- Security beefed up in federal capital after fiery preacher announces rally after Friday prayers
- Islamabad admin warns Abdul Aziz of arrest if he takes out rally without permission
Controversial radical cleric Abdul Aziz of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid has resurged with calls for imposition of Sharia in Pakistan, as he led the Friday prayers at Lal Masjid —after almost a year– and announced to reinitiate his campaign to enforce a system based on the Holy Quran and Sunnah.
Soon after the cleric announced that he would address the Friday sermon and later lead a rally of his students to press the government for imposition of Sharia, a heavy contingent of police and Rangers was deployed in the areas surrounding Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa to prevent the participants from moving on to the roads of the federal capital.
Aziz arrived at Lal Masjid at around 12:30pm along with students of Jamia Hafsa where he led the Friday prayers. During his speech, the controversial cleric stressed over the immediate implementation of Sharia in the country. The cleric, during his sermon, urged students to reach the mosque next Friday so he could continue the campaign to enforce Shariah.
Meanwhile, the District Magistrate of Islamabad Capital Territory issued a notice to the Lal Masjid cleric for attempting to take out a rally “without informing and seeking permission from authorities, which could have jeopardized the law and order situation in Islamabad”.
The letter states that a previous notice issued by the office of the Chief Commissioner of Islamabad on August 3 this year, had included Aziz’s name in a watch-list under the fourth schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
It further states that as per a surety letter submitted by Aziz to the Inspector General of Islamabad Police, the cleric is bound to respect and cooperate with the federal authorities.
The warning letter by Islamabad’s district magistrate states that Friday’s rally was in violation of Section 11EE of the ATA as he took part in a rally, organised with religious parties, without informing and seeking prior approval from authorities.
The letter also warned the Lal Masjid cleric that he could be arrested if he was found in violation of Section 11EE of the ATA again.
This is not the first time Aziz has vowed to enforce Sharia in the country.
Earlier in April 2007, Lal Masjid clerics had vowed to enforce what they called ‘Shariat’ (Islamic system) in the country even if the government does not want to do so. The Lal Masjid administration had also threatened to unleash a wave of suicide bombers if the government took any action to counter it.
The announcement was followed by agitation which erupted into street battles around the mosque between security forces and militants. At least nine people died and some 150 were injured.
Security forces had then laid siege to the mosque, later demanding an unconditional surrender and the release of alleged hostages held inside. Aziz was arrested sneaking out of the mosque dressed in a burqa.
Later in December 2014, a First Information Report (FIR) was also registered against Abdul Aziz at Islamabad’s Aabpara Police Station upon unremitting pressure exerted from protesting civil society.
Security agencies, in January 2015, had warned the government that due to his links with known militant groups and his anti-government rhetoric, the resurgence of Abdul Aziz posed a security threat to the law and order situation in the capital.
The warning came after a video message by students of Jamia Hafsa, in which they had invited the self-styled Islamic State (IS) chief Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi to ‘avenge’ the 2007 military raid on Lal Masjid. A report by the Islamabad police sent to the Interior Ministry had termed the invitation as “waging war” against the State.
Recently in September 2015, two sons of deceased Lal Masjid cleric Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, Haris and Haroon were arrested from Islamabad’s F-6 sector by a joint team of Police and Rangers, who were patrolling the area at the time.
An army uniform and a handgun were seized from their vehicle. A First Information Report (FIR) was lodged against for the possession of a weapon at the Kohsar police station.