MAULANA Abdul Aziz appears to relish provoking the state — and getting away with it. For the third time since Aug 21, flags of the Afghan Taliban were found hoisted on his Jamia Hafsa seminary in Islamabad last Saturday. The cleric, his wife and several madressah students were booked under the Anti Terrorism Act as well as various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code dealing with sedition, rioting armed with a deadly weapon, criminal intimidation, etc.

Videos on social media showed Maulana Aziz openly threatening the police with dire consequences at the hands of the Afghan Taliban. The flags were taken down after senior officers of the Islamabad administration and police held negotiations with the cleric. The FIR, meanwhile, was sealed but the government has decided not to pursue the case.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid told a press conference that out of the 511 mosques in the capital, “we have only had issues with one which we resolved through dialogue”.

Read: The people versus Abdul Aziz

Where is the writ of the state when it comes to Maulana Aziz?

While the hoisting of any flag is not a crime per se, in the case of the Afghan Taliban’s flag, the matter is a delicate one with international ramifications and the potential to deeply embarrass the government. But it seems that yet again the maulana, one of the principal figures in the infamous Lal Masjid siege, has been allowed to get away with actions that in the case of ‘ordinary mortals’ would have elicited far harsher reprisal.

The hard-line cleric has managed to evade the law with the dexterity of Houdini. In September 2013, he was acquitted of the last of 27 cases registered against him between 2001 and 2007. He has not kept a low profile since. Several times, he has defied the ICT administration to deliver incendiary sermons at the Lal Masjid, and even allowed the Jamia Hafsa library to be named after Osama bin Laden. Kid glove treatment will only embolden him and others of his ilk.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2021

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