Maulana Aziz agrees to leave Lal Masjid after authorities promise 20 kanals of land for Jamia Hafsa

Updated Feb 09 2020

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In this file photo,  people line up to get their ID cards after offering Friday prayers in Lal Masjid.  — Photo by Mohammad Asim
In this file photo, people line up to get their ID cards after offering Friday prayers in Lal Masjid. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

Deposed khateeb of Lal Masjid Maulana Abdul Aziz agreed on Sunday to end his occupation of the mosque after three-day long negotiations with the Islamabad administration, who said that 20 kanals of land will be allotted to establish Jamia Hafsa.

The maulana is expected to leave by Tuesday. The female students, who had entered the Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad’s Sector H-11 on Thursday, have started to leave. The police force surrounding the seminary in H-11 has been withdrawn.

During the negotiations, the maulana claimed that his "movement" against former president Pervez Musharraf had started because mosques in the capital were being demolished and insisted that such incidents had resumed. The authorities assured him that his complaints will be taken to competent authorities and that his demand for a settlement in light of the Supreme Court's decision will be considered.

Earlier, an official of the capital administration had said that the demands of Maulana Aziz cannot be implemented as he wants to become the khateeb of the mosque again. He also wants Rs250 million along with a large piece of land to establish Jamia Hafsa and the possession of the adjacent old children’s library plot, he added.

Aziz occupies mosque

Maulana Aziz had returned to Lal Masjid around two weeks ago, reiterating his claim to be its prayer leader. The situation, however, turned serious on Thursday night when over a hundred female students entered the Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad’s Sector H-11 by breaking its official seal. As a result, officers from the capital administration approached Lal Masjid to meet Maulana Aziz. But talks remained inconclusive as the cleric insisted that a senior authority equivalent to a federal minister should negotiate with him.

On Saturday, in a bid to end the standoff, the proscribed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) volunteered to play a role and met officials outside the state-run mosque, while security personnel met the Islamabad administration officials to defuse the situation. A delegation of ASWJ, led by its Islamabad president Hafeez Nazeer, came to Lal Masjid on Saturday and met the officers posted outside. The delegation assured the assistant commissioner of their support and cooperation for a peaceful solution to the standoff.

None of the sides seemed to back off from their positions as the followers of Maulana Aziz and the administration enhanced their strict posture possibly in a show of strength.

Speaking to Dawn, Maulana Aziz said: "The rhymes we are playing are not aggressive or instigative, at least if compared to the dharnas with dance and music.

"There is always a way out. But this government is more politically immature and tyrant than the Musharraf regime," he said while comparing the political sense of former dictator Pervez Musharraf with the incumbent government.

The maulana said his only demand was to implement the 2007 decision of the Supreme Court.

He said neither he would leave Lal Masjid nor the female students, who had entered the Jamia Hafsa H-11, would do so.

"We are not afraid of anything," he had declared.

Lal Masjid standoff

A tense environment had prevailed over the weekend near the capital's state-owned mosque, which was occupied by its deposed Maulana Aziz, with the cleric's supporters raising slogans amidst a heavy police presence.

The maulana was holed up inside the mosque along with several female students and police had cordoned off the area by placing barriers and barbed wires on the roads around the mosque.

In an apparent bid to garner support, Maulana Aziz had also reached out to seminaries of Deobandi school of thought in Islamabad. Three major seminaries of the Deobandi school of thought — Jamia Fareedia, Jamia Rasheedia and Jamia Muhammadia — declined Maulana Aziz’s request to send their students either to hold a protest against the blockade of Lal Masjid or to offer prayers on the main road outside the mosque.

Maulana Zahoor Alvi, the principal of Jamia Muhammadia and the head of Wafaqul Madaris Al Arabia's Islamabad chapter, also refused to be part of the group of individual clerics who wanted to meet both sides.

Explaining Maulana Zahoor's stance, his son Maulana Tanvir Alvi said: "It is a clear policy of Wafaq that students should be learners and not activists or politicians."

Maulana Zahoor's decision did not sit well with the deposed Lal Masjid cleric, who said that "the standards [of the Wafaqul Madaris Al Arabia] were different when Maulana Fazalur Rahman launched his political drive and the students were seen actively participating in his dharna".

Administrative lapse?

Taking advantage of the situation when the authorities seemed to be busy with other issues, and the slackness of the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration to notify either a prayer leader or a deputy, Maulana Aziz had re-entered the Lal Masjid two weeks ago.

Possibly to test the reaction of the authorities, the cleric delivered a Friday sermon last week but it was ignored despite repeated warnings by one of his former comrades Hafiz Ehtesham Ahmed, who claims to be the spokesperson of Lal Masjid’s Shuhada Foundation.

"The matter was brought to the notice of police that Haroon Rasheed, who had been picked up by security personnel earlier, was also illegally occupying the official residence of naib khateeb in Lal Masjid," said Hafiz Ehtesham.