Maulana Abdul Aziz will be prevented from taking out a rally or making any public statements on Friday by a police contingent that has been deployed to the Lal Masjid.
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Police officers and administration officials told Dawn on Thursday that the cleric was using the mosque to further a personal agenda: securing the return of his son-in-law.
Negotiations with the firebrand cleric, held on Wednesday at the commissioner’s office and Jamia Hafsa, did not prove fruitful as Aziz refused to accede to most of the administration’s demands. “He has two daughters who are both widows,” police officials said, adding that one of them had married a second time. But Salman Ghazi, the new son-in-law, had disappeared from Lahore around four months ago. According to a spokesperson for the cleric, Aziz has alleged that Ghazi was abducted by the agencies and has been demanding his release. However, police maintain that this is beyond their jurisdiction since the missing man disappeared from Lahore in the month of June. “The cleric is threatening to launch a Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Quran-o-Sunnat, but purely for personal reasons,” an official said.
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Another officer told Dawn that during the last two rounds of negotiation, Aziz was asked not to use the mosque and the Friday’s sermon for his own motives, but he was unwilling to make any assurances in this regard. Subsequently, at least 800 police personnel, equipped with anti-riot gear, were to be deployed outside Lal Masjid early on Friday morning, sources said, adding that other religious seminaries, especially those linked with the Lal Masjid, had also been placed under heightened surveillance. Hafiz Ihtesham Ahmed, a spokesperson for Maulana Abdul Aziz’ Shohada Foundation, confirmed that one of his main demands was the return of his son-in-law, “who was abducted by agencies from Lahore on June 24.”