Postcard From Islamabad

Government forces crack down on students who led vigilante raids against un-Islamic behavior in Pakistan's capital. Our reporter gets caught up in the violence

Aamir Qureshi / AFP / Getty

Veiled Pakistani female students of The Red Mosque hold bamboo sticks and shout anti-government slogans on a loudspeaker outside the seminary during an exchange of fire between radical students of the mosque and paramilitary soldiers in Islamabad, Pakistan on July 3, 2007.

Pakistan's very future seems to be on the line at Lal Masjid (the Red Mosque), in the capital city of Islamabad. For months students and teachers at the mosque's madrasahs, or seminaries, have been taking the law into their own hands, launching vigilante raids on video and music shops for promoting "un-Islamic behavior." Twice they abducted women--including six Chinese masseuses--for alleged prostitution.

For months the government of general turned President Pervez Musharraf has been threatening to crack down against the madrasahs' radicals but has held back for fear of a conservative backlash. I was inside the mosque compound on July 3...

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