The Siege of Lal Masjid

Once a month here on the Molten Sulfur Blog, I run content taken from our book Archive: Historical People, Places, and Events for RPGs. This post is one of eighty entries in Archive, each more gameable than the last!

This post is brought to you by beloved Patreon backer Arthur Brown. Thanks for helping keep the lights on! If you want to help keep this blog going alongside Arthur, head over to the Patreon page – and thank you!

Lal Masjid in 2018.
Image credit: KhhHan432. Released under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International license.

The Siege of Lal Masjid
Rippling Standoff

Lal Masjid – the Red Mosque of Islamabad, Pakistan – had longstanding ties to militancy. Its spiritual leader, preacher Maulana Abdul Aziz, and his brother, the mosque’s spokesperson, openly sympathized with al-Qaida and sought the enforcement of Islamic law. In January of 2007, protestors from Lal Masjid ranging in age from children to people in their thirties occupied a library and demanded that the destruction of mosques illegally built on state land be stopped. They led a long anti-vice campaign that involved kidnapping women they claimed were prostitutes, abducting police officers, and intimidating shopkeepers who sold Western films they deemed obscene.

The actions of the mosque’s leaders and students spurred an eight-day standoff in July between security forces outside the mosque and armed militants within. The compound the militants holed themselves up in included a women’s seminary with some of the female students still inside. On July 3rd, Pakistani security forces traded gunfire with the armed students, leaving ten people dead and over 130 injured. The next day, failed negotiations led to more casualties, and by the 5th, the Pakistani military was using selective bombardment with helicopter gunships to flush out the militants. Constant bouts of gunfire, heavy explosions, and shrieks of the injured resounded in the heart of the capital city.

During the siege, Maulana Abdul Aziz was captured as he tried to flee. He was dressed as a woman in a flowing robe and a burqa, hiding his head, face, and body. Despite Aziz’s capture, the siege continued along with negotiation attempts. The government had planned an assault on the mosque if negotiations continued to fail, but it was delayed when some students surrendered to authorities. They were hoping for the safe evacuation of more students, but on July 7th, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf gave the militants an ultimatum: surrender or be killed.

When there was no surrender, the Pakistani army took over and commandos raided the perimeter. They blasted holes through the walls to allow women and children to escape. The assaults were met with heavy armed resistance, but the commandos eventually succeeded and the siege was over. Aziz’s brother was killed in the assault, laying among bodies charred beyond recognition. By the end of the siege, the government claimed that 102 people had died, and none were women or children. The mosque’s supporters said thousands were killed with hundreds of them being women and children.

The effects of the standoff lingered. President Musharraf’s reputation had been stained with blood. Conspiracy theories float around about whether women and children were among the dead. Jihadis used the siege as a rallying cry to fight the U.S.-backed Pakistani government. The siege continued to have political resonance for years following the event.

The Siege of Lal Masjid in Play

At the table, a siege as politically charged as this one could affect your PCs directly and indirectly. They could enter the mosque on other business, only to be trapped inside by the start of the siege. They could be part of the security forces sent in to break the standoff. For groups that really love combat, a session based on the siege of Lal Masjid offers opportunities for varied, nonstop action. Scenes might include coming in through the roof or the walls, providing overwatch or suppressing fire for other fireteams, breaching doors, running gunfights down long hallways, holding doorways and staircases to cut off fleeing militants, and dragging wounded comrades out of the mosque under heavy fire. The party could also be affected after the siege is over. Maybe the president whose reputation had been marred needs people who won’t be tied back to him. The conspiracy theories could be true. What if the president wants the party to sweep the bodies of women and children under the rug? Could the PCs handle the moral consequences of such an act?

I put out a post based in real history or folklore every Tuesday! Make sure you don’t miss one by bookmarking or subscribing to get a no-frills email every week notifying you of the new post.

To comment, you don't have to back the Molten Sulfur Blog on Patreon, but you do need to log into a Patreon account. I'll manually review your first post before it becomes visible to others. Login with Patreon