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ISLAMABAD: Maulana Abdul Aziz will be prevented from taking out a rally or making any public statements on Friday by a police contingent that has been deployed to the Lal Masjid.

Police officers and administration officials told Dawn on Thursday that the cleric was using the mosque to further a personal agenda: securing the return of his son-in-law.

Negotiations with the firebrand cleric, held on Wednesday at the commissioner’s office and Jamia Hafsa, did not prove fruitful as Aziz refused to accede to most of the administration’s demands.

Also read: Lal Masjid cleric vows to ‘pursue his mission’

“He has two daughters who are both widows,” police officials said, adding that one of them had married a second time. But Salman Ghazi, the new son-in-law, had disappeared from Lahore around four months ago.

Police claim Maulana Abdul Aziz exerting pressure on agencies to seek recovery of abducted son-in-law

According to a spokesperson for the cleric, Aziz has alleged that Ghazi was abducted by the agencies and has been demanding his release. However, police maintain that this is beyond their jurisdiction since the missing man disappeared from Lahore in the month of June.

“The cleric is threatening to launch a Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Quran-o-Sunnat, but purely for personal reasons,” an official said.

Another officer told Dawn that during the last two rounds of negotiation, Aziz was asked not to use the mosque and the Friday’s sermon for his own motives, but he was unwilling to make any assurances in this regard.

Subsequently, at least 800 police personnel, equipped with anti-riot gear, were to be deployed outside Lal Masjid early on Friday morning, sources said, adding that other religious seminaries, especially those linked with the Lal Masjid, had also been placed under heightened surveillance.

Hafiz Ihtesham Ahmed, a spokesperson for Maulana Abdul Aziz’ Shohada Foundation, confirmed that one of his main demands was the return of his son-in-law, “who was abducted by agencies from Lahore on June 24.”

“We have assured that Maulana Aziz will not appear at Lal Masjid to lead Friday prayers,” he said, adding that Aziz would be delivering the Friday sermon via telephone. Mr Ahmed also said that they had asked for security cover for the cleric.

Nearly two weeks ago, the Shohada Foundation announced that Maulana Abdul Aziz would launch a Tehreek-i-Nafaz-i-Quran-o-Sunnat and would be making an announcement in this regard on Friday, Nov 13. But the capital administration and police and other concerned officials then approached the cleric and warned him that he would be subject to action if he was found involved in spreading unrest, since his name was included in the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

After last Friday’s congregation at Lal Masjid, the capital administration sent a written warning to the cleric, informing his that he was bound to follow the conditions prescribed for those who are included in the schedule.

The warning stated: “You have submitted a surety bond with the IGP Islamabad that you will respect the law of the land and will cooperate with the capital administration, and that you are neither an activist of any banned organisation, nor do you have any links with the same.”

However, when contacted, the SHO of Aabpara police station claimed that no extraordinary deployment was being made in his area.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2015