The government has at last realised the gravity of the situation and ordered full-scale operation against religious extremism. President Musharraf has now been showing sincerity in war on terrorism. The President has directed all federal and provincial governments to crackdown on religious extremism and militancy in the country, reiterating the government's determination to free the country from terrorism.
Chairing a high-level meeting to review law and order in the country, the president directed the provincial governments to ensure law and order by any means necessary, adding that the federal government would support them in this regard.
Referring to growing extremism in NWFP, he directed the provincial law enforcement and intelligence agencies to combat militancy by carrying out coordinated efforts in the tribal and settled areas of NWFP.
The president also approved a plan for the immediate deployment of paramilitary forces to the troubled Swat valley to crush the growing militancy in the area. He directed armed forces personnel not to wear their uniforms in public in the NWFP for fear of backlash from the Lal Masjid operation. He said the federal law enforcement agencies would execute and monitor all military operations in NWFP and FATA and the NWFP government would only assist them.
The meeting's participants also discussed suicide attacks in Swat and Miranshah and were briefed on the recently concluded Lal Masjid operation. They were informed that it was apparent from the layout of fortifications, deployment of weapons and other evidence collected from the Lal Masjid-Jamia Hafsa compound that hardened militants had planned its defence.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, PML President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani, DG ISPR Major General Waheed Arshad and chiefs of law enforcement agencies attended the meeting.
Addressing a press conference, Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao told reporters that commandoes of Pakistan Army and Rangers had killed four to five suspected foreign militants during the 10-day-long military offensive. He said the number of foreigners killed in the mosque could be higher.
He said the names of those killed, injured and still missing would be posted on the government's official website in line with the president's directions. He said the Interior Ministry had also set up an information centre at Pakistan Sports Board for displaying the names.
Sherpao said 102 people, including 91 civilians, 10 army men and one Ranger had been killed in the Lal Masjid operation. Of these, only 17 had been identified, he added. He said the bodies of five girls and Rashid Ghazi's mother had yet to be identified.
He said the Capital Development Authority had been directed to start the repair work on Lal Masjid immediately, adding that engineers were still not sure whether Jamia Hafsa could be restored or had to be demolished.
There is demand from the people to close down all madrassas as the Lal Majid operation showed that militants are being prepared in these institutions being run on the name of religion.
A leading newspaper in its editorial comment stated President General Pervez Musharraf told the nation Thursday that his government would not allow any madrassa like the Lal Masjid complex to exist. He pledged that seminaries spreading militancy, extremism and terrorism in the country would be crushed. He also referred to his old stance on the subject, saying that not all madrassas were seats of defiance and revolt against the state, and lamented that his defence of the seminaries to the outside world was undermined by Lal Masjid.
It is unfortunate that many Pakistanis, however well meaning, still think that unless a madrassa declares its defiance of the state and mobilises its acolytes as vigilante groups, it is actually making a positive contribution to the task of educating the poor population of Pakistan. The argument is that since the state is unable or unwilling to provide for the poor, the madrassas fill this void and thereby perform a useful educational function.
Yet it is clear to all that a madrassa is not the place where our children can be made ready for the job market. We also recognise the truth, albeit unwillingly, that the proliferation of the mosque in Pakistan has taken place because the madrassa graduate, rejected by the job market, has to build or acquire his own mosque to become a breadwinner. So crucial is the mosque as an adjunct of the madrassa that many "empowered" madrassas of the Deobandi variety have been seizing the Barelvi mosques to "settle" their new graduates. In Karachi, there is a major Deobandi-Barelvi battle over mosques thus grabbed.