Pakistan: madrassa students pledge resistance to mosque demolitions

The New York Times informs us Feb. 21 that this still hasn’t been resolved. But here’s an informative overview from the Press Trust of India, Feb. 6. There were five suicide bombings in Pakistan between Jan. 26 and Feb. 6? Amazing how this stuff doesn’t even make headlines anymore… And this is in Washington’s closest ally in the region… And note that this crisis is in the capital, not some tribal hinterland…

ISLAMABAD — A band of armed veiled female madarsa students occupying a library here to protest the demolition of unauthorised mosques on Tuesday braced for an armed confrontation with security forces who have threatened to storm the facility.

Dozens of burqa-clad girls with gleaming AK-47 rifles on their shoulders were seen taking positions to defend the children’s library in Apbara here against any raid by security forces.

Top police officials said a raid was imminent if the girls did not end their occupation of the library which began on January 21.

“We will go into action (when) the government gives us the order,” Senior Superintendent of Islamabad police Sikandar Hayat told reporters.

Other police officials spoke of a massive mobilisation of forces. “It will be a midnight operation and massive arrests will be made before that,” another official said.

With martyrs’ bands tied on their heads, the girls, numbering a few hundreds, addressed the media and threatened to push back police and paramilitary troops.

The girl students committee led by Amna Adeel has demanded that authorities should withdraw a notice to demolish 84 mosques that were declared unauthorised structures. They also demanded the implementation of Sharia law in Pakistan.

TV channels beamed footage of the girls bracing for jehad if the government did not build a mosque that was demolished by Islamabad’s Capital Development Authority on the ground that it was built on unauthorised land.

The girls, backed by the Deoband school of Islam affiliated to the adjacent Lal Mosque, parts of which were declared unauthorised by the government, refused to accept an agreement reached between Wafaqul Madaris, a body that administs madarsas, and the government to reconstruct the mosque in other sites.

Adeel told reporters that clerics of Wafaqul Madaris have termed the library’s occupation by the students as illegal and un-Islamic.

“We took over the building to put pressure on the government for the acceptance of our demands,” she said.

“Those who term the library’s occupation illegal and un-Islamic should also issue a decree against (President) Pervez Musharraf because he usurped power,” she was quoted by Dawn as saying.

While police said they had made 78 preventive arrests, security officials appeared surprised to see the girls, who were armed with sticks and knives, suddenly flaunting Ak-47 rifles.

Pakistan witnessed five suicide bombings suspected to have been carried out by pro-Taliban Islamic militant groups since January 26, and the resistance by the girl students in the centre of Islamabad has offered a direct challenge to the government.

Musharraf, who left for a tour of Iran and Turkey on Monday, has promulgated an ordinance increasing the punishment for misusing loud speakers. Under the new law, the punishment has been increased from a month’s imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000 fine to three months’ imprisonment.

See our last post on the Pakistan.