Molvi Abdul Aziz made a fiery speech in an illegal sermon at Lal Masjid Islamabad and his nephew Haroon Rashid, son of Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was killed in the 2007 military operation, led the Friday prayers.
The official prayer leader of Lal Masjid, Amir Siddique, was sidelined and he did not even show up at the mosque at prayer time.
The cleric Abdul Aziz made a sudden decision on Thursday evening that he would lead Friday prayers in Lal Masjid when the ICT administration, police and other law enforcement agencies were busy preparing for the March 23 parade. He had also planned to lay the foundation of Jamia Hafsa, a seminary for girls and women, which was deferred till next week. He said Jamia Hafsa should be built on the plot adjacent to Lal Masjid, which used to be a children’s library and was occupied by female students of the Jamia Hafsa before the 2007 military operation. The Jamia Hafsa building and the library were demolished by the government following the operation in 2007 against Lal Masjid.
The move also caught police and Rangers posted outside Lal Masjid by surprise. There are usually two Rangers’ vehicles posted outside the mosque on Fridays but there was only one on this day due to heavy engagement.
Meanwhile, an ICT administration official told Dawn that Maulana Abdul Aziz tried to dodge the system but he will not be allowed to enter Lal Masjid next week.
“We have already sealed Jamia Hafsa H-11 and nobody should underestimate the power of the state,” the official said.
Aziz had tried the same in May last year during the interim government, but the attempt failed. He tried to regain the post of khateeb of the mosque in Nov 2018 as well.
He was removed from the post on the orders of the court in 2004 following a fatwa he issued against the army and the operation against terrorists in Waziristan.
However, he was reinstated after his release from prison in 2009, but he stirred another controversy in 2014 after he openly extended support to the perpetrators of the Army Public School attack in Peshawar by calling it a reactionary move by the terrorists.
His several attempts to get hold of a microphone in Lal Masjid were foiled by the government in 2017 as well.
Lal Masjid is a state-owned mosque and cleric Abdullah, father of Abdul Aziz, was its first khateeb. After his assassination in the 1990s, Abdul Aziz was appointed the khateeb by the ICT’s Auqaf Department.
He is already over the age of 60 years and has retired as a govt employee, the ICT official said, adding that Amir Siddique has succeeded him.