Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghani, of Lal Masjid siege fame once again is in the news. The Lal Masjid dispute “dates back to January 2007, when Jamia Hafsa’s students illegally occupied a children’s library to protest the demolition of some mosques that were declared illegal by the CDA. Matters soared when the Lal Masjid group kidnapped three Chinese women over accusations of being sex workers. This, alongside a number of violent and antagonistic incidents, led to a bloody confrontation between the army and militants, resulting in the death of several militants and personnel of the armed forces. This clash was preceded by Maulana Aziz’s challenge to the Pakistani government’s decree by calling for the implementation of his form of Sharia and an end to collaboration with the US after 9/11.”
Although Aziz “was arrested as he attempted to flee the mosque disguised in a burqa, he was released on bail in 2009 despite numerous indictments against him. Ever since he blatantly continues to challenge the writ of the state while the government seems more willing appease rather than arrest him.”
Two weeks ago, the deposed khateeb of Lal Masjid returned and reiterated his claim to be its prayer leader. “The situation, however, turned serious on Thursday night when over a hundred female students entered the Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad’s Sector H-11 by breaking its official seal. As a result, officers from the capital administration approached Lal Masjid to meet Maulana Aziz. But talks remained inconclusive as the cleric insisted that a senior authority equivalent to a federal minister should negotiate with him. On Saturday, in a bid to end the standoff, the proscribed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) volunteered to play a role and met officials outside the state-run mosque, while security personnel met the Islamabad administration officials to defuse the situation. A delegation of ASWJ, led by its Islamabad president Hafeez Nazeer, came to Lal Masjid on Saturday and met the officers posted outside. The delegation assured the assistant commissioner of their support and cooperation for a peaceful solution to the standoff.”
Finally, Aziz “agreed on Sunday to end his occupation of the mosque after three-day long negotiations with the Islamabad administration, who said that 20 kanals of land will be allotted to establish Jamia Hafsa. The maulana is expected to leave by Tuesday. The female students, who had entered the Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad’s Sector H-11 on Thursday, have started to leave. The police force surrounding the seminary in H-11 has been withdrawn.”
According to the agreement, Maulana Aziz will be free to travel all across Pakistan at his own will after two months and his son-in-law, Haroon Rasheed, took over the administration of the Lal Masjid.