ISLAMABAD: Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz may not have submitted a written apology to Islamabad police, as suggested by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, but he has submitted a ‘surety letter’ that he was bound to submit nearly 12 years ago, when his name was first included in a watch list under the fourth schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
Sources in the police department and the interior ministry told Dawn that in December, following the attack on Army Public School in Peshawar, Mr Aziz submitted a surety letter written on his letterhead to the capital police.
After the attack, Mr Aziz had refused to condemn the attack on APS Peshawar and said during a sermon that it was a reaction against the military operation against banned outfits.
Following a civil society outcry and amid demands for his arrest, police on the directions of the government of the day warned the cleric that he should submit the surety letter, assuring law enforcement agencies of his ‘good behaviour’, as required of him under the fourth schedule of the ATA.
“Maulana Aziz was also warned of legal action if he failed to submit the surety,” officials said.
The surety letter is only a few lines long. In it, Mr Aziz states that he has lived in Islamabad for the last 50 years or so and claims that he respects the law of the land and has cooperated with the capital administration and did not have any links with banned organisations or activists from any such group.
The surety letter also states that he has approached the Islamabad High Court over the decision to include his name in the fourth schedule watch list, and adds that until a decision on the matter, he would continue informing the police about his movements and whereabouts.
However, the question that arises now is why Mr Aziz did not submit the surety earlier.
According to the ATA, anyone whose name is included in the list under the fourth schedule has to submit a surety of his good behaviour, which may be satisfactory for the district police of his native town, police officers said.
The fourth schedule deals with Section 11EE of the ATA, entitled ‘Proscription of Persons’. Sub section two of the same states that “such persons are required to execute a bond with one or more sureties to the satisfaction of the district police officer in the territorial limits of which the said person ordinarily resides, or carries on business, for his good behaviour”.
The surety guarantees that he/she is not involved in any act of terrorism and is not in any manner advancing the objectives of the proscribed organisation referred to in sub-section (1) for a period not exceeding three years.
If such a person fails to execute the bond or cannot produce a surety or sureties to the satisfaction of the DPO, the officer can order that person to be detained and produced within 24 hours before a court which shall order him to be detained in prison until he executes the bond or until a satisfactory surety is available.
Police officials said Maulana Aziz had been included in the ATA’s fourth schedule back in 2002 and under the law was bound to submit the surety but had failed to do so in the past.
Police were within their rights to take legal action, such as arrest and detention, but no such action was taken against him.
Unable to explain why nothing was done, a police officer Dawn spoke to simply shrugged and said “some official matters are beyond our capacity”.
On a visit to the US earlier this year, the interior minister had claimed that Mr Aziz had submitted a written apology to police over his implied defence of the December 16 attack on APS Peshawar.
However, the official maintained that, “This is not an apology, but a surety [for] good behaviour.”
Maulana Abdul Aziz could not be reached for comment.
Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2015