Families of missing Hafsa students protest govt ‘apathy’
* People and relatives of missing students find blood stained clothes, pages of religious books in debris
* Residents fear backlash in coming days
By Irfan Ghauri
ISLAMABAD: Sector G-6 and its adjoining areas on Friday witnessed once again pitched battles between security forces and seminary students, which ultimately led to the government taking back control of the Lal Masjid.
The mosque opened for the first time for general public after its repair and renovation with its colour changed from red to off-white, but the enraged mullahs who took control of the mosque again painted its outer walls red wrote jihadi slogans on it.
Emotional scenes were witnessed as parents and relatives of those who died during Lal Masjid operation dug out body parts, bones, blood stained clothes, pages of religious books and torn prayer mats from the debris of demolished Jamia Hafsa, the girls seminary of Lal Masjid.
Relatives of the dead and missing students of the seminary started digging piles of debris with bare hands and sticks and kept taking out the remains of the dead with tears in their eyes. They also found copies of damaged Holy Quran from the rubble. Broken utensils, torn pieces of women’s clothes, human hair and jackets of militants were scattered around in the debris.
The scene enraged the people, who brought the recovered things before the media while protesting against the government. The women were also seen searching rubble and one woman said three of her sons were killed in the operation, but she could not get their bodies yet nor she knew where they were buried.
At the time of Friday prayers the clerics and students of Jamia Faridia, took control of the Lal Masjid and started chanting slogans against President Pervez Musharraf and in favour of Jihad. They also started painting outer walls of the mosque red and wrote pro-jihad slogans.
The exchange of stones that ensued outside the mosque between police and the seminary students was followed by intense teargas shelling that affected residents in the nearby localities, who came out of their houses due to suffocation.
The residents believed that the government did not want to settle the Lal Masjid issue and had been using it for its “nefarious designs”. They said that the government should have cleared the debris of demolished Jamia Hafsa before opening the mosque for general public.
They said the scene of the remains of bodies charged the people and they reacted with strong protests. Most of the people living in the nearby government quarters were critical of the government strategy and said that the use of force against clerics and seminary students would aggravate the situation. “The government’s strategy is leading to increase sympathies for mullahs among the general public,” they said.
Residents, most of them government servants, fear that the Lal Masjid issue would not subside soon and it might aggravate their sufferings in the coming days.