About 2,000 Islamist women gathered at the radical Red Mosque in the Pakistani capital on Wednesday and vowed to raise their children for holy war, days after a suicide bomber killed 18 people after a similar rally.
Chanting slogans of “jihad is our way”, burqa-clad women, some with babies, listened to fiery speeches from the daughter of the mosque's jailed cleric on the eve of the anniversary of a commando raid on the complex in which more than 100 people died.
“Our mujahideen (fighters) laid down their lives for the enforcement of the Islamic system in Pakistan. We are left behind to carry forward their mission,” the daughter of cleric Abdul Aziz told the tightly guarded rally in the mosque compound.
Several thousand men attended a similar rally on Sunday to mark the anniversary of the July 10 commando raid that ended a week-long siege that began when gunmen from the mosque clashed with police.
The cleric's daughter, who did not identify herself, told the crowd to steel their families for holy war. “We should prepare our children and men for jihad,” she said. The crowd responded with shrill chants of “we are ready” and “al jihad”.
Aziz was caught during the siege last year trying to slip through a cordon dressed in a woman's burqa. His brother, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was also a mosque cleric, was killed. Ghazi's widow, identified as Umm-e-Hassam, said President Pervez Musharraf should be punished for ordering the crackdown: "This man is the enemy ... I want this man to be severely punished before I die," she told the rally.
The Red Mosque and an adjoining women's madrasa, or religious school, had for years been a bastion of militant support in Islamabad and the clerics and their followers had waged an increasingly defiant campaign to enforce Taliban rule. They occupied a state library, kidnapped women they accused of prostitution and some policemen, and stormed music and video shops and beauty parlours, much to the dismay of the moderate majority in the capital.