Maulana Aziz delivers another Friday sermon over the phone

Published January 24, 2015
Chief cleric of Islamabad's Red Mosque Maulana Abdul Aziz .—AFP/File
Chief cleric of Islamabad's Red Mosque Maulana Abdul Aziz .—AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Haunted out of the Lal Masjid by civil society’s legal action, Maulana Abdul Aziz reappeared there on Friday - but in virtual form.

Maulana sahib delivered his sermon to the Friday congregation by telephone.

That delighted his supporters in the congregation but alerted his detractors.

“How can a person who has warrant of arrest against him use the microphone of the Lal Masjid which is run by the government,” asked Jibran Nasir, the moving spirit behind the civil society campaign against the Maulana.

Take a look: Maulana Abdul Aziz under house arrest?

“We are considering filing a petition in the Islamabad High Court to stop him from using the microphone of the mosque,” Nasir told Dawn.

Move lends credence to rumours that he may be under house arrest

“It seems the police are not willing to arrest Maulana Aziz.”

Indeed, his telephoned Friday sermon strengthened the rumours, circulating since he disappeared from the mosque over a week ago, that the administration has confined him to his house.

Civil society activist Shan Taseer said that the police did not respond to their request to replace the police investigation officer with a Grade-18 officer. “So we have no option but to go to court,” he said.

“If the police arrest Maulana Aziz before February 16, we will say ‘thank you’, otherwise a protest will be held against the police,” he said.

Maulana Abdul Aziz had emerged a controversial figure from the military operation was conducted in 2007 to clear the Lal Masjid of ‘militants’ entrenched inside.

Though he rehabilitated his image after the departure of military President Pervez Musharraf the next year, the Maulana earned more opprobrium by saying the December 16 massacre of Peshawar schoolchildren was ‘in reaction’ to the military operations against the militants.

Civil society protested the remark outside the Lal Masjid for two days and the confrontation led to the registration of an FIR with the police against the Maulana’s alleged threats to the protesters.

As the civil movement persisted, a court issued warrant for arrest of Maulana Aziz who, however, said he would neither seek bail before arrest nor offer himself for arrest.

Things changed on last Friday when Maulana Aziz, though staying in the nearby Jamia Hafsa seminary for girls, did not turn up to lead the prayers.

That gave rise to speculation that he has been put under house arrest.

Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Mir Vaiz Niaz and Lal Masjid’s Naib Khateeb Maulana Amir Siddique both denied the rumours. His preference for addressing the January 23 Friday congregation by telephone revived the rumours, however.

When contacted, Lal Masjid official Haider Zaman said that he was not aware why Maulana Aziz did not come to the mosque.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2015

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