[Lal Masjid-Jamia Hafsa Riddled by Bullets ]
Nirupama Subramanian reports in The Hindu:
ISLAMABAD: In a sombre address to the nation on Thursday night, President Pervez Musharraf said he was determined to eliminate extremism and militancy from “every corner” of Pakistan and would not allow any other madrassa or mosque in the country to be misused like the Lal Masjid and the Jamia Hafsa seminary.
Gen. Musharraf spoke a day after the Army, backed by the paramilitary and police, took control of the Lal Masjid-Jamia Hafsa complex in the heart of the capital after a 40-hour battle with militants holed up inside. Describing it as a day of sadness because the government had to act against its own citizens, Gen. Musharraf said it was also a day of “introspection” for all Pakistanis about where their country was headed and what they wanted to be.
“We must be clear that Pakistan is not yet rid of extremism and militancy. But we must fight it with full commitment, root it out from every province, every corner of Pakistan. And we will do it,” he said, speaking in Urdu.
Serious fighting occurred at the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa. The Lal Masjid was riddled by bullets and the minarets suffered some damage–military officials claimed snipers took up position and they fired in retaliation–but the structure largely remained intact. The Jamia Hafsa suffered far worse damage. Subramanian writes, “Heaps of burning mattresses and clothes, twisted and broken furniture, mounds of rubble, gutted rooms, broken staircases, walls pockmarked with bullets and stained with blood. That is pretty much what remains…” Well, not all that remained. The military also located a cache of weapons including AK-47s, RPGs, rockets and rocket launchers, anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, pistols, rifles, bullets and several kinds of IEDs.
President Musharraf is in a difficult situation. On the one hand, his government cannot accept direct challenges to its political and civic authority by religious organizations. Protests and direct action are increasing in frequency and intensity. On the other, he cannot afford to alienate elements in Pakistan’s intelligence services, the ISI, that support radical Islam. This quandry is also at play in his less than rigorous offensive against Al Queda and Taleban targets in the North-West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, regions that border Afghanistan.