- ISI spokesperson says Maulana Abdul Aziz ‘has a track record of fabricating stories and there has been no contact between him and any agency personnel’
Earlier refusing to surrender to police in a criminal case, Lal Masjid’s radical cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz has now agreed to seek bail if authorities ‘create a conducive atmosphere’ for him to appear before court.
An Islamabad court in December 2014 had issued non-bailable arrest warrant for Aziz.
The decision came against the backdrop of protests organised by civil society members outside the mosque. They also registered an FIR against Aziz and gave the police a deadline to open an investigation case against the cleric, who had refused to seek bail in the case.
“I am ready to apply for a bail, but some state institutions want to arrest and martyr me as I campaign for the enforcement of Quran and Sunnah,” a statement issued by the Lal Masjid quoted the firebrand cleric saying in a recorded video.
“A fake case has created the situation. Now we are being told to seek bail and that appearance in a court is a must,” he added.
“Is appearance before court an obligation under Quran and Sunnah? I know that powerful and rich people are granted bail without appearing before a court, even in murder cases,” Aziz said in a bid to justify his act for not seeking bail despite a case being filed against him at the Aabpara Police Station in Islamabad.
Soon after an FIR was lodged against Aziz in December 2014, civil society activists warned that they would stage another protest outside the police station if the cleric is not arrested.
Civil society members, including the organisers of a vigil outside Lal Masjid, gathered outside the National Press Club to express solidarity with the victims of the Peshawar’s Army Public School attack. They raised slogans and held placards against terrorists and their sympathisers.
Jibran Nasir, who had filed the application against Aziz, spearheaded the protest. He said that the ball is now in the state’s court. “We appeal all bar councils of the state to join us and we thank all the peace-loving scholars who are with us in our war against terrorism. Our war is not against Islam,” he added.
Meanwhile, Aziz said, “We have faced hundreds of cases and sought bails. We have been acquitted in all cases over the past six years,” adding that a security official is “making false videos about me, hence, accusing me of taking extortion money”.
“How can I go out of my house in such a situation? I demand the government to create a conducive atmosphere so it is possible for me to appear before court and seek bail,” he said.
Aziz has claimed that an officer from the country’s premiere intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) “was conspiring against him”, while other officials were in contact with him in an effort to sort out the differences between the two sides.
However, he claimed that while the negotiations were moving in the right direction, another senior ISI officer was acting as a ‘spoiler’.
“I have been told by one of my followers that a brigadier in ISI, who belongs to the ‘other sect’ is conspiring against me,” he said, adding, “I know they are making false videos about me [accusing me of] taking extortion money…”
He also claimed that the intelligence authorities were promoting extremism in the country with their attitude.
“A major recently called and I invited him for a meeting so that we can understand each other,” Aziz said in the video.
Commenting on the claim, an ISI spokesperson rejected the cleric’s claims of meeting a major belonging to the agency, terming it “propaganda”.
“Maulana Abdul Aziz has a track record of fabricating stories and there has been no contact between him and any agency personnel,” the spokesperson said.
But ICT officials, on condition of anonymity, said that Islamabad police personnel and members of the civic administration had visited the cleric and tried to persuade him to obtain pre-arrest bail from the courts.
“This is strange; we have seen him visiting various parts of the city, buying fruit from street vendors on the sidewalk near the vacant plot that used to be the Children’s Library,” an ICT official said.
In the video, Maulana Aziz also made sectarian remarks, claiming that people with names such as ‘Shah’, ‘Haideri’ and ‘Shaheedi’ were involved in the killings of clerics from the Ahle Sunnat school of thought, including his own father.
“First a false case was registered against me and now they want me to obtain bail,” the cleric said, adding, “since the istakhara (divine guidance) is unfavourable, I am reluctant to post bail now.”
“I told the official that Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain, along with other individuals, want a clash between Lal Masjid and security forces,” the cleric claimed in the video.
“I hope Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa will not be raided again as any such action will create more problems,” he warned.
Further, the Maulana urged the Supreme Court as well as the government to “take notice of detainees being tortured in order to extract statements against me”.
In November last year, Maulana Aziz, stirred tensions with administration in Islamabad after he launched a campaign for enforcement of Sharia law across the country.
The government had also withdrawn official security which was provided to him, thus barring him from taking out a procession.