WASHINGTON: Maulana Abdul Aziz, the imam of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid, has submitted a written apology to police over his implied defence of the Dec 16 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Friday.
The minister was talking to journalists after ending a three-day visit to Washington.
Asked why Islamabad was reluctant to arrest the Lal Masjid cleric, Mr Khan said the government was careful, not reluctant.
“It is not difficult to arrest him. But we want to keep our focus on the ongoing operation against militants,” he said. “Any other action at this stage will create a diversion and benefit the militants.”
The minister recalled that after the Lal Masjid operation in 2007, the Musharraf government was forced to bring Maulana Aziz back from his village and provide him special security.
“We do not want to take a decision that we have to review later,” he said.
“If we arrest him and it leads to yet another tragic incident, it will have very negative consequences. So I believe that we have to sequence our actions.”
The interior minister said Pakistan welcomed US President Barack Obama’s stance that terrorism was not linked to any religion.
He noted that the 60-nation conference at the White House this week had delinked Islam from terrorism, terming it a corroboration of Pakistan’s stance.
“We believe terrorists should be known by their misdeeds, and not by their religious affiliation or the country of their origin.”
He said the summit also shared Pakistan’s view that the underlying causes of terror, “including political disputes”, needed to be addressed to eradicate this problem.
During his stay in Washington, Mr Khan held bilateral meetings with senior US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry.
At these meetings, he also discussed the possibility of holding a regional conference in Islamabad to formulate a common strategy for combating extremism.
Mr Khan said he would further firm up the proposal with senior government leaders in Pakistan and if the prime minister approved it, “all South Asian neighbours will be invited to this conference”.
Mr Khan said during his meetings with senior US officials, he noticed a strong desire to strengthen US-Pakistan ties.
The minister informed US officials that while Pakistan was taking “serious and concrete steps” to counter terrorism, “there is a country in the region,” which was not cooperating.
Mr Khan said he told US officials that while it was Washington’s prerogative to have relations with all nations in the region, “there is fallout for Pakistan” in recent US efforts to cement its ties with India, “particularly in certain agreements it signed with New Delhi”.
The United States should also address Pakistan’s concerns on this and other issues, he said.
The minister said that in his meeting with US officials he also underlined the importance of clarity and coordination for bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.
APP adds: Mr Khan on Saturday met Ambassador Susan Rice, the United States National Security Adviser. The two exchanged views on matters of mutual interest in both bilateral and regional context.
Published in Dawn February 22nd , 2015