Human Shield Fears Grow Over Besieged

Government Troops advance on Red Mosque

Pakistani troops moved in on the Red Mosque complex early Friday morning, engaging in fierce gun battles with the remaining militants within

On Thursday, the standoff between the militants within and the Pakistani government had continued. About 50 of the several hundred remaining hold-outs had surrendered, and the leader, cleric or maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi seemed to show weakening resolve in interviews. But the Pakistani army seemed to have been making preparations for an assault, at one point using explosives to creat a large breech in one of the seminary’s walls.

Video from Thursday:

The USG Open Source Center analyzes the Pakistani press reaction to the operation against the Red Mosque militants. It finds that the press is supportive of the government, despite severe recent government-press tensions over the firing of the Pakistani supreme court chief justice.

OSC Analysis 7 Jul: Pakistan: Media Back Government Restraint, Action at Red Mosque
Pakistan — OSC Analysis
Thursday, July 5, 2007

Pakistan: State Media Highlight Government Restraint; Private Media Back Government Action at Red Mosque Pakistani state media underscored remarks by top level Pakistani officials on the government’s offers to protect seminary students who surrender amidst clashes between law enforcement agencies and a group of fundamentalist clerics and students at Lal Masjid (Red Mosque), which was taken over by the students approximately six months ago. The private media supported the government’s action.

In an apparent attempt to garner public support for government actions, state media highlighted Pakistani leaders’ expressions of commitment to minimize loss of life and protect seminary students who wish to surrender. In addition, they noted the local clerics’ support for the government’s operation.

According to state-run news agency APP, Pakistani President Musharraf directed security agencies to be patient in carrying out the operation to ensure a safe exit for female students; similarly, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz stated that the “protection of people and property is the government’s top priority” (4, 5 July).
APP quoted Federal Minister for Political Affairs Amir Muqam as saying the government has demonstrated “tolerance and patience in a bid to minimize…losses to human lives” (5 July), and according to PTV World, Minister of State for Interior Zafar Iqbal Warriach asserted that no action would be taken against those who surrender (4 July).
In addition, APP twice reported on local cleric support for government actions and condemnation of the clerics and students of Lal Masjid (5 July).

APP also portrayed leading Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz, in an interview after his arrest, as having “urged the students and clerics of Lal Masjid to surrender, saying they will not be able to resist the operation” (5 July). In the interview broadcast on PTV, Abdul Aziz said that the students “should get away quietly or if they want to they can surrender” (5 July).

While the private electronic media were observed to carry only factual reporting of the incident, private print media expressed support for the government.

Moderate Daily Times noted that the operation was “right but late,” but suggested that President Musharraf’s hands “could have been tied” due to disunity in the ruling PML-Q party (5 July).
Islamic daily Nawa-e-Waqt called the operation a “logical conclusion,” but urged the government to settle the issue “once and for all” (5 July). This OSC product is based exclusively on the content and behavior of selected media and has not been coordinated with other US Government components.

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