Pakistani police to probe Musharraf in mosque raid

AP News
Posted: Sep 02, 2013 12:42 PM

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani police opened a new investigation Monday into former President Pervez Musharraf's role in the death of a radical cleric killed during a raid of a mosque in downtown Islamabad, police said.

Police are investigating Musharraf's role in the operation against the hard-line Red Mosque in 2007 that killed nearly 100 people, investigator Mohammad Yousuf said.

Musharraf ordered the raid in response to increasing complaints against the mosque. Students there had begun raiding massage parlors, shops selling movies and other places they deemed as centers of vulgarity.

The mosque raid set off widespread counterattacks by militants that added to Musharraf's unpopularity.

Musharraf took power in a 1999 coup but was forced to step down in 2008 and later left the country.

After four years in self-exile, he returned to Pakistan in March but has faced a string of legal problems since then.

The case Monday stems from a complaint filed by the son of Abdur Rasheed Ghazi, the mosque's cleric who died in the siege. The son, Haroon Rasheed, had been pushing for Musharraf to be investigated in the case. His lawyer Tariq Asad said police had been refusing to open a case against Musharraf for weeks.

But on Monday, an Islamabad High Court judge ordered the police to open the case, Asad said.

The bloody showdown at the mosque was one of the defining moments of Musharraf's career that ultimately contributed to his downfall.

Alleged militants holed up in the mosque fought with army commandos for days in a battle that left at least 10 army commandos dead. The army seized a large cache of arms from the mosque after the siege ended.

Pakistani militant groups used the incident as a propaganda tool and portrayed it as an attack against innocent civilians and children. Militant violence has increased dramatically since then, including deadly suicide bombings and attacks on police, army and government installations.

Musharraf is already facing several court cases, including murder charges for his alleged involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

The new case could have repercussions in Pakistan for anyone ordering security operations against militants, said Musharraf's supporters.

"It is a green signal to militants that they can do whatever they want, and that they can escape any state action," said a spokeswoman for Musharraf, Aasia Ishaq. "Anyone wanting to take on the terrorists should think twice in the future."