ISLAMABAD: A cleric of Lal Masjid and 54 other people were arrested during an operation jointly conducted by security agencies, Rangers and the capital police in the rural area of the capital on Tuesday.

However, the cleric was later released on a personal surety.

The police said Amir Siddiqi, the naib khateeb of Lal Masjid, was taken into custody after three Kalashnikovs were recovered from his possession during the search of a religious seminary located near the Bhara Kahu police station. The police said the seminary was being operated by Mr Siddiqi on the premises of a private school.

When the cleric failed to produce the licences of the weapons, he was shifted to the police station. After a few hours, however, some locals came to the police station with the licences. The police kept the licences for verification and released the cleric.

When contacted, a spokesman for the Lal Masjid Shuhada Foundation confirmed the arrest of Mr Siddiqi after the recovery of three Kalashnikovs from him. “The search operation was conducted all over Bhara Kahu, including Amir Siddiqi’s residence there,” he added.

“When I talked to the Rangers’ spokesman early in the evening, he said the cleric would be released.” Later, he added, Dr Abid Orakzai, a close aide to Mr Siddiqi, reached the police station and the police released the cleric.

Besides, the search operation was also conducted in Madina Town, Mera Begwal, Athal and PTV Colony of Bhara Kahu.

During the operation, 54 people, including some Afghan nationals, were taken into custody and shifted to different police stations for further investigation. During the operation, a huge cache of weapons, including 19 12-bore guns and 108 rounds, five SMGs along with 1,512 rounds, three 9mm pistols and 50 rounds, a 44-bore gun and 31 rounds, a 22-bore rifle and its 300 rounds, two 7mm rifles and its 19 rounds, 18 30-bore pistols and 200 rounds, a 32-bore revolver and its 18 rounds, a 45-bore pistol and 10 daggers were recovered.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2016