Here are some pics I made on Friday in the direct surrounding of the Red Mosque. First one is a Pakistani soldier, standing between gardens of houses of civilians, with the Red Mosque in the back. Second a civilian who - of all places - was hit in his large toe by bullets coming from the mosque. Third - group of Pakistani rangers take a rest close to the mosque.
At the moment there is heavy fighting going on around the mosque. Civilians living in the direct surrounding of the mosque (to make it clear: these people have nothing to do with the mosque, they just live nearby) are now leaving - scared for the final battle. Last half hour, security forces fired at least 11 grenades at the outer boundary of the mosque. Some rangers and soldiers are moving in. This might be the beginning of the large attack.
That said - how many times was the final battle predicted in the Nahr al Bared Palestinian camp in Lebanon? That mini war is already dragging on now for around 6 1/2 weeks. But to be realistic: This is not gonna happen here.
The Pak army is fully in control. The only thing that holds the army back is the fact that the militants are holding hundreds of children en women inside - many of them against their will. Some children are only five years old. To make it clear again - these kids were not 'innocently' dragged from the streets or so. These kids were brought to the mosque by their parents - either to get religious education or to be willingly used by the militants as human shields. Many parents - actually many Pakistanis - never believed that the Pakistani government of President Musharraf would ever start a military crackdown against the mosque.
But Musharraf - who was nearly shot from the skies by unknown attackers on Friday -seems to be pretty serious in destroying all these Taliban elements in the Red Mosque.
The question though is why now - Does Musharraf really wants to stop the talibanisation of Pakistani society, or is he 'just' using this issue to gain some credit among ordinary Pakistanis, who are very proud off their army. Secondly, the Red Mosque-issue has pushed all other topics in Pakistan to the background. No more talks about the controversy of the fired high court judge (who is very much anti-Musharraf) who was fired and is, most probably, to be re-installed - something which would be of course highly embarrassing to president Musharraf.