ISLAMABAD - Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, former federal minister for interior, Anwar Baig, former secretary information, Yousaf Baig Mirza, MD PTV, and Tariq Aziz the then secretary general National Security Council on Friday appeared before a Commission constituted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to probe the 2007 Lal Masjid operation. Justice Shehzado Sheikh of the Federal Shariat Court, who heads the commission, is to hear 294 witnesses in all after which some 15 government officials of that period would be called to depose before the commission set up by the Supreme Court.Aftab Sherpao, appearing before the commission, stated that at the time of operation he was not in Pakistan. He said initially the ministry was handling the operation and they tried to resolve the matter through negotiations.He, however, said when the military took over the control then the decisions about the operation was made in the Presidency therefore he could tell only about the role of his ministry. He submitted a written statement before the commission.On July 3, 2007, former president Pervez Musharraf had ordered a military operation against the mosque for challenging the writ of the state. The military besieged the mosque for 12 days before assaulting the compound, an attack in which hundreds of students were killed.Tariq Aziz, the then secretary general National Security Council, pleaded before the commission that the then President and Prime Minister were issuing directions for the operation and he had no involvement.Yousaf Baig Mirza told the commission that he had reservations about Maulana Abdul Aziz interview in burqa, saying that should not had happened. “I had conveyed my concern to the information secretary.” Anwar Mehmood, former secretary said that he received the direction on his phone from high-ups.Former President Pervez Musharraf and the then Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz did not appear. The commission last week had issued notices to them for questioning. The former president has decided to defend himself. He is expected to testify before the one-man commission headed by Justice Shahzado Shaikh of the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) through his counsel.The commission had decided to summon the former military ruler and the former prime minister after a number of witnesses in their statements had alleged that Musharraf was responsible for launching the military operation in July 2007.The judicial commission was formed by the Supreme Court in Dec 2012 to probe the Lal Masjid operation - a government crackdown on the controversial pro-Taliban mosque in the capital which ended in a bloody eight-day siege killing at least 58 Pakistani troops and seminary students.This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 09-Feb-2013 here.