Saturday, July 28, 2007

Lal Masjid: The Battle of the Potohar Plateau

The MMA has stuck its neck out and grabbed the Lal Masjid from Musharraf's people.

The MMA has requested for assistance from the people to rebuild the Jamia Hafsa itself. In ceremonies held there on Friday, MMA leader Maulana Siraj ul Haq led the prayers and prior to the prayers a large group of people collected debris from site of the Jamia Hafsa as some sort of spiritual memior of the events there. A group of people passed around a mound of dust from the site and many faithful dipped their fingers in it and ate some it as a mark of respect for the dead Jihadis.

The mood turned ugly when the government appointed Khateeb of the masjid entered the premises. The crowd chased him away and the atmosphere continued to deteriorate causing the Police to use standard riot control measures to contain the situation. The police continued to be active until a blast occured killing a dozen or so policemen. Currently news coverage emanating from the "authorities" in Pakistan suggests this was the work of a suicide bomber. The Masjid has now been closed indefinetely.

The Pakistanis "authorities" appear to have failed to grasp the significance of debris from the mosque. This debris is currently being transformed into relics of martyrdom - relics to which only the MMA's friends have access.

The battle for the minds of the simple men of the Potohar plateau has begun in earnest.


At 1:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is not entirely accurate from the reports in the Pakistani English dailies.

It turns out that the 'students' and their supporters turned out both the government appointed prayer leader and the MMA's Liaquat Baloch, Siraj ul Haq and Co.

Siraj could only lead the prayers from the street outside the mosque.

At 7:05 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Nitin,

That is a bit strange, there were no photos of the Pakistani government khatib's leading a prayer. I only saw Siraj ul Haq leading a prayer and it seemed as it they were inside the Lal Masjid Complex, possibly in the empty space between the Masjid and the Jamia Hafsa.

The thing that has me worried no end is the manner in which people are collecting dust and debris from Jamia Hafsa as if seeking a spiritual tincture.

This sort of behaviour typically occurs after a saint dies. It is some sort of defensive behaviour where people feel the absence of the saint and then seek a shred of the saint's material existance to provide a moral shield against percieved evils and evildoers. The relic becomes a material manifestation of the saint and everything that the saint stood for. You may have seen this tendency exploited in mainstream catholicism also.

I have never heard of this sort of thing in any COIN context in India or Pakistan. Never has a insurgent been raised to level of a saint in any of campaigns. The closest we came to it was in Bluestar but careful handling of the issue ensured that there were no relics of the situation were allowed to disperse and the complex was rapidly restored to full working condition after the President of India Giani Zail Singh performed acts of repentance.

In fact it was the Pakistanis who filled that psychological gap by providing relics from the Nankana Sahib to Sikh separatist leaders abroad. These separatists used these relics to secure funding and support from the Sikh diaspora. It was the support of one large sikh clan based in the US that sustained the militancy for a very long time. The only relic that survived was a photo taken by Shekhar Gupta of the Harmandir Sahab after the assault. Like other structures it had sustained damage from artillery fire. This photo appeared in India today after Shekhar smuggled it out of Amritsar in defiance of a press coverage ban. This photo graces the walls of gurudwaras in the foreign countries whenever ethnic chauvinism is on the rise.

The manner in which elements of the radicalised Pakistani population are independently and spontaneously forming a cult around the dead Maulana and his followers suggests that the extent of Islamist feeling within Pakistani society may be much much stronger than earlier estimated. This is not simply a fad - the desire to keep relics speaks to a more enduring sense of injustice.

At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


This will interest you. Its from the Friday Times:

"As reported in daily Khabrain, thousands of aqeedatmand (devotees) of Ghazi Abdul Rashid are thronging to his grave in Rojhan, Taunsa Sharrif, and are taking samples of mud from his grave as tabarrak (blessed gifts). Gul Khan from Waziristan said that the grave of Ghazi Abdul Rashid smells of kasturi (musk) and roses. The sheet that covered the body of Ghazi Abdul Rashid was divided by hundreds of devotees."

At 8:51 AM, Blogger maverick said...


Per the traditions, the ground in which the body of a martyr automatically becomes fragrant.

That is precisely the word I was looking for.. tabarrak

Look carefully at what is happening unlike the years gone by... there is no need for the Deobandi leadership to declare Maulana Ghazi a martyr - the awam is quite simply doing it by themselves!

The core principle of religious leadership - the ability to decree someone as a martyr - worthy of social high status is passing into the dust. Maulana Ghazi is becoming a saint without a specific cannonization!


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