Articles by Amir Mir

Govt flexes muscles to act against Lal Masjid cleric

ISLAMABAD: With the setting up of military courts to carry out speedy trials of the Taliban-linked terrorists and their facilitators, the federal government not only intends to revive the quashed cases of terrorism against the Lal Masjid chief cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz but it also contemplates to file a fresh case against him on treason charges for openly extending support to Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi-led Islamic State (IS) or Daish.

According to well-informed sources in the Ministry of Interior, the federal government has taken a strict notice of Maulana Abdul Aziz’s continued objectionable activities and support for the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and the Islamic State despite the fact that these are designated terrorist outfits. Aziz had generated a fresh controversy in the first week of December 2014 when he endorsed a video, featuring Burqa-clad female students of Jamia Hafsa who openly announced their support to the Islamic State while addressing Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi. The sources said the Ministry of Interior has sought the advice of the Law Ministry in a bid to proceed against Maulana Abdul Aziz on high treason charges, which are applied to those who are waging, or attempting to wage a war or abetting waging of war against the state of Pakistan [which is punishable with death or life imprisonment].

On the other hand, the Islamabad Police have already been advised by the prosecution department that the release of the video and other actions of Maulana Aziz and others fall under offences laid out in sections 121, 121A, 505(1) b and 505(2) of the Pakistan Penal Code. The Section 121 and 121-A of the Penal Code deals with offences related to waging a war against the state of Pakistan while the Section 505(1) b deals with those involved in making, publishing or circulating anything which creates feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will on grounds of religion. Action can also be taken against him under Section 2f (c) of the Protection of Pakistan Act 2014 for supporting terrorist group(s). According to the sources, the Interior Ministry is also contemplating to revive the quashed cases against Maulana Aziz by incorporating new evidence in challans of the cases, which had been quashed by the PPP government by applying ‘innocent until proven guilty’ motto of the criminal jurisprudence.

The sources pointed out that in the video released by the Lal Masjid-run Jamia Hafsa, the female students not only urged the Pakistani Taliban to join hands with the fighters of the Islamic State but also asked them to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden and those killed in the July 2007 Lal Masjid operation conducted by the Army. On December 13, 2014 in an interview with the Geo TV Maulana Aziz defended the video message, saying there was nothing objectionable in it.

In a subsequent statement reported by the Islam Times, an online Jihadi newspaper, Aziz said the students had prepared the video with his consent that was not at all a crime. “In fact, the Jamia students wanted to take out a rally in support of the Islamic State while carrying banners and placards. But I had stopped them. The girls did so after losing hope in the country’s political elite which remained silent when they had to suffer in the wake of the action against Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa.”

Maulana Abdul Aziz then warned: “I have come to know through reliable sources that the agencies are contemplating to carry out a search operation [in Jamia Hafsa] to trace out the girls who had prepared the video in support of the Islamic State. I am warning the authorities to desist from committing another misadventure under the garb of the video that is harmless and only expresses support for Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi and his Islamic State. There is nothing objectionable in the video which was prepared with my consent and the authorities will have to face the consequences if an operation is carried out against the students of Jamia Hafsa.”

Jamia Hafsa, which is adjacent to the Lal Masjid, is run by Umme Hassan (the principal) who is also the spouse of Maulana Aziz, who is the elder brother of Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi, who was killed in the July 2007 military operation.

Like Maulana Aziz, Umme Hassan, the principal of Jamia Hafsa, had also justified the video released by her students.

The video had surfaced at a crucial time when Pakistan is already trying to contain the growing emergence of the extremely violent international terrorist group in Pakistan. It was hardly a week after the Jamia Hafsa student’s fervent call to the Pakistani Taliban that 130-plus innocent students of the Army Public School were ruthlessly killed in Peshawar. But in a blatant move, Maulana Abdul Aziz had simply refused to unconditionally condemn the brutal slaughter, arguing that the episode was the outcome of the policies of the state against the Taliban. This led to a series of protests by the civil society outside the Lal Masjid, finally compelling the Lal Masjid cleric to condemn the killing of schoolchildren in his Friday sermon.

Maulana Aziz has already rejected his non-bailable arrest warrants [issued by a civil judge under an FIR lodged under Section 506 (II) for criminal intimidation] for hurling death threats at members of the civil society for staging protests against him, saying he would neither court arrest nor get bail. On the other hand, the country’s premier spy agency has already warned the Ministry of Interior in a January 1, 2015 communiqué that Maulana Abdul Aziz poses a serious security threat to the law and order situation in the federal capital. The letter titled ‘Activities of Maulana Abdul Aziz’ said that the “Lal Masjid mafia” has links with several anti-state terrorist groups and is currently reorganising the Ghazi Force.

However, Tariq Asad Advocate, President of the Lal Masjid Shuhada Foundation, who was also Maulana Aziz’ lawyer, ruled out the chances of the quashed cases being reopened against Aziz under the existing law of the land, saying he has been acquitted in 38 criminal cases and none of these could be reopened.


Back to top button