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SC orders govt to implement 2007 Lal Masjid judgment

SC orders govt to implement 2007 Lal Masjid judgment

ISLAMABAD: Nine years have slipped away, but the bloody events of the 2007 Lal Masjid standoff have refused to recede. Describing the perceived lack of implementation on the part of the government as an “enigma”, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the government to explain what steps it has taken to comply with its Oct 2, 2007 judgment.

“Now, the procrastination needs to end,” said Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, while heading a two judge Supreme Court bench. The court has taken up a set of petitions against killings on the premises of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa during the July 2007 military operation.

The Lal Masjid conflict began when students from Jamia Hafsa occupied the adjacent Children’s Library on Jan 22, 2007, in response to the razing of seven ‘unauthorised’ mosques by the city’s administration.

The confrontation escalated in the following month, erupting into armed clashes resulting in the death of a Rangers official on July 3, 2007 by gunfire from the mosque. The army was called in the same night, and special forces stormed the mosque after the suspension of water and electricity supply failed to subdue the alleged militants within the mosque.

On Wednesday, the court asked the government to submit an implementation report, after Advocate Tariq Asad – representing the petitioners – argued that the government failed to reply to any of the court’s directions in its earlier judgment, adding that the government’s response that it failed to gather any evidence to prove claims of the desecration of the Holy Quran was incorrect.

These petitions were filed in 2007 as well as in 2010 by a number of aggrieved individuals.

The court ordered Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Sohail Mehmood to submit a complete record of the government’s investigation into the allegations of the defiling of the Holy Quran during the operation.

“If an order is passed by this court then it has to be complied with,” the court observed, adding that the matter cannot be swept under the carpet or hushed up with flimsy arguments, or deferred on one pretext or the other.

Expressing dissatisfaction with the government’s response, Justice Khan said: “What has been done in pursuance of its order is still an enigma, and even [a] riddle.”

Referring to its October 2007 judgment, the court told the DAG it did not believe that any of the questions raised in the earlier judgment were answered in direct terms.

Authored by retired Justice Mohammad Nawaz Abbasi, the judgment had required the Islamabad police to verify the antecedents of innocent individuals killed in the Lal Masjid incident, and to record statements of their legal heirs to determine their entitlement for compensation in the form of diyat, or blood money.

The order also required the Islamabad sessions judge to make compensation payments to the legal heirs of those victims who were determined to have been innocent.

The judgment stated that the process for the payment of compensation should have been completed within two months.

The judgment also ordered the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to consider the construction of a hostel with a girls’ seminary, in addition to a research centre. It stated that the total area in the use of Jamia Hafsa, subject to all just exceptions, be treated as part of the institutions and research centre for religious education. It said efforts should be made to complete this construction within a year.

The 2007 order had also asked the government to accommodate the students of Jamia Hafsa who were displaced by the incident, thereby discontinuing their studies. In the event that the government did not provide such a site, the order said the students should be accommodated in a separate wing of the Jamia Fareedia building so their classes could begin no later than Oct 30, 2007.

The order also said Umme Hassan would act as principal, while the government would bear girl students’ education expenses – which included books, meals, board and lodging – in addition to teachers’ salaries.

The court had appointed Maulana Abdul Ghaffar as the imam of Lal Masjid on a temporary basis. It also asked the government to make arrangements to treat a 13 year old boy who was paralysed following his injuries. According to Mr Asad, the boy died due to a lack of medical attention. The government’s implementation report must be submitted within a week.

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2016

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