ISLAMABAD: Mobile phone service was suspended in the federal capital from noon to 2pm for the third Friday now, apparently in a bid to stop Maulana Abdul Aziz from delivering a sermon via mobile phone at the Lal Masjid.

A senior official of the district administration, on condition of anonymity, said the service had been suspended on the directives from the interior ministry and that Lal Masjid was the reason for doing so.

A Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) official confirmed that the interior ministry had ordered the cutting off of mobile networks in G-6 and G-7.

Lal Masjid Naib Khateeb Maulana Amir Siddique told Dawn it was a well-known fact that the service

was disrupted to stop the sermon and that the move was strange because the government has chosen to inconvenience the whole city just to stop one khutba from happening.

“A year ago, the Maulana stopped coming to Lal Masjid and started delivering his sermon via mobile phone and we know that the district administration has been looking into how the maulana delivers the khutba,” he said.

The naib khateeb said district administration was negotiating with Maulana Aziz and that on the first Friday that the networks were suspended, the Lal Masjid cleric had thought it was done so for security reasons.

“Maulana Aziz is not running a radio station like Maulana Sufi Mohammad; he is just delivering a Friday sermon which he should be allowed to. He has never given any controversial statements and focuses on the betterment of the society,” Maulana Siddique said, adding that the residents of Islamabad should not be inconvenienced because of this.

He said there were many other options for delivering the sermon, something Maulana Abdul Aziz has been doing since the assassination of his father, Mufti Abdullah, in 1998.

On the other hand, no one from the district administration was willing to explain the unannounced suspension of cellphone service on record and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid could not even be reached for comment, despite repeated attempts.

Senator Ghani, too, thought it ‘strange’ that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan could not take action against Maulana Aziz when he has been suggesting that the chief minister of Sindh should allow Rangers to work, without seeking approval first.

PPP’s Senator Saeed Ghani told Dawn he had heard about the disruption in mobile signals the past two weeks, but was experiencing it for the first time since he had been out of the city before.

“I was receiving messages till about 11:30am, after which the signals disappeared. When I came out

from Parliament, I could not contact my driver and then my children. I was not even getting any reception in F-8,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2015

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