The capital administration held five rounds of discussions with deposed Deobandi takfiri cleric of Lal Masjid Abdul Aziz and did not allow him to lead Friday prayers and deliver the weekly sermon in the mosque.
The last round of talks between the administration and the cleric started on Friday morning and concluded less than an hour before the prayers.
Scores of women clad in black burqas with some of them carrying sticks gazed down at the streets from the windows and rooftops of the new Deobandi Jamia Hafsa in G-7/3-4 as women police commandos wearing black uniform roamed in the street below in defensive gears. A large number of male students were also seen at the G-7 Deobandi seminary and around Lal Masjid. Not only a heavy contingent of police was deployed around Lal Masjid but Rangers were also posted around the female seminary and at the ends of adjoining streets.
Shuhada Foundation of Lal Masjid had announced on May 8 that cleric Aziz would lead the Friday prayers and deliver a sermon on May 11 after a gap of over three years.
Soon afterwards, officers of the local administration started discussions with the cleric in the new Jamia Hafsa and the final round concluded at around 12 noon on Friday.
The officials told the media that the cleric had agreed not to visit the mosque.
One of the ICT officials said the cleric insisted that it was his right to deliver a sermon at Lal Masjid.
“His plan was that he would go to the mosque in the form of a procession along with a few vehicles loaded with women students but we did not yield to any pressure,” the official added. “We told him that even the new Jamia Hafsa has been built illegally over a natural stream so why not clear it first as a dutiful citizen.”
As Aziz did not go to Lal Masjid, the Friday prayers were led by Amir Siddique, the deputy cleric.
The government deposed Aziz from the state-owned Lal Masjid after he delivered a controversial sermon on December 19, 2014, defending the perpetrators of the Army Public School Peshawar attack, calling it a reactionary move by terrorists.
During that sermon, he also targeted political leaders belonging to the Shia school of thought.
“This campaign against me is a conspiracy hatched by Amin Shaheedi and Faisal Raza Abidi but I warn that they are testing our patience,” Aziz had stated in that Friday sermon.
He also warned the state apparatus of dire consequences in case he was arrested or killed. After the prayers on December 19, 2014, he left Lal Masjid in a procession of seminary students.
Some students of Jamia Hafsa later released a video message to the leader of international terror group, Daesh (ISIS), inviting him to Pakistan to establish their state in the country.
As the government maintained its strict posture against Aziz in the following years, he made several attempts in 2017 to get hold of the microphone at Lal Masjid that were foiled by the government.