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This time, there is no Parvazi Musharraf and there is no military action.
He is locked up in the Masjid with minor children again.
I hope that children don't get hurt again and we don't get a Deobandi Terrorism wave in Pakistan, again. Last one took over 10 years to kill with 70,000 people dead.
And it started exactly this way.
The Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration on Sunday reached an agreement with deposed Lal Masjid Khateeb Maulana Abdul Aziz after three days of negotiations, allowing him to stay in the mosque as long he did not deliver sermons, according to a BBC Urdu report.
On February 7, the cleric had occupied the mosque and laid out his demands. Authorities in the federal had laid siege to the mosque and started negotiating with him.
Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat confirmed that an agreement had been reached with Aziz and said its details would be announced soon.
The firebrand cleric told BBC Urdu that he had reached a verbal agreement with the authorities and a written pact would be prepared within three days.
“The Islamabad administration would not object to my stay in Lal Masjid and we will be handed over Rs35 million that we spent on Jamia Hafsa,” he said.
“Otherwise, the issue of the Jamia Hafsa building being constructed in Sector H-11 of Islamabad will remain controversial,” he added.
The issue of a disputed 20-kanal plot allotted to Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad is pending in the Supreme Court.
Aziz’s demands included the reconstruction of the old building of Jamia Hafsa adjacent to Lal Masjid. It was demolished because it was illegally constructed on government property.
According to police, they have been deployed around the mosque for three days. They added that the cleric was using around 100 female students accompanied by six or seven men as his shield to prevent the law enforcement agencies from removing him from the mosque.
Around 3,000 female students are present at the seminary in Sector H-11 in the federal capital.
ISLAMABAD: Lal Masjid has once again been cordoned off by law enforcement Wednesday evening after the deadline given to former cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, his family and students to vacate the premises expired.
Officials from the capital administration and police told Dawn the mosque was cordoned off because the occupants were given a deadline to vacate the premises by Wednesday.
They said an agreement was reached with Mr Aziz on Sunday under which he would be allotted land for Jamia Hafsa and the mosque would be vacated in return. Whereas the maulana’s nephew, Haroon Abdul Rasheed Ghazi, denied that they had agreed to vacate the mosque.
They said the move was also a part of security arrangements ahead of the visit of the president of Turkey and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s appearance before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which is close to the mosque.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will arrive in Islamabad today for a two-day visit and will stay in the Red Zone.
A police contingent that included personnel from the Counter Terrorism Force, police commandos, riot police and women officials arrived at Lal Masjid before Asr prayers and cordoned off the building.
Move comes after deadline given to cleric to vacate mosque expired and ahead of Turkish president’s visit and PPP chairman’s appearance before NAB
The contingent was deployed around the mosque on Municipal Road, Masjid Road and Shaheed-i-Millat Road, as well as at the weekly market adjacent to the mosque. Entry into the mosque has been restricted, and only area residents are allowed to enter to offer prayers.
The police deployed in the area are asking people to show their CNICs to confirm their addresses, the officials said. People are also being searched if found to be suspicious.
The capital administration has also banned the entry of women and girls in the mosque, they said. Prayers are being offered as usual, but only area residents are allowed to pray there.
The mosque is under the administrative control of the Auqaf department, and only an official from the department can be appointed khateeb or naib khateeb on a regular basis, the officials said.
They explained that the occupants had demanded the position of khateeb but neither Mr Aziz nor his nephew Haroon Abdul Rasheed Ghazi are Auqaf employees.
The house and seminary which they have claimed ownership of are built on government land at the mosque, they added.
The official said another round of negotiations was started with Mr Aziz on Wednesday, and an eight-member committee of Deoband scholars has been involved.
In addition to that committee, a group of traders from G-6 are also assisting the administration in the negotiation, they said. The capital administration, including an assistant commissioner and magistrate, are also negotiating with Mr Aziz. A fourth team, comprising Ulema of the Auqaf department was also holding talks.
The police cordon around Lal Masjid was lifted last Sunday after two weeks, when the administration and Mr Aziz reached an agreement.
Mr Aziz had demanded land for the Jamia Hafsa seminary at locations that were not acceptable to the government, the officials said, as he had demanded land in the sectoral areas. He did not accept the locations offered by the government in exchange, they said.
The officials said his demand for land made on Sunday was conveyed to the government by the administration for approval, but a decision has not been made yet.
When contacted, Mr Aziz’ nephew Mr Rasheed said that a police contingent reached the mosque “out of nowhere and besieged it all of a sudden at Asr”. He claimed residents were stopped from praying inside the mosque.
He said the residents prayed on the road instead, and the prayers were led by someone from among them. Mr Rasheed denied that any agreement was made with the administration to vacate the mosque and denied that any land was demanded for the seminary.
He said it was agreed during the last round of negotiations that Mr Aziz would remain in the mosque and lead prayers. He said they would stay in the house adjacent to the mosque and students would be in the seminary.
Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2020
With authorities still struggling to finalise a settlement to end the standoff with former khateeb Maulana Abdul Aziz at Lal Masjid, another dispute is brewing at another state-owned mosque, Masjid-e-Shuhada, in Islamabad's Aabpara area.
The Auqaf Department, which oversees the affairs of mosques in the capital territory, has been ignoring the rift at Masjid-e-Shuhada for five months, resulting in frequent scuffles between the supporters of the official cleric at the mosque and the cleric who was supposed to retire two years ago but refused to abide by government orders to vacate the mosque.
The dispute at the heart of this crisis originated when Maulana Amir Siddique, the former naib khateeb of Lal Masjid, was appointed as the chief cleric of Masjid-e-Shuhada after the mosque’s previous cleric Maulana Ghulam Rasool retired after reaching the age of 60. However, Rasool refused to abide by the retirement and not only is he still staying at the official residence of the mosque for the past two years but also continues to occupy one of the shops there.
His supporters have since then refused to allow Maulana Siddique, who is the nephew of Maulana Aziz, to lead the prayers at the mosque, which compelled him to approach the Aabpara police station to file a complaint – which was followed by a counter police complaint filed by Maulana Rasool.
While speaking to Dawn, Maulana Siddique shared his concerns about the developments: “This is unfair that the police did not entertain my application despite having legal standing only because I am not as strong and powerful as the other cleric.”
Meanwhile, Maulana Rasool too complained that police were not registering a report over their application against Maulana Siddique whom he accused of trying to create a law and order situation at the mosque.
Since there is no residential area around Masjid-e-Shuhada, the majority of those attending the prayers there are traders and shopkeepers from the Aabpara market. One of the leaders of the traders’ community, Ajmal Baloch, told Dawn that it is the responsibility of the Auqaf Department to ensure the implementation of the law and thus ensure that the cleric they appointed is allowed to lead prayers at the mosque.
“How can Maulana Ghulam Rasool, or anyone else for that matter, claim that this is his family mosque? The state needs to implement the writ of the law,” said Baloch.
Another senior trade leader at Aabpara market, Younis Qureshi, told Dawn that the root cause of the dispute at Masjid-e-Shuhada was the failure of the Auqaf Department to hold elections of the Masjid Committee.
He said while the government continues its efforts to eradicate extremism from society, it is failing in its duty to maintain control over mosques. "Maulana Ghulam Rasool refused to let Maulana Amir Siddique lead the prayers because he accused the latter of having ties to the Shia and Barelvi sects and the security establishment. Those making these charges should be tried under the National Action Plan.”
He added that the dispute was, in essence, a monetary one and that there has never been an audit of the finances of the mosque and its affiliated seminary.
Asked about the dispute, one member of the Masjid Committee, Farooq Kiani, denied that elections of the mosque have not taken place and instead claimed that polls were held regularly with the last one taking place a year ago.
Kiani further claimed that the conflict was “resolved” on the demand of locals and Maulana Siddique was transferred to Masjid Kausar near Polyclinic Hospital with the cleric at that mosque, Maulana Ashfaq, taking his place at Masjid-e-Shuhada.
It is worth noting that Maulana Ashfaq, who is the younger brother of Maulana Rasool, has been leading prayers at Masjid-e-Shuhada but the notification of his transfer has not yet been issued by the Auqaf Department.
When asked about the ongoing dispute at the mosque, an official at the Auqaf Department told Dawn that the department's director was on leave and that the department did not have enough resources to conduct timely elections at all mosques. “We cannot force any decision on the masses. Besides, by and large, there have not been many serious issues with mosque committees in Islamabad. There were no concerns with the committee at Masjid-e-Shuhada, therefore the existing committee has continued to work for a long period,” the official said.
Amongst the responsibilities of the Auqaf Department is overseeing the affairs of mosques and shrines in Islamabad and ensuring the equitable distribution of mosques among the four main schools of thought in the country – Shia, Deobandi, Barelvi and Ahle Hadees. There are around 86 state-owned mosques in Islamabad and around 1,000 mosques registered with the Auqaf Department are situated on either private land or on occupied land.
Given that the Auqaf Department does not require mosques and seminaries to show proof of ownership of land on which they are built, the number of illegal mosques and seminaries has only increased over time.
The dispute at Masjid-e-Shuhada follows a standoff at Lal Masjid that began when Maulana Aziz returned to the mosque last month, reiterating his claim to be its prayer leader. The situation, however, turned serious a few weeks ago when over a 100 female students entered the Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad’s Sector H-11 by breaking its official seal. Subsequently, officers from the capital administration approached Lal Masjid to meet Maulana Aziz, but the talks remained inconclusive as the cleric insisted that a senior authority equivalent to a federal minister should negotiate with him.
Since then, a multitude of clerics, including two delegations, have met both parties — the interior ministry and Maulana Aziz — but failed to end the standoff.
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.