'Last-ditch' talks at Red Mosque

Former Pakistan PM leads negotiations as standoff reaches its seventh day.

    Pakistani officials are hoping to avoid a bloody
    full-scale assault on the Red Mosque [AFP]

    The decision to give negotiations a chance came after Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, and Shaukat Aziz, the current prime minister, held crisis meetings with senior officials to weigh options on how to end the standoff.

    House arrest

    Aziz said on Monday that the government would allow Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the mosque's deputy leader, to be held under house arrest with his mother if he surrenders and frees women and children inside the Red  Mosque.

    Your Views

    "I would not say that they are following the teachings of the Prophet, but the warped version of their warped clerics."

     
    Chris, Stockholm, Sweden

     

    Send us your views

    "We are trying to avoid loss of life and using all negotiating options to end this crisis, including house arrest for Ghazi and his old mother," he told reporters.

    Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Islamabad said: "Musharraf met with his highest security chiefs, at a time when there is now growing opposition to the standoff, and people are saying that it should be ended peaefully.
     
    "The madrassa's committee, an 11-member group, have been frantically trying to convince the prime minister that this should be resolved peacefully.
     
    "The government is between a rock and a hard place. They will tell you they want to avoid casualities; they lost one of their finest officers yesterday.
     
    "But the government is also at pains to say that no one is authorised to challenge its authority."

    Ghazi 'deposed'

    Pakistani officials also said that al-Qaeda-linked fighters had seized control of the mosque.

    Security forces have urged students inside
    the mosque to surrender [AFP]

    Ijaz ul-Haq, the religious affairs minister, said the government believed the mosque's deputy leader, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, had effectively been deposed.
     
    "Ghazi is no longer in control. The hardcore militants are in control of the mosque," he said.

    "Our fear is that they may start killing the women and children to press for their demand for safe passage."

    Sporadic gunfire broke out after nightfall. Security forces also made announcements over loudspeakers urging the remaining students to surrender.

    Students affiliated to the mosque have troubled the government with an anti-vice campaign since January, which has involved the abduction of several people they linked to prostitution, including seven Chinese.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Meet the deported nurse aiding asylum seekers at US-Mexico border

    Meet the deported nurse helping refugees at the border

    Francisco 'Panchito' Olachea drives a beat-up ambulance around Nogales, taking care of those trying to get to the US.

    The rise of Pakistan's 'burger' generation

    The rise of Pakistan's 'burger' generation

    How a homegrown burger joint pioneered a food revolution and decades later gave a young, politicised class its identity.

    'We will cut your throats': The anatomy of Greece's lynch mobs

    The brutality of Greece's racist lynch mobs

    With anti-migrant violence hitting a fever pitch, victims ask why Greek authorities have carried out so few arrests.