ISLAMABAD: The depo­sed cleric of Lal Masjid, Maulana Abdul Aziz, and the Islamabad administration reached a settlement on Sunday after three-day negotiations, with the latter agreeing to allot 20-kanal land for Jamia Hafsa if the cleric ends mosque occupation, sources said.

Shortly after the talks, the female students, who had entered Jamia Hafsa building in Islamabad’s Sector H-11 after breaking its seal on Thursday evening, started leaving the seminary. Police contingents surrounding the seminary had already been withdrawn as part of the agreement.

As a result of the settlement, the police started removing barricades and barbed wires around the mosque after midnight.

The sources said the Islam­abad Capital Territory (ICT) administration negotiated directly with Maulana Aziz and it was decided that a suitable place measuring around 20 kanals would be allotted to them for building Jamia Hafsa, as the plot on which the seminary building in Sector H-11 was constructed had been cancelled.

Talking to Dawn, Maulana Aziz claimed that he told the ICT officers that he had launched the campaign when former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had started demolishing old mosques in Islamabad. “Now such actions have started again and it should be stopped immediately,” he said.

He said the ICT officers had promised him his case would be taken up with the competent authorities, besides his demand of a settlement in the light of a Supreme Court decision would be considered.

Sources in the ICT said the police presence outside Lal Masjid would be reduced from Monday afternoon and it was likely that Maulana and all the female students holed up inside the mosque would leave the vicinity by Tuesday.

Earlier, Maulana Aziz had contacted the management of three main seminaries in Islamabad belonging to the Deobandi school of thought namely Jamia Fareedia, Jamia Rasheedia and Jamia Mohammadia, the official sources said. He had asked the seminaries administration to send their students to stage protest in the city as a show of unity and strength for the ‘sake of Sharia implementation’.

A source said the Maulana had suggested them that the students should hold prayers on the main road in front of the police barricade. “However, due to the efficient networking, the seminaries declined and referred the matter to Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia,” said a senior officer of Islamabad police.

Some religious leaders said Maulana Zahoor Alvi, principal of Jamia Mohammadia and the head of Wafaqul Madaris Al Arabia’s Islamabad chapter, opposed the idea and declined to be part of the group of individual clerics who wanted to meet the two sides.

“The issue is that it is a clear policy of Wafaq that students should be learners and not activists or politicians,” observed Maulana Tanvir Alvi while speaking to the media on behalf of his father Maulana Zahoor. Besides, he added, there were rules binding each student to be present after evening, as attendance is marked in the evening and then at night before sleep. Therefore, he explained, the students cannot be out near Lal Masjid to offer prayers after evening.

Meanwhile, another senior cleric belonging to the Deobandi school of thought said no one could have negotiated on behalf of Maulana Aziz due to his past record that showed he would not honour commitments.

“After the last crisis in Lal Masjid during the Musharraf era, Wafaqul Madaris Al Arabia had decided to delist Jamia Hafsa for actively participating in political activities and that is why Jamia Hafsa is still not recognised as a seminary by Wafaqul Madaris Al Arabia.”

However, Maulana Aziz criticised Wafaq-ul-Madaris and said their standards were different when Maulana Fazlur Rehman had launched his political movement as their students were seen actively participating in his party’s sit-in.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2020