Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar has once again asked critics to come up with evidence against Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz before calling for his trial in court.
While talking to reporters in Taxila on Tuesday, Nisar also blamed the previous government of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for letting the cleric off despite booking him in several cases.
Maulana Aziz, he said, was nominated in 31 cases, including 12 involving heinous crimes like kidnapping for ransom, murder and terrorism that could have resulted in his capital punishment. The cleric was acquitted in all these cases by lower courts during the previous government which never bothered to file appeals in high courts, the minister added.
He said Maulana Aziz was acquitted in these cases because of weak prosecution and investigations. “He [Aziz] was sentenced in only three cases under Section 506 during the PPP government and the fines amounted to Rs45,” he said. The cleric was booked in eight cases under this section, which relates to threatening someone with dire consequences.
During the previous regime, Nisar said, the Lal Masjid prayer leader was allowed to give Friday sermons and it was him who had barred Aziz from speaking on Fridays. “They [PPP] appointed his nephew as khateeb of Lal Masjid and gave security guards to Aziz. Again it was me who withdrew these guards from him,” he added.
“I have told you I will take action against Maulana Aziz if he breaks the law,” he assured the journalists. “I cannot afford bloodshed in Islamabad or any other city to serve the vested interests of others.”
Da’ish ‘not here’
The minister once again reiterated there was no organised presence in Pakistan of the ultra-extremist Islamic State group, also known by its Arabic acronym of Da’ish. Around 45 banned militant outfits are operating in the country and some of them use the name of Da’ish to spread terror, he added.
“The top hierarchy of Da’ish does not exist in Pakistan,” Nisar said. “People working for these 45 terrorist groups open a new franchise after leaving their parent organisation and start using the name of Da’ish for their activities.”
He also clarified his earlier comments on the absence of the Middle Eastern group in the country, saying he was wrongly quoted by the media. “When I say there is no Da’ish in Pakistan, I am talking about the terrorist groups active for long in Pakistan and on the watch of intelligence agencies,” he explained. “Those arrested in Daska for their links to Da’ish were former members of Jamaatud Dawa while the men detained in Karachi had been previously associated with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Likewise those arrested in Sindh were former associates of Hizb-e-Islami.”
Nisar also expressed surprise over why certain people were bent on proving the existence of Da’ish in Pakistan and highlighting the activities of terrorists. “All terrorist groups are on our target and are running away. Show me some Arabic or Northern African names of terrorists here if you want to prove the existence of Da’ish here,” he dared.
On a question about Gen Raheel Sharif’s retirement, the minister chose not to comment, saying the matter was still 10 months away.
While responding to a query regarding the Pathankot airbase attack, Nisar said a joint investigation team has been formed to probe the incident and another special investigation team would soon visit the crime scene to collect evidence.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2016.