Follow the leader ... or
not By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - The militant students besieged
in the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in
Islamabad cannot defy the state apparatus and
should surrender, one of the brothers who run the
Maulana Abdul Aziz was
captured on Wednesday while trying to flee the
mosque disguised as a women in a full-length veil.
Appearing on state-run PTV (Pakistan
Television Corp) on
Thursday in a heavily edited
recorded interview, Aziz confirmed his conviction
for the Islamization of Pakistan, but insisted
that the students could not win.
after coming out that the siege is very intense
... Our companions will not be able to stay for
The pro-Taliban Lal Masjid, run by
Aziz and his brother Abdul Rasheed Ghazi - who is
still in the mosque - has been under siege since
Tuesday as the government attempts to clamp down
on militancy and Taliban activities in the
"We have 12-13 AK-47 guns which
were provided by some of our local friends when
they heard that an operation was planned against
us," Aziz said.
Responding to a question
on a mujahid (holy warrior) calling on the
mosque's loudspeakers for jihad in Pakistan, Aziz
said he did not give any such signal and it was
purely the conviction of the students.
bearded Aziz, still dressed in a woman's
burqa, said his mosque had "a relationship
of love and affection with all jihadi
organizations" but no actual links with them.
The brothers are believed to have lost
control of the mosque's affairs to militants.
"Yes, we prepared the hearts and minds of
the students for jihad, but we never forced them.
It was purely their own conviction. My wife also
persuaded the girls [from the nearby seminary]
that it was time for sacrifice, but she never
forced any girl to stay in the mosque when the
operation started, and that's why there were so
many surrenders [several thousand]. All were done
"If somebody wanted to stay,
they were welcome; they were not forced to stay."
Aziz said that as many as 700 women and about 250
men remained inside the mosque compound and the
"Whatever we did,
whether it was the occupation of the [nearby]
library, was a reaction to government measures
against us [edited] ... we abducted policemen
because our faculty members were arrested."
The interviewer asked Aziz why he tried to
escape in a burqa, when he had always
lectured on bravery and jihad. "I never intended
to be arrested. I disguised myself and don't
consider it wrong [edited] ... It was a strategic
move over which I consulted my brother."
In a telephone call to the media, Ghazi
condemned the interview, saying that an interview
with an arrested person did not have any
Television commentator Hamid
Mir said, "It was totally unethical and illegal on
the part of the government to put a person in
front of the media against whom there are so many
cases, and he has been formally arrested." (Aziz
and Ghazi are named in more than 20 police cases,
including involvement in terrorism and fleeing
"Those were the words of a
helpless person and they have no credibility ...
the state-run media interviewed him like he was
being interrogated by a police officer instead of
putting questions in a professional manner," Mir
Syed Saleem Shahzad is
Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.