ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of civil society activists gathered in front of Aabpara Police Station to demand arrest of Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, after a court issued non-bailable arrest warrant for him on Friday.
The activists held placards reading “reclaim your mosque” slogans and lit candles for the Peshawar attack victims.
While addressing the participants, Adrish Ayaz, an activist, thanked the police for registering an FIR against Aziz and demanded his immediate arrest.
Ayaz also presented a charter of demands, compiled by the civil society, demanding zero tolerance for extremists and terrorists. Other demands included strict enforcement of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s code of conduct; no air time for any terror outfit or their apologists; action against online forums promoting religious extremism and hatred; and monitoring of sermons in all mosques and seminaries.
They also demanded that the government reopen all the “ghost” schools in the country and implement Article 25-A of the Constitution to honour the Peshawar attack victims.
“There is a need to remind all Pakistanis that this is our war and we are here to reclaim our mosques,” he said.
Physicist Pervaiz Hoodbhoy told The Express Tribune that there was a need to not only reform the madrassas but also our formal school syllabus in order to get rid of terrorism and extremism.
Alia Mirza, another activist, demanded a crackdown against banned outfits.
Rights campaigner Marvi Sirmad said there was also a need to broaden the definition of terrorism by including in it the violence against Christians, Hindus, and Ahmadis. She also castigated Amir Liaqat’s remarks against Ahmadis, which she said was also a form of terrorism.
Aqib Sajjad, a visually-impaired participant, said case against Aziz was a litmus test for government’s seriousness in fight against terrorism.
Activist Farzana Bari also called for madrassa and school reforms. “Because this is the only way to develop a counter narrative against extremism,” she said, adding that mosque is place to spread the message of peace and love for humanity. “We need to reclaim our mosques.”
Jibran Nasir, who has spearheaded the protest, lauded the case against the cleric and demanded addition of anti-terrorism clauses to the FIR.
Aabpara Police Station SHO Khalid Awan said he had sent an application to the legal branch to include anti-terrorism clauses in the FIR. “The application is in process. We are not facing pressure from any quarter and would arrest the cleric in due time.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2014.