Female Islamist students wearing burkas raided a brothel and were holding the alleged owner inside their fundamentalist madrasa last night in the latest assault by extremists on President Pervez Musharraf’s bruised authority.
Women with bamboo staves stood guard on the roof of Jamia Hafsa madrasa, Islamabad, where they were holding alleged brothel madam “Auntie Shamim”, two other women and a six-month-old girl.
Masked men from Lal Masjid, a radical mosque next door, patrolled the streets outside. They abducted two policemen and impounded their vehicles after the authorities arrested two teachers and two students from the madrasa in a botched attempt to defuse the crisis…
Yesterday the cleric who speaks on behalf of the female students, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, said: “Every crime reporter in Islamabad knows these women are prostitutes. If the police cannot arrest them, we should have an Islamic justice.”
The women had ignored warnings to close their brothel because they were connected to “powerful people”, he said. They were being treated well and would be released if they found another trade, he said. Mr Ghazi wants to turn Pakistan into a Sharia-run state and has brought thousands of radicalised students into the capital to live in madrasas.
This isn’t some nomadic tribal area out in the sticks. This is where the Pakistani seat of government resides; Lal Masjid is less than a mile away from the embassy district, according to a Guardian profile of Ghazi published eight days ago. Read it. He admits to having met Osama and practically swoons while watching jihadi snuff videos from Iraq of Juba the sniper. Last month he sent his female “students” to occupy a children’s library to protest Musharraf’s plans to destroy mosques built on government land that had been illegally occupied. It worked — the government agreed to rebuild at least one mosque it had already destroyed.
Musharraf is in a tough spot right now of his own making after he tried to remove the country’s chief justice before the upcoming presidential elections (which he’s trying to sidestep to retain power). The judiciary is in revolt and popular support is at ebb tide so he can’t crack down on the Islamists the way he might like for fear of stirring things up further. Make a mental note, though, of this cleric and this mosque because they’ve gotten bold lately and are apt to get bolder. I’m sure we’ll be hearing from them again. I just wonder which context it’ll be in.