INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR—PAPER NO. 585
Thirty-six devout Muslims, all of them with links to the Pakistani armed forces either as serving or retired officers or their relatives or friends, were killed on December 4,2009, in a commando-style raid by a group of four to seven terrorists into a mosque in Parade Lane off the Peshawar Road in Rawalpindi where the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army, a number of other military establishments and residential houses of serving and retired military officers, including the Chief of the Army Staff, are located. The terrorists attacked at the time of the Friday prayers.
2. Of those killed, 17 were children, who had accompanied their parents for the prayers and four were the terrorists. The “Friday Times” of Lahore has published the following list of the fatalities on December 5: “Major General Umer Bilal, Brigadier Abdul Rauf, Colonel Mansoor, Lieutenant Colonel Fakhar, Lieutenant Colonel Manzoor Saeed, Major Zahid, Major (retired) Shoaib, Naik Masood, Sepoy Sarwar and Sepoy Abdul Qayyum. Children killed in the attack included Bilal Riaz, son of Major General Nasim Riaz; Ali Hasan, son of Colonel Shabbir; Hassan, son of Colonel Shukhran; Sadaul Hasan, son of Lieutenant Colonel Fakhar; Zamin, son of Akmal Hussain; Qaiser Khan, son of Syed Akbar; Adil Rauf, son of Abdul Rauf; Muhammad Khan, son of Sultan Bakhsh; Fazal Khan, son of Madad Khan; and Hashim, son of Peshawar Corps Commander Lieutenant Colonel (Lt.Gen?) Masood Aslam. Names of seven children, who according to the Inter-Services Public Relations, were sons of senior army officials, were yet to be ascertained. Father of Major General Awais Mustafa, father of Colonel Kaleem Zubair and father of Lieutenant Colonel Farooq Awan were also killed in the attack. According to the ISPR, the civilians killed in the terrorist attack included NLC Deputy Director Taskeen, Khalid Javed, Ghulam Mujtaba, Javed, Muhammad Fiaz and Asad. Names of the remaining people killed were yet to be ascertained.”
3. Details available so far indicate that at the time of the prayers, two of the terrorists carrying explosive devices entered the mosque and blew themselves up. As the surviving worshippers rushed out, two other terrorists at the gate opened fire and threw hand-grenades. They then took cover inside one of the remaining buildings and engaged in an exchange of fire with the security forces who managed to kill them after about an hour. The Army has been saying that only four terrorists were involved and that all of them are dead, but the local police suspect that there were at least two or three more, who managed to escape.
4. Details of the attack carried by the “News” on December 5,2009, give the following significant information:
“The mosque is predominantly frequented by serving and retired Army officers, Jawans and members of their families and is not open to civilians living in the area.”
“This attack bears the signatures of the terror strike on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore as here also these terrorists were carrying back-packs full of arms and ammunition and targeting innocent victims while standing openly in the grounds and shouting commands and orders to each other. Later, when challenged, they engaged the law-enforcement agencies, both the Army and the police, in crossfire and some even got holed up in hideouts in houses close to the mosque. We are trying to locate them and kill or arrest them,” the sources in the Rawalpindi Police and intelligence agencies told The News on condition of anonymity.”
5. Some media reports speak of wanton brutality such as the terrorists at the gate catching hold of some fleeing worshippers by the hair and killing them. Generally, Sunni terrorist organizations exhibit such acts of brutality only against known Shias and non-Muslims. The attack definitely had an anti-military angle to wreak vengeance against military personnel for the military operations against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the Pashtun tribal belt and for not stopping the US drone (pilotless planes) strikes in the area.
6. Suspicion that the attack might have also had a sectarian anti-Shia angle arises from the following factors. Firstly, the report that civilians were not allowed to pray in the mosque. A Muslim has a right to pray in any mosque unless it be located in a sensitive military area. The mosque was not located in a sensitive area. However, Shias because of the repeated attacks on them by Sunni extremists, carefully regulate entry into their places of worship.
7. Secondly, the TTP is reported to have claimed responsibility for the attack. The “Daily Times” has reported as follows: “Claiming responsibility for Friday’s attack, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said the Parade Lane mosque was similar to Masjid-e-Zarrar built in Madina by the munafiqeen, and was “demolished on the orders of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)”. Talking to BBC, TTP chief Waliur Rehman Mehsud said his men attacked senior army officers. “Our militants attacked the military officers (our primary target) and we will continue to attack the army,” he said, adding that the civilians killed in the attack were relatives of army personnel and their deaths did not matter”.
8. To quote from an Islamic source on why the Masjid-e-Zarrar was demolished: “During the time of the Rasoolullah himself, some faction-mongers constructed a new mosque. The intensity with which the Quran opposed this construction can be gauged from the relevant verses of the Sura Taubah. Pause and reflect for what the Quran says in this matter. (9: 107) “Those who put up the mosque with this intention that loss be incurred to the Millat-e-Islamia and the Deen itself." "and kufr be favoured or the path of kufr be hiked." (9:107) " i.e., with the purpose that dissention be created in the Muslims." Do you think of it as a mosque? No, it is not a mosque. (9:107) "It is that ambush from which those who were the enemy of Allah and His Rasool (i.e., The Divine System) shall attack the Millat." It means this is not a mosque; this is the fort where the enemies of Allah and His Rasool will lie in ambush to demolish the structure of Deen. “They will indeed swear that their intention by constructing this mosque is nothing but good. We do never desire destruction of the Deen." "Do not be taken in. God stands witness to this stark fact that they are out and out liars." (9:108) "O Rasool! Never take a single step into this mosque." This mosque, so as to say, is just on the verge of hell. Whoso have constructed it or whosoever entered into it this will let all crumble down into the abyss of hell (9: 107-109). Hence history stands witness to this fact that Rasoolullah demolished this mosque through his associates. Imagine from this incidence how heinous and horrendous the crime of sectarianism in Islam is! Even if the construction of a mosque casts any speck of factionalism, the demolishing of this mosque becomes imperative. Mosque can be demolished but the foundation of sectarianism can never be laid. It is because factionalism, in express terms, is anathema (Shirk), and is anathema of a conspicuous nature. (http://www.parvez-video.com/insight/Islam/sects_islam/index.asp)
9. The Masjid-e-Zarrar was demolished because the followers of the Holy Prophet suspected that it had been constructed by hypocrite (Munafiqeen) Christians and Jewish people, who posed as Muslims, in order to create a divide among the followers of the Holy Prophet. By attacking the military worshippers in the Rawalpindi mosque, the jihadis have sought to convey a message to the Sunnis of the Armed Forces and the civil society that military officers collaborating with the US are no different from the Shias, the Christians, and the Jewish people and killing them is justified. ( 5-12-09)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )