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The Lal Masjid affair

Some say that Maulana Abdul Aziz has come back upon Islamabad after all these years. But rest assured, he has always been around since the 2007 operation against armed insurgents at the Lal Masjid complex. Just a thought of those days is enough to send a chill down the spine of the area’s residents: the marches of the mosque’s vigilante force on roads; kidnapping of Pakistani and foreign nationals; the spree of suicide bombings and armed clashes, etc. Now the cleric is at it again, reclaiming the children’s library’s land that was wrestled out of his fierce grip and rubbishing the writ of the state. Other than then president Pervez Musharraf, almost all power players now are the same as then. But it is reported that the government has promised the cleric a chunk of 20 kanals land as an alternative to build his seminary for girls in the capital. It seemed to be a response to his entry to Lal Masjid where he also delivered a sermon last Friday.
It also coincides with the ‘escape’ of Taliban Spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan who is now reportedly in Turkey. Would it really be surprising if a connection emerges between these two developments? In both the cases, the government has made concessions to religious fanatics in one way or the other. ASWJ, a proscribed sectarian outfit, meanwhile, sent feelers out extending its services to settle the matter with the Lal Masjid cleric in Islamabad. Already, we are on the grey list of FATF, facing stern scrutiny globally on account of operations of extremist groups on our soil. Against this backdrop, the reopening of the Lal Masjid front is the last thing the government can afford. That the cleric has been able to maneuver all these years in the federal capital takes the cake. We in this space had been ringing alarm bells against any potential mishap on this account. This time too, we say that the sooner the government comes out of its shell the better as it can never appease the cleric with anything, not even with the big chunk of land. Land is not what he is after. The government should understand that he is an expert in inviting controversies and conflicts. The only solution to him is to keep him off public platforms.



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