Thursday, 5 July 2007

Lal Masjid Seige Continues

Even though I haven't blogged a great deal about it, I've been glued to the computer trying to follow the latest developments of the Lal Masjid siege over the last two days. I've found to have some timely updates and video footage, but the people at the Islamabad Metroblog has been a good source for the latest developments as well. Other than that, Geo News puts audio files of its hourly news round-ups on its website (there are in Urdu however), and also puts up articles in English.

Despite the giggles over Maulana Abdul Aziz's farcical escape attempt, and the relief that over 1100 people left the lal masjid compound voluntarily yesterday, a very serious potential for catastrophe still exists with the siege. Apart from the 17 people confirmed killed so far in the clashes between students and the the authorities since 3rd July, a large number remain holed up in the compound and the prospects of any attempt to storm the compound could lead to a WACO like bloodbath.

Jamia Hafsa students were in the midst of clashes between militants and rangers (courtesy: BBC)

Many of those who left yesterday were relieved to be away from the Madrassah. Others were unwilling to leave and had to be cajoled, pleaded with, and in some cases dragged out by concerned family members. There were a large number of relatives reporting that their daughters or nieces were being coerced to stay, their mobile phones confiscated so they could no longer communicate with relatives outside.

A Lal masjid militant clearly concerned about the fact that the girls might get caught between the crossfire as his fellow militants shoot at rangers (source: bbc Urdu)

An article in The News describes the agony of relatives desperate to get their girls out:

At about noon, the administration of the mosque stopped releasing or handing over any girl to her parents. This continued for about one hour. Some female students during their interview disclosed that this step was taken to force maximum number of female students to stay back.

"By having maximum number of girl students inside the Jamia, the administration could exert maximum pressure on the law-enforcement agencies for not launching an operation," a female student said. "However, the Lal Masjid administration was forced to take this decision back after the number of parents outside the mosque rose."

Abdul Saboor from Chattar said that his three nieces were inside the Jamia and he was unable to access them despite making efforts the whole day. "I have sent many paper slips to the Jamia Hafsa but the response was negative every time," he said, adding: "A response from the woman administrator was that my nieces have been admitted to the Jamia Hafsa and they have taken oath to sacrifice their lives for the cause of Islam, so they could not be allowed to go with you."

A reporter for Dawn who was interviewing students who were leaving made an interesting observation:

She estimated the number of girls under the age of 10 years to be at least a hundred. Nobody had come to get them so far. Another 19-year-old student from Peshawar, Naila, tended to agree with this figure. Both of them said these children were frightened and “Madam”, wife of the Lal Masjid Maulana, was taking care of them. Apparently quite a few of these children are orphans and had been deposited at the seminary by their relatives.

Which of course touches on the entire reason Madrassahs have become an increasingly popular feature of Pakistani society in the last few decades - they are virtually the only institutions that provide social service functions such as care for orphans and homeless migrants to urban centres.

To these rootless individuals, caught up in the gears of a changing society that hasn't developed the social mechanisms to care for them, the madressah provides more than an education. It also provides a sense of belonging, identity, structure, and self-worth. As a taliba, one is an empowered, educated, righteous individual on the right side of history, with a sense of purpose, and a sense of belonging to something that is Godly, worthy, and of benefit to your country. In a society that treats women as objects, of less worth than men, and the poor as little more than beasts of burden, these describe an emotional state very few girls in Pakistan have access to.

So its interesting what tactics the Mosque authorities use to get the girls to stay:

Most of the female students do want to leave, Mr Shaheen said, as well as several of the younger ones. But he said the leaders of the mosque, Ghazi Abdul Rashid and Maulana Abdul Aziz, commanded them to stay. "They said to the students that 'your lives are useless if they won't protect the sanctity of the mosque'."

A truly interesting photo of one of the lal masjid militants. He is brandishing a Heckler & Koch MP5 which is not a commonly available weapon in Pakistan at all and is only issued to the SSG commandos and special forces, and wearing a gas mask of the kind worn by Pakistani special forces. [Edit: Please see below] Where did he get these do you think? (Source: BBC Urdu)

The government, claiming the girls are being used as human shields, has this to say:
"A large number of women and children are being held hostage by armed men in room," Khan told a news conference, adding that the brother of the captured cleric was hiding in the basement of an attached madrasa with 25 "women hostages".

"Yes, they're using them as human shields, because the people who have come out, they told us that they're telling women and children not to worry because as long as you're here forces will not attack us," he said.

And what did Maulana Aziz have to say about this?
"They are not being used as human shields, we only gave them passion for jihad," said Aziz, who was later remanded in court.

Needless to say, while Maulana Auntie's stomach may have been of noticeably larger dimensions than that of the girls in the madressah, his passion for jihad seems to be of a much smaller order of magnitude.

Let's hope this turns out okay.


Post-script: A number of knowledgeable readers have pointed out that the pictured gun the militant is holding is not an MP-5 and that this is now limited to SSG forces in Pakistan. Please read the comments for a debate on the issue.


Anonymous said...

Ehrm, that's no Mp5. The magazine is of another type (looks like an ak74 mag) and the nozzle and front grip both look different from an Mp5.

Resembles an AK74-model alot more.

SuperwebG said...

Hmm. The magazine certainly doesn't look like an Mp5 - you're right. It didnt look like an AK either, though after some digging, I did find the Ak-74U variant which does look similar. And... presto, the Pakistani SSG has reccently started replacing its MP5s with AK-74Us. So the point still stands I guess.

EricX said...

Part of my job for .mil was doing this kinda stuff so here's my take...

The weapon is apparently a 5.45x39 since it uses an AK74 magazine... then again, 5.56/.223 will sit and feed somewhat in that mag as well with some modification to the follower.
My bets are a "Khyber Khustom" from the Khyber pass region. An are NOTORIOUS for homemade guns including freakish crossbreeds and mutations like the one we see here.
I'm thinking AK74 and MP5A4 parts hammered into a functioning subcarbine... a true Paki original.
The freakish carry handle *might* have a rear sight but since nobody in that region can shoot for shit and the Khyber Khustoms are notoriously inaccurate, it's most likely decorative or for *carry* purpose only. Also, it looks a bit high... off the sight axis a good bit unless the innards are angled like a CZ75 pistol.
The inner barrel thing brought up by Derren (seen in the "unmasked" pic) may be just that, an inner barrel. AK74 barrels are somewhat thin... then again, so are MP5 barrels. It might just be a barrel shroud of sorts... you know, "that shoulder thing that goes up". Also makes it apparent it's a small caliber like the .21/5.45x39
The mask, if I'm not mistaken here (it's been a while since I did G2 shit), is a Draeger, made in Germany. Most likely these were given to the Pak's by Germany, who does a lot off biz there (H&K license among other .mil industries) and were most likely either Pak military or Police. More likely police since most of the military ones are rarely deployed or issued out but the police use them often when CS gassing unruly Paki dipshits.
The chest rig worn by the guy behind our furry friend in the "unmasking" pic is a Russian copy of the US LBV-88. Pretty rare but not too uncommon with groups that have their act together. The woodland pattern is kinda rare outside the western border regions of the former USSR but they take whatever dollar for old web gear so it may have seen a hundred hands or so before this thug.
Judging from the sweat and dirt stains on the main thugs clothing, these guys have been there a while... no self-respecting Muslim would wear dirty clothing into a Mosque... and in a region like this, nobody would let him!

I'd love to examine that subcarbine in person... some of the unique firearms made in the Khyber pass region are true genius and quite ingenuitive. I've seen an AK hybrid in 8mm Mauser, a pistol firing .303 British, a Mauser Broomhandle in .30 carbine and some other freakish things.
Looks like I added another to the list.

Anonymous said...

Its a M4 carbine and true that you can get any weapons on pakistan even the latest with grenade laucnhers they are made by locals but not the best of quality. com eon guys you gotta try harder to make pakistan look bad saying its only issued to ssg thats bullshit regular police military use it aswell and the mask iv got one in my celler

Anonymous said...

Its not an ak nor an m4 variant.
its simply a darra made assault rifle that chambers a 7.62x39mm round.
POF is also making a similar gun, but this one is already available at most arms retailers thruout pakistan.
The gun tht POF is making is actually a shorter g-3 with a 7.62x39mm round and it can fit an ak mag.

its tru tho, that SSG is switchin to chinese and ukranian ak74s. BUT! this is not an ak74.

gunmaster said...

Ericx is close. The gun is probably a shitty darra made gun which fires 5.45 by 39mm rounds or commonly known as .222 in Pakistan. It's is DEFINITELY NOT a M4-just a crappy darra made gun. Trust me, the army is much much better equipped than these losers. I just hate how they so easily ruin the image of Muslims...sick bastards

SuperwebG said...

Thanks for your comments guys and pointing out my error - I wont change what I wrote in my post but I'll add a little note at the end for readers to refer to your comments.

By the way anon 18 June - I may have been mistaken but back in 2007 it was much harder to find such weapons in private hands than it is now (now even normal police have them).