Senator offers jirga on Hafsa row

Published April 11, 2007

ISLAMABAD, April 10: Senator Hamidullah Jan Afridi, who leads a dissident group of four senators from the tribal areas, on Tuesday offered to arrange a grand jirga to resolve the standoff over the Lal Masjid.

The senator made the offer at a meeting with Maulana Abdul Aziz, the imam of the mosque.

According to Mr Afridi, the maulana welcomed his offer, but said he was waiting for an official response to his demands communicated to the government through Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the PML chief, at a meeting late last week.

Mr. Afridi told reporters that he had not come at ‘anyone’s behest’. He said the standoff was a source of grave concern for the nation.

Tariq Azeem Khan, the Minister of State for Information, welcomed Mr.Afridi’s initiative, assuring the senator of the government’s support in negotiations with the clerics.

According to a TV report, Chaudhry Shujaat visited the Lal Masjid late on Tuesday night to persuade the clerics to end their defiance. The PML chief told them to signal readiness for talks with the government by Wednesday night or be ready to face action.

WEBSITE: The administration of the Lal Masjid announced on Tuesday that it had launched an international website, Lal Masjid.com, after the blocking of their site by the government.

Agencies add: The move comes after the Lal Masjid issued a fatwa against a minister, Nilofar Bakhtiar, pictured hugging a foreigner following a charity paragliding trip in France, and also threatened to carry out suicide attacks.

We have blocked the website of Lal Masjid and also blocked the radio station, minister Tariq Azeem said.

We will block anything that promotes religious hatred, calls for suicide attacks -- this cannot be tolerated, he added.

Mr Azeem said the government blocked the website and an `illegal’ FM radio station under laws brought in five years ago.

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