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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 217, 29 September 2021

The Lal Masjid cleric challenges the State again



From a khateeb of sermon to khateeb of ‘Jihad’

From a khateeb of sermon to khateeb of ‘Jihad’
 

Ankit Singh
PhD Scholar, School of Conflict and Security Studies, NIAS

On 19 September, a sedition case was registered against Maulana Abdul Azeez and some of his students and followers for hoisting flag of Taliban on Jamia Hafsa in the capital, Islamabad. This was the third time when flags of the Taliban were found hoisted on the compound of Jamia Hafsa since the takeover of Afghanistan by Taliban after hasty American led NATO withdrawal. Emboldened by the Taliban takeover, Maulana Aziz has become more vocal and dissenting against the authorities, there have been reports of Maulana threatening the police and officials with dire consequences. However, the first information report (FIR) has been sealed and issue seems to have been resolved outside the walls of legal enquiry. What explains such acquiescence by authorities? Why is Maulana openly revolting against the Pakistani state? 

Background
Maulana Abdul Aziz came into limelight during the siege of Lal Masjid in July 2007, he was spearheading the radical Islamic fundamentalist movement against the Pakistan state, there were demands of imposition of Sharia and threats were issued against Musharraf if he did not relent. The standoff was suppressed by forces under the then President Parvez Musharraf, nearabout 1000 students were killed, most of the students were female who resisted until the point Maulana Aziz was caught or as he says he surrendered to avoid any further loss of precious lives of his students and followers. The authorities after having gotten hold of him, apparently in a burqa, directly took him to Pakistan Television Office and went live with Maulana being showed as a state prisoner. He was kept in jail for two years and later released, the supreme court acquitted him of all his misdemeanors. Maulana has since then been allowed to continue running his charity-based network of madrassas all across Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The families which cant afford education send their wards to these madrassas who get free education, food, stay and a promised progression in Islamic theology. The network was started by his father, Maulana Muhammad Abdullah Ghazi, he for the first time started a female madrassa education system, Jamia Hafsa. There has been reports of Abdullah Ghazi’s connection and association with his American and Saudi funders, subsequently he was assassinated after the mujahideen resistance was no longer required against soviets in Afghanistan.

Maulana Aziz then took over the mission, his motivation and objective as he says is to guide the youth a way of life whereby, they realize the purpose of their life through learning and memorizing Quran, he questions the western education style as it does not help one in understanding the real meaning of existence and rather misguides the learner towards worldly pleasures. The fundamental difference is established there itself, Maulana highlights earning the way to heaven through deeds and learning Quran as explained in Sharia or whether one should just learn the modern education to earn a living and not look for spiritual and deeper meaning of life. No wonder why he is elated after Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

The political parties in Pakistan mocks the ruling governments which are influenced and sensitive in dealing with Maulana, in January 2016, authorities disabled Islamabad mobile towers as Maulana was to give sermon through his mobile phone. Police and lawyers says there is lack of evidence against him as they have to put themselves on the same locus of religion and walk the thin line in deciding his motive as education or extremism/fundamentalism. There is a history of such preachers in Punjab heartland of both India and Pakistan, the preachers across Punjab may have become fierce now but there is a tradition/phenomenon of pir-giri, or one may say guru-chela. There are many examples, Guru Ram Raheem in Punjab and Haryana and Satpal Maharaj from Uttarakhand and list is countless. What is more important is to understand how masses fall into the mass following. Maulana Abdul Aziz has given that answer as well, when institutions of state and society have failed and left the masses in bereft stage then a vacuum is created which is then easily captured by these spiritual masters. In case of Maulana Aziz and his legacy which is still being casted, one cant let situation get out of hand and deals with the crises aptly in fear of not disappointing the mass followers. Infamous interior minister Sheikh Rashid has himself mentioned such distinction in treating the case of Maulana Abdul Aziz specially. One cannot afford value judgment here but conclude the story by quoting an influential Sufi philosopher yet again from Punjab, Syed Abdullah Shah Qadri, or famously known as Bulleh Shah;

Parh parh Alam te faazil hoya
Te kaday apnay aap nu parhya ee na

(You read to become all knowledgeable
But you never read yourself)
Bhaj bhaj warna ay mandir maseeti
Te kaday mann apnay wich warya ee na…

(You run to enter temples and mosques
But you never entered your own heart)

References
Munawer Azim, “Maulana Aziz, others booked in terror, sedition case,” Dawn, 19 September 2021
Malik Asad, “Maulana Abdul Aziz in the limelight again,”, Dawn, 6 February 2014
Benazir Shah and Nazar-ul Islam, “Meeting Pakistan’s Maulana Mohammad Abdul Aziz,”, Dawn, February 4 2016
Umer Farooq, “For Pakistan’s Security Establishment, Lal Masjid Is Not The Problem, Malauna Abdul Aziz Is,” The Friday Times, 28 September 2021 
Bill Roggio, “Terror alliance takes credit for Peshawar hotel assault,” FDD’s Long War Journal, 11 June 2009

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