environment and were passionate about martyrdom. Their sentiments had grown even stronger thanks to the seminaries connected to Lal Masjid. Following the receipt of those details by the Pakistani government, British and American officials began travelling to Pakistan. They urged Pakistan to have a clear plan to put an end to militancy as soon as possible.
They desired Pakistani cooperation with American and British soldiers. They intended to stop militants from hiding out on either side of the border in this manner. Simply put, Pakistan was under increasing international pressure to conduct an operation. On January 2, 2007, the administration in Islamabad began the operation. These mosques and seminaries were all deemed unlawful. These weren’t constructed using NOC. At least 80 of them were present. The Jamia Hafsa students wearing burqas protested as the authorities began dismantling those buildings.
A local children’s society was encircled by about 3,000 female students who wouldn’t let them go. Outside of the children’s library and Jamia Hafsa, posters were put up. In the posters, it was either martyrdom or Sharia. The girl students requested that the mosques that had been destroyed be rebuilt. They also requested that the four mosques that were destroyed as part of a road extension project be rebuilt. Additionally, they asked the government legalise every mosque it had labelled unlawful. Ironically, Jamia Hafsa, the protesters’ seminary, was also formally forbidden from operating.
According to the Islamabad Development Authority, Jamia Hafsa received 7 marla of land. But by taking the National Book Foundation’s land and a wedding hall, they expanded the building unlawfully to 18 Kanals. In any case, the sit-in protest in front of the kids’ library persisted for three weeks. To placate the protests, the authorities decided to reconstruct a mosque that had been destroyed. But until all of the destroyed mosques were rebuilt, the demonstrators wouldn’t go away. However, the government objected to that. As a result, the situation deteriorated. The Ghazi brothers developed a stricter demeanour.
They then increased their demand for the country to adopt Sharia law. However, the request was ignored by the administration. Then, on Friday, April 6, 2007, during his Friday sermon, Maulana Abdul Aziz made a statement. He declared that Sharia law would henceforth be in effect everywhere the Red Mosque had influence. This was a significant announcement, and it took place in the capital. However, not many people are aware of the announcement’s history. Most likely no one in the Friday crowd understood Maulana Abdul Aziz’s true motives. They had no idea who was responsible? Actually, Sheikh Issa al-Masri and Maulana’s meeting was what started everything.
Sheikh Issa al-Masri, 70, had been given a mission by Bin Laden to instigate uprising in Pakistan. He was an experienced Jihadist. He was conversant in Pashto and Urdu. He was regarded as a brilliant scholar by the Taliban. He was hurt recently in Waziristan during a military operation by Pakistan. Since 2004, he has been engaged in Pakistan. Meeting with religious leaders was part of his plan to spark a revolution. One of the most sought-after Al-Qaeda figures was him. He was also one of the world’s most sought terrorists. But Sheikh Issa al-Masri took a life-threatening journey through Pakistan to meet with important religious figures.
Al-Wala Al-Bara, his Arabic book, was also being distributed in Urdu and Pashtu throughout the nation. According to the book, Pakistan is an infidel state and democracy is anti-Islamic. The book contains quotations from the Muslim scholar Ibn Teymiyyah, who lived in the 13th century, as well as allusions to the Quran and Hadith. It was the same kind of book that Abdullah Qahtani and Jahman Al-Otaibi had put together for their supporters in 1979. The militant leader who took over the Ka’bah in 1979 and held it there for two weeks was Abdullah Qahtani.
Sheikh Issa al-Masri, a 70-year-old man, had been assigned by Bin Laden the task of inciting uprising in Pakistan. A seasoned Jihadi, he was. Both Pashto and Urdu were proficient in his speech. As a superb scholar, the Taliban valued him. In a recent military operation in Waziristan, Pakistan, he also sustained injuries. He began operating there in 2004. Meeting with spiritual authorities was part of his plan to spark a revolution. As a leader of Al-Qaeda, he was one of the most sought men. Among the most wanted terrorists worldwide, he was also. However, Sheikh Issa al-Masri took a life-threatening detour to meet with important religious figures while travelling across Pakistan.
He believed that if local scholars were persuaded of such, it would be simple to incite a rebellion in Pakistan. He thought Pakistan will be affected by the insurrection in some way. The United States would be unable to do so in Afghanistan. But if the uprising was successful, Jihadi organisations would rule Pakistan. In that situation, Pakistan might serve as al-preferred Qaeda’s global jihadi starting point. Al-Masri travelled with copies of his works to places like Faisalabad, Multan, Lahore, and Islamabad.
Dr. Israr Ahmed, a proponent of the Islamic Khilafah, was one of the people he met. But he had never advocated for armed conflict for that reason. Al-Masri later met Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Qazi Hussain Ahmed of the Jamaat-e-Islami. He purportedly also got to know Maulana Fazlur Rehman. To everyone he encountered, he offered arguments from his book. In theory, he was accepted by all religious authorities. Why did they not oppose the state institutions if they agreed with him, Sheikh Issa questioned? But his plan was not well received by Pakistan’s religious authorities. Masri was accurate in his assessment of the Pakistani state, Qazi Hussain Ahmed retorted.
However, any uprising against Pakistan will only appease its adversaries, particularly the United States and India. Consequently, none of them agreed to help al-Qaeda. Sheikh Issa, however, was not dismayed by this failure. To speak with the Ghazi brothers, he proceeded to Lal Masjid. He presented them with the same defences. He delivered the Ghazi brothers a message from Osama bin Laden. They were instructed to produce a fatwa condemning the security forces by Osama bin Laden. You now understand that Maulana Abdul Aziz was a unique religious thinker. He was in charge of running Lal Masjid. For a very long time, the mosque was associated with the Kashmir and Afghan Jihad.
Here, young men were enlisted to fight the Soviet Union. It was now up to him to issue a fatwa denouncing the Pakistani army. His relationships with the establishment might have been destroyed by the fatwa. Unexpectedly, though, he agreed with Sheikh Issa al-Masri. In opposition to the army battling the extremists, he issued a fatwa. According to the fatwa, the soldiers who died in the conflict were not martyrs and did not require funeral prayers. The fatwa was signed by 500 other muftis from all around Pakistan. Maulana Abdul Aziz maintains that the fatwa was legitimate and claims to have issued it independently.
Mohammed Abdul Aziz Abdul Aziz proclaimed the adoption of Shariah in the neighbourhoods near Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa on April 6, 2007. He handed Islamabad’s authorities a month to shut down video stores. In Lal Masjid, Maulana Abdul Aziz established a Shariat court. He made a promise to raid purported brothels, kidnap the sex workers, and keep them in a secure facility. If 500,000 brothels and booze stores nationwide weren’t shut down, he promised to take action. Additionally, jihad lessons were given, and militants kept their weapons in the basements of connected madrassas. At that time, there were 6,000–7,000 pupils enrolled in those madrassas.
The female pupils of Jamia Hafsa went one step further. They seized control of the kids’ library. Maulana Abdul Aziz continues to hold that it was the proper course of action. According to him, he did that to put pressure on the government to enact Sharia Law. After the Friday sermon on April 6, hundreds of female students in burqas and carrying sticks marched through Islamabad. They announced that until Sharia law was put into effect, they would not leave the Children’s Library. Politicians disagreed with Jamia Hafsa and Lal Masjid’s conduct.
Altaf Hussain, the MQM leader, was one of them. He threatened to organise protests against the administration unless it took action. The United States had also linked its effort against Al-Qaeda with help for Pakistan. Lal Masjid was included in Al-assets, Qaeda’s according to the U.S. investigation. Maulana Abdul Aziz was aware that he was the target of an impending military action. If there were a military operation, he threatened to carry out suicide strikes. On that same day, Lal Masjid students stormed music and movie stores in Islamabad.
They burnt the cassettes of contentious movies and forcibly shut down the businesses. 200 students who had come to the Lal Masjid to join their friends were detained by the administration. Maulana once more issued a warning to declare Jihad in the event of a military operation following their detention. Additionally, he resisted leaving the children’s library. Following the introduction of sharia law, he declared he would hand over control of all madrassas and children’s libraries. The Ghazi brothers were able to speak up because they were given a guarantee. They believed that al-Qaeda and other armed organisations would fight for them.
They had yet another resource available to them. They anticipated receiving support from 13,500 madrassas totaling 1.8 million students. The state could have easily fallen apart without their assistance. All of this was taking place in the heart of Islamabad. The government enlisted the aid of its religious minister to stop all of this and spare the world from embarrassment. Since the Soviet-Afghan war, Minister Ijaz-ul-Haq, the son of General Zia, has been friendly with the Ghazi brothers. He attempted to persuade the Ghazi brothers using their previous acquaintance. He placed his hands in front of Maulana Abdul Aziz and touched his feet before warning that his actions would result in a sea of fire.
Despite hearing everything, Maulana persisted in acting the same way. On the other hand, President Pervez Musharraf was being urged by the international community to take stern action. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain then suggested a different approach. He suggested bringing Mufti Taqi Usmani, the teacher of Maulana Abdul Aziz, from Karachi to persuade the Ghazi brothers. His spiritual guide and his father’s close friend was Mufti Taqi Usmani. When he first met his student, he inquired about his goals. In response, Maulana stated his desire for a sharia-based system of governance.
What kind of Islam does he seek, inquired Mufti Taqi Usmani? Islam practised by the Prophet (PBUH) or his own? The Prophet (PBUH) is obviously our role model, Maulana Abdul Aziz retorted. Then Taqi Usmani posed a challenging query. He questioned whether it was Islamic to occupy the children’s library and abduct the police officers and prostitutes. Did the Prophet (PBUH) permit a city’s tranquillity to be disturbed? Has the Prophet (PBUH) ever engaged in such behaviour? Or did our forefathers ever employ this strategy to advance Islam after that? Maulana Abdul Aziz didn’t say anything in reply.
Again, Mufti Taqi Usmani questioned him. He demanded, “Answer me.” In response, Maulana Abdul Aziz said he couldn’t disagree with his teacher. Taqi Usmani believed he had Maulana Abdul Aziz’s ear. He pleaded with Maulana Abdul Aziz to make it clear that he wouldn’t act in the same way again. Surprisingly, Maulana Abdul Aziz baulked at the suggestion. He declared that he would not alter his actions since he was acting morally. Taqi Usmani, a mufti, was shocked. You’re going to do it despite not having any support from the Qur’an and Hadith, he questioned. Once more, Maulana Abdul Aziz stayed silent.
Mufti Taqi Usmani was now enraged. You claim that I am your teacher, he said. Remember, our relationship as teacher and student ends now; never mention me to anybody else again as your teacher. Mufti Taqi Usmani then stood up and walked away. Maulana Abdul Aziz did not make an effort to halt him. He sobbed quietly as he cried. Mufti Taqi Usmani is still referred to as Maulana Abdul Aziz’s tutor. Anyone can respectfully disagree with his teacher, he claims. Even after Maulana Taqi Usmani’s efforts to halt the Ghazi brothers had failed, the authorities still tried to do so.
Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, the Imam of the Kaaba, was invited to Pakistan by the government. He travelled there on May 29, 2007. At Jamia Ashrafia and Badshahi Masjid Lahore behind him, he presided over prayers. He also gave a Friday sermon at Islamabad’s Faisal Mosque. He commended Pakistan’s contributions to Islam. Extremism, according to him, has no place in Islam. He asserted that talking was preferable to using force. At the Faisal Mosque’s Friday sermon, 400,000 Muslims were there. The Imam of the Kaaba prayed for harmony in Pakistan as well. He also suggested engaging in communication to defeat terrorism and not playing right into the hands of the enemy.
He gave the Lal Masjid management advice not to incite dissent in mosques. He added that it was improper to cite mosques as a defence (for the militants). Along with seeing the president and prime minister, he later travelled back to Saudi Arabia. However, his remarks infuriated the Lal Masjid staff. Outside Lal Masjid, they put up posters opposing the fatwa of the Imam of the Kaaba. Authorities at Lal Masjid accused the government of employing him for political purposes. They said that the information supplied to the Imam of the Kaaba was insufficient. There would soon be an operation against Lal Masjid.
From South Waziristan, Taliban spokesperson Umer released a message. Declaring jihad in support of Lal Masjid was his threat. He claimed to be in touch with those in charge of the Lal Masjid. Maulana Abdul Aziz may not have been prepared to stop his activities because of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He also didn’t give up command of the kids’ library. Nothing less than the application of sharia law pleased him. The event was being covered live by the media.
The events also caused alarm for the world community. Despite its desire to act, there were several obstacles. It had been challenging to take any significant action because of the lawyers’ movement and the security situation. However, the militants in Lal Masjid then committed a final, serious error. What was the error? For what reason did General Musharraf claim that he had never felt thus humiliated before?
Who resided in the Lal Masjid’s basement? Who shot SSG commando force colonel Haroon Islam? The upcoming episode of the History of Pakistan series will depict all of this.Contact Us