Anniversary of Lal Masjid operation: Abdul Aziz decides to preside over conference

Anniversary of Lal Masjid operation: Abdul Aziz decides to preside over conference

Islamabad (Web Desk): The controversial Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz has announced that on July 7, there would be a public gathering at the mosque to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2007 military operation that caused around 150 casualties.

Abdul Aziz has issued announcement just weeks after authorities had stopped the firebrand cleric and the Shuhada Foundation, which handles all of Aziz’s interactions with the media, from holding events at the mosque.

Aziz was suspended as the Lal Masjid khateeb (prayer leader) by the authorities in 2004 and his nephew Aamir Siddique was appointed as the deputy khateeb of the mosque in 2007. Siddique has been the official prayer leader of the mosque since then.

An internal rift over the control of the mosque prevails as Siddique has distanced the mosque from the Shuhada Foundation, which insists it represents both Aziz and the mosque. Aziz also remains under observation of the authorities as he remains on the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

When the foundation had tried to hold a press conference at the mosque in January, Siddique called in police and had the event forcibly stopped. Siddique said the organisers were using the mosque “for politics”.

On March 24 the administration and police stopped Aziz and the foundation from holding a conference at the mosque in the backdrop of alleged blasphemy on social media. The Shuhada Foundation has on multiple occasions called for the removal of Siddique from the mosque and the restoration of Aziz as its prayer leader.

The current spokesperson for the Shuhada Foundation Hafiz Ihtisham Ahmed said, they would soon submit an application to obtain a no-objection certificate from the administration for the July 7 event and would move the Islamabad High Court if they were not permitted to stage the gathering.

On the other hand, it seems unlikely that the authorities will allow the event to take place at the mosque.

The foundation said in a statement that they would invite President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt-Gen Naveed Mukhtar, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and the religious affairs minister to attend the conference.