Maulana Abdul Aziz, the controversial cleric who headed the capital’s Lal Masjid at the time of the 2007 bloody siege, has reentered the Red Mosque – after 13 years. He appears to be playing the old tricks to blackmail the state for personal benefits while putting life and businesses of capital’s residents at risk.
Following the firebrand cleric’s entry into the mosque, the Islamabad police have surrounded the mosque located in Sector G-6. Aziz has been in the mosque for two weeks and talks between him and the government have been under way since then.
According to media reports, the cleric demands a plot for the construction of Jamia Hafsa. He argues that the Islamabad administration had allotted him and his wife Umme Hassan a 20-kanal plot in Sector H-11 in 2012, as a replacement of his loss and displacement from Lal Masjid in 2007, but the allotment was cancelled by the Supreme Court of Pakistan last year.
Forty people were killed in the 2007 siege. It ended with a 35-hour military assault on the mosque. Aziz tried to escape wearing a burqa but was caught
Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English paper, reports that Maulana also wants to be reinstated as the prayer leader at the Red Mosque and demands Rs. 250 million for construction of Jamia Hafsa. “They have given us a deadline to vacate Jamia Hafsa in H-11 with the threat to launch an operation again. Food supply too has been stopped but we are determined to remain steadfast for the sake of Islam,” Aziz told Dawn.
Currently, the capital administration has laid a siege to the area outside the mosque and Maulana Aziz along with female students is holed up inside. Both sides refused backing off from their positions and the standoff continues. This has an eerie resemblance to the series of events in 2007 when female students were used by Maulana Aziz as vigilante squads across the city; they went into markets demanding shopkeepers to destroy videos and whatever looked un-Islamic or sacrilegious to them.
How state & administration should deal with the situation?
Political analysts, GVS spoke with, argue that a group of clerics and supporters associated with Maulana Aziz and his brother had been blackmailing the state of Pakistan and Islamabad administration for various reasons after 9/11. Situation finally drifted to the tragic events of July 2007 when almost a hundred people were killed when army commandos were called in to break a long running siege. Maulana was holed up inside with girl students and many armed militants. Siege finally ended with a 35-hour long military assault on the mosque. Aziz tried to escape wearing a burqa but was caught.
It is widely believed that various elements in Pakistani establishment were at some point using Maulana and his supporters for political purposes. But to what end is not clear. At some stage, handlers may have lost control over Maulana – analysts argue. By July of 2007, Maulana had assumed such a larger than life persona that he would spurn the city administration and demand key ministers, top government functionaries and political leaders to negotiate with him.
Before the army action against Lal Masjid in July 2007 many top politicians like ex-Interior Minister, Chaudhry Shujjaat Hussain, then ally of Gen. Musharraf and famous TV Anchors like Shahid Masood were found negotiating with Maulana boosting his profile. Apparently he demands the same attention again.
This will be wrong – argue Political Analysts. In reality, the learning outcome of the bloody siege and tragedy of 2007 is that the Maulana and his associates should be dealt strictly by the city administration and they should not be allowed to talk to any media person, TV anchors or ministers. They should not be given undue importance as they are sitting on an illegal piece of land and they should strictly be dealt as per law.
If need be, their food supply should be stopped and electricity cut off forcing them to get out of the premises where they should not be in the first place.
Almost all the land of Jamia Hafsa where maulana resides has been built on encroached land after covering a natural water course
In 2007, army action had to be taken against these clerics and it was a disaster for the state and for the politics of Pakistan. The learning outcome of this is that that all anchors, media persons, television channels should not be allowed to give legitimacy to their demands.
They have previously blackmailed the state, used madrasa girls as shield and played havoc on the capital; therefore, this time around no part of the state should provide oxygen to these people.
What is administration thinking?
An official of the capital administration told The Dawn, leading English daily, that the demands of Maulana Aziz cannot be implemented as he wants to become the Khateeb of the Red mosque again. He also wants Rs. 250 million along with a large piece of land to establish Jamia Hafsa and the possession of the adjacent old children’s library plot, official added.
“First of all, we are hopeful that he will leave the place in two or three days,” the official said, adding the authorities could use the status of Jamia Hafsa in G-7 as a bargaining chip if the maulana remained adamant on his move.
Almost all the land of Jamia Hafsa where Maulana resides has been built on encroached land after covering a natural water course, GVS has learnt.