Lal Masjid goes back to former clerics

ISLAMABAD, Oct 3: The local administration has decided to hand over the Lal Masjid to its former management after orders from the Supreme Court that the mosque should be opened for prayers and Aitekaf from Wednesday.

It was learnt the government agreed to the proposal that Maulana Ghaffar, a teacher of Lal Masjid's seminary Jamia Fareedia, be appointed the new Imam. The place of Naib Imam has been given to Amir Siddique, a close relative of Umme Hassaan, in charge of the demolished Jamia Hafsa and wife of the mosque's former Khateeb, Maulana Abdul Aziz.

Sources in the local administration said the government had accepted all the demands of the former administration and Umme Hassaan regarding appointment of Imam, naming of the mosque and its colour.

Under the plan, given to the government by former administration of the mosque, name of Lal Masjid would not be changed and its red colour would be restored.

Meanwhile, Secretary Interior Syed Kamal Shah has directed the capital administration to open the controversial Lal Masjid for prayers from Wednesday and make a complete security plan to maintain peace and avert any clash between the supporters of Maulana Abdul Aziz, the expelled Imam of the mosque, and security forces at the time of opening.

The sources said a committee had been formed comprising representatives of Wafaqul Madaris, Umme Hassaan and residents of Sector G-6 to run the affairs of the mosque, while deputy commissioner Islamabad would be the overall in charge of the mosque.

The local administration, representatives of Wafaqul Madaris and former administration of the mosque will meet on Wednesday morning to finalise the finer details of the mosque's reopening.

A senior official in the interior ministry said the government already had finalised a plan and was to implement it soon when the Supreme Court orders came.

The government had reopened the mosque on July 27 under Maulana Ashfaq as the new Imam but the residents of the area and supporters of Maulana Aziz chased him out of the mosque when he reached there to lead the Friday prayers. That led to a pitched battle and a suicide attack near the mosque in which 20 police personnel and other people were killed.

Earlier, the residents of G-6 had demanded that Maulana Abdul Aziz should return to the mosque and the government should allow him to lead the prayers.

Maulana Aziz is presently in custody. A number of cases against him are being heard in an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi.

Lal Masjid was virtually closed on July 3 with the start of a bloody showdown between militants holed up inside the mosque and the security forces. The confrontation continued for 12 days and claimed the lives of 103 people, including 11 military personnel.

Earlier on Tuesday, a two-member bench comprising Justice Mohammad Nawaz Abbasi and Justice Javed Buttar ordered the mosque's reopening and also directed the authorities to pay compensations to the heirs of those who died during the military operation within two months.

The session judge in Islamabad was directed to determine the legal heirs of the deceased within a month.

The acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) was asked to record statements of the family members of those who went missing or were killed during the operation, and register cases.

The court also directed the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to reconstruct the demolished Jamia Hafsa seminary at its site within a year.

The Supreme Court was assured that the CDA would rebuild the seminary and constructing a research centre on the remaining area that would be utilised for religious education and research.

Deputy Attorney General Raja Mohammad Irshad appeared before the court and submitted that a report had already been submitted by the CDA before the court during the last hearing.

The court ordered that students of Jamia Hafsa be shifted by October 15 to Jamia Fareedia after make adequate arrangements for their education.

Jamia Fareedia, an affiliated seminary of Lal Masjid meant for male students, was sealed by the authorities during the Lal Masjid operation in July.

Ms Ayesha, a final year student of Jamia Hafsa appearing before the court, claimed that she was a witness to the killing of 400 male and 250 female students on the very first day of the operation.

She said it was a mystery where the bodies of the dead had gone. Ms Ayesha said she did not know how many more people lost their lives till the completion of the operation.

She requested the court to make arrangements for their studies, as she informed that their classes are due to commence after Eidul Fitr.

She proposed that they should be allowed to take their classes in Jamia Faridia.

The interior ministry's National Crisis Management Cell Director-General Brig (retired) Javed Iqbal Cheema said that there were only 103 casualties in the entire operation.

He said as per information available in the register of Jamia Hafsa, 1,700 female students were registered in the seminary of which 1,526 were boarders.

Umme Hassaan, wife of the former chief cleric of Lal Masjid Maulana Abdul Aziz, who was present in the courtroom submitted before the bench that Javed Iqbal was giving details of three- year-old record of the Madressah.

She submitted that there were 450 female students present in the seminary when the operation against Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa was on its peak on July 9.

Ms Hassaan said she had seen 30 female students being killed on July 3 in one room of Dora-i-Hadith.

Mr Cheema told the court that the body of Sahiba Khatoon, mother of Maulana Abdul Aziz, was still untraceable, however, he said that the body of Inamullah had been identified after conducting DNA test, but his heirs refused to accept it.

He said at present there was only one body of a female in the custody of the government.

According to him, 87 bodies have been handed over to their legal heirs, and 77 FIRs about dead bodies were registered under section 302. Dawn



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