ISLAMABAD: Deposed Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz has alleged that an officer from the country’s premiere intelligence agency “was conspiring against him”, while other officials were in contact with him in an effort to sort out the differences between the two sides.

In a written statement and a video message, released via the official Facebook page of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa, Maulana Aziz claimed he was in negotiations with an officer of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

However, he claimed that while the negotiations were moving in the right direction, another senior ISI officer was acting as a ‘spoiler’.

“I have been told by one of my followers that a brigadier in ISI, who belongs to the ‘other sect’ is conspiring against me,” he said, adding, “I know they are making false videos about me [accusing me of] taking extortion money...”

He also claimed that the intelligence authorities were promoting extremism in the country with their attitude.

Deposed Lal Masjid cleric’s latest video levels allegations against intelligence officials, disparages other sects

“A major recently called and I invited him for a meeting so that we can understand each other,” Maulana Aziz said in the video.

But an ISI spokesperson Dawn spoke to rejected the cleric’s claims of meeting a major belonging to the agency, terming it “propaganda”.

“Maulana Abdul Aziz has a track record of fabricating stories and there has been no contact between him and any agency personnel,” the spokesperson said.

But ICT officials, on condition of anonymity, said that Islamabad police personnel and members of the civic administration had visited the cleric and tried to persuade him to obtain pre-arrest bail from the courts.

“This is strange; we have seen him visiting various parts of the city, buying fruit from street vendors on the sidewalk near the vacant plot that used to be the Children’s Library,” an ICT official said.

In the video, Maulana Aziz also made sectarian remarks, claiming that people with names such as ‘Shah’, ‘Haideri’ and ‘Shaheedi’ were involved in the killings of clerics from the Ahle Sunnat school of thought, including his own father.

“First a false case was registered against me and now they want me to obtain bail,” the cleric said, adding, “since the istakhara (divine guidance) is unfavourable, I am reluctant to post bail now.”

The issue of posting bail arose after PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar sought to move a privilege motion against the interior minister, who had earlier claimed in the Senate that there were no cases against Maulana Abdul Aziz. But Senator Babar showed documents that included an Islamabad High Court arrest warrant, issued around 11 months ago.

Talking to Dawn, he took the government to task over the release of the cleric’s latest video. “This is a clearly a violation of multiple laws and the question is where is the National Action Plan.”

“The violations are related to hate speech, fanning militancy, instigating sectarianism, inciting terrorism and challenging the state again,” he said, adding that either the government, including the interior minister, were complicit, or they were afraid of one man.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2016