In an assault strongly reminiscent of Operation Bluestar in Amritsar 23 summers ago, the Pakistan army on Tuesday stormed the radical Lal Masjid in Islamabad, killed the main rebel cleric, and put an end to the week-long standoff at the mosque.
At least 50 pro-Taliban fighters and eight soldiers were killed in the assault, codenamed Operation Silence, that began at dawn and continued all day. Sporadic gunfire was on, and estimates of the toll varied at the time of going to press. There was no immediate word on the fate of women and children cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi was said to have been using as human shields. The Interior Ministry said some militants were putting up resistance even after Ghazi was killed.
Operation Silence was very similar to Operation Bluestar at the Golden Temple in 1984. Then, the Indian military had entered the shrine to flush out armed Sikh extremists. Like in Islamabad, the Indian government acted belatedly against militants who had been — again, like in Pakistan — propped up by the establishment itself.
With HTC Delhi inputs