Syed Saleem Shahzad writes in the Asia Times:
Following the military storming of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad, considered a hotbed for support of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, US President George W Bush has praised Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf’s role in checking extremism.
“Musharraf is a strong ally in the war against these extremists. I like him and I appreciate him,” Bush said.
But while such praise from Musharraf’s international allies is to be expected, within the country not everyone is convinced the government did the right thing.
“Whether they were security forces personnel or Lal Masjid militants, both were Muslims and both were martyrs,” said Maulana Hanif Jalandari, the secretary general of the Federal Board of Islamic Seminaries, during a television debate. Jalandari was part of the negotiating team that failed to prevent the troops from being sent into the mosque after their bid to grant the occupants a safe passage out was rejected.
At least 60 people died in fighting after the troops went in on Tuesday, according to military reports, while about the same number of women and children who had been held hostage were rescued. On Wednesday morning there was still sporadic fighting in a seminary adjacent to the mosque.