Understanding Pakistan Project Team July 14th, 2007
In line with its overall objectives, the Understanding Project is supporting, along with Take Pakistan Back Coalition, a Petition to the Supreme Court of Pakistan to set up an Independent Judicial Commission in the Lal Masjid Episode and the Operation Silence. The Text of the Petition, and some background material, is given below. If it succeeded in gaining enough signatures, the petition will be delivered to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 15 days time (August 1, 2007). We urge all conscienscious Pakistanis to consider signing the petition and encourage others to do so too. Please spread the word around.
The heart-breaking events of Lal-Masjid this week–where Muslims were fighting Muslims, and Pakistanis killed Pakistanis–in the name of religion and national interest and in the heart of the Country’s capital, have the potential to MAKE or BREAK Pakistan.
Understanding the Truth about the Lal Masjid Operation and learning from it would mean the difference meeting an inevitable fate–i.e. Pakistan becoming either the Next AFGHANISTAN or the Next IRAQ–or avoiding it. This is the battle for Pakistan’s soul that every Pakistani must fight with all his or her will and sincerity. (Figure: Lal Masjid in Islamabad where it all happend)
Text of the Petition (Click here to Sign the Petition)
We, the Undersigned, Petition the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, the ACJP, and the Justices of the Supreme Court to take a suo moto notice of the Lal-Masjid episode and operation. We request the Honorable Justices to:
- Constitute an independent Judicial Commission to look into the Lal Masjid Case to inquire into not only from what happend from March 2007 onwards but also before.
- Constitute the Commission in the manner that it contains prominent judges and citizens of integrity.
- Outline a definite deadline (~ 3 months) for the Commission to publish its report.
- Empower the Commission to hold open-hearings so that ordinary citizens may exercise their right to oversee the proceedings of the Commission.
- Make the Commission duty bound to present its findings, not the to President of Pakistan, but to the People of Pakistan.
We urge the Supreme Court of Pakistan to do so on an URGENT BASIS to bring the truth about Lal-Masjid and Operation Silence to the people of Pakistan who are the only sovereign and who deserve to learn the truth.
Background of the Petition:
The Lal Masjid episode with all its ferocity and bitterness is behind us now. It had–quite predictably and, to the benefit of a few–eaten up the media bandwidth for several months. The high drama that came to its heart-breaking (anti-) climax on Tuesday has left more questions unanswered than answers it may have provided. Whether or not this was really, as alleged by the Opposition and many in the media, a diversionary tactic on the part of the Musharraf Government to sideline the epic constitutional battle being faught just across the road on the Constitution Avenue, one can only speculate.
Regardless, however, of whether the Lal Masjid espisode was a bold and audacious attempt on the part of a bunch of Mullahs and their naive followers to enforce their brand of Shariah on a country of 150 million or a creation of Masharraf and his agencies themselves, what is amply clear is that it represents a society on a collision course with itself. It is also certain that the Lal Masjid episode is likely to come to haunt us for perhaps a long long time to come.
(Figures: The Two Protagonists of the Lal Masjid Crisis: General Musharraf stands to gain most from the standoff and the ferocious operation, diplomatically, but he might lose out politically. Abdur Rashid Ghazi died in a “hail of gunfire” after last minute talks to diffuse the crisis broke down. According to several media reports, Ghazi is reported to have told many journalists in the final hours of the negotiations that he believed that the General had decided to kill him anyway to gain political mileage and that the negotiations were a sham. Several opposition politicians involved in the negotiations accuse Musharraf of sabotaging the negotiations at the last moment.)
Unless, we really make a conscious and earnest attempt to learn from this mistake and take effective measures to not let this happen again. But are we willing to learn from this episode? or are we just going to take a sigh of relief and move on? We, Pakistanis, have an excellent track record of not learning from our own past. Can we do any better this time around? I think that the first step in any attempt to learn from this episode is to know the truth.
In all likelihood, we will never come to know the real story behind the Lal Masjid episode. Who did what? and at what time? How were a few clerics able to take so much weaponary inside the Mosque under the watchful eye of security agencies in a city like Islamabad where every other taxi-driver is proabably an informant. What were the specifics of the negotiation that went on in the last ditch effort to diffuse the crisis? Were there any foreign militants inside the mosque? What the relationship of the two Mullahs with the security agencies in the past? At what point, if ever, was that relationship terminated? What was the role of the President in all of this crisis? What is the role of foreign countries in encouraging or forcing the President to take such a drastic action against his own people etc. etc.
(Figure above: The Two “Armies” of Operation Silence - Scary as they may seem, the Hafsa Brigade and their stick-carrying “sisters” were no match to the G3s, Light Machine Guns (LMGs) or Gunship Helicopters of their Brethren from Pakistan Army. They were defeated all hands down. According to media reports, the fate of 700 or more of the women and children who were reported to have been inside the Mosque compound is still unknown. In all likelihood, they were murdered in cold blood during the Operation. Edhi Foundation reports that it had been asked to provide as many as 800 shrouds (or body bags) to dispose off the deadbodies. The government claims that only 75 or so died in the operation. One wonders what use would the rest of the shrouds have been put to?)
In the matter of knowing the truth, as well, our country has a very bleak track record. How many inquiries have gone by without the common citizen knowing the truth. Somehow the “establishment” believes that citizens’ knowing the truth about matters that concern our well-being as a nation and a society is never in the “supreme national interest” of the country. Starting from Rawalpindi Conspiracy in 1951, to Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission Report, to Ojrhi-Camp incident, to Zia-ul-Haq’s airplane crash, our government has probably never voluntarily brought an inquiry report to public’s attention.
In light of the above, I would strongly urge that the Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court take suo moto notice of the Lal Masjid episode and resulting Operation Silence. They already have, before the operation started, asked the agencies and the army to provide details of the Operation Silence to the Court. However, this needs to go further than that. The nation has a right to know exactly what happened in this entire epsiode. How did a bunch of Mullahs–who were in the government’s pay until very recently–turn into rebelious radicals against the state OR whether they were just trapped into this by security agencies interested in helping the ratings and international prestige of a beleagured President.
It would be most valuable if the Supreme Court could constitute an independent Judicial Commission to look into the Lal Masjid Case to inquire into not only from what happend from March 2007 onwards but also before. The Commission must also put a definite deadline (3 months) on the publication of the report. The Commission must hold open-hearings so that ordinary citizens may exercise their right to oversee the proceedings of the Commission. Finally, the Commission must be made duty bound to present its findings, not the to President of Pakistan, but to the People of Pakistan.
Only by knowing the truth can the country hope to learn from the terrible trajedy of the Lal Masjid. Things should never have gone this far. Now that they have, we must convert this into an opportunity to listen to each other–not kill each other–and do what is necessary to create a just and tolerant society. The people of Pakistan deserve better. They deserve the whole truth and nothing less.