Abdul Aziz Ghazi
|Abdul Aziz Ghazi|
|Abdul Aziz Ghazi, the elder brother of Abdul Rashid Ghazi.|
Muhammad Abdul Aziz is a Pakistani cleric, son of Maulana Muhammad Abdullah and elder brother of Abdul Rashid Ghazi. He was the Khateeb (prayer leader) in the central mosque of Islamabad known as Lal Masjid, which was the site of a siege in 2007 with the Pakistani army. On July 4, 2007, he was arrested by the Pakistani police as he was trying to escape the complex while dressed in a burqa. According to his account, he was forced by authorities to wear the burqa .
Darul Uloom Deoband, India
Muhammad Abdul Aziz is the son of Maulana Muhammad Abdullah, the first prayer leader of Lal-Masjid. He is descended from Sadwani clan of Mazari tribe in the town of Rojhan at the border of southern Punjab and Balochistan. Pakistan's last military ruler, General Zia-ul-Haq, was said to be very close to Maulana Abdullah. Aziz came to Islamabad as a six-year-old boy from his home town in Punjab, when his father was appointed Khateeb of Lal-Masjid in 1966. He grew up in the liberal atmosphere of Islamabad. After studying for few years in a public school, he was later sent to Karachi to study in the most renowned religious seminary. He is recognized as a religious scholar by his contemporaries.
Maulana Abdul Aziz served as officially designated prayer leader in government constructed and owned Lal-Masjid until 2005 when he was dismissed from service (but never removed) after he issued a "fatwa" (religious decree) against the army officers who were fighting against the Taliban and their supporters in the tribal areas close to the Afghan border. In the fatwa he declared that none of the army officers who were killed in the fighting in tribal area was a martyr and religious sanctions were not available for their funeral. His fatwa irked the government and he was dismissed from service. But in fact, the government has not attempted to remove him from his post. A replacement cleric was appointed for Lal-Masjid, but female supporters refused to pray behind anyone other than Aziz. It is speculated that President Musharraf did not want to stir up popular unrest in an already tense national political atmosphere due to massive support for Aziz within Islamabad.
Since January 2007, his activities became more political than religious. He constantly issued fatwas on various public affairs and created the Lal Masjid brigade from students of Jamia Hafsa. He closely followed the supreme leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, and typically resisted being photographed.
Maulana Abdul Aziz is a graduate of Jamia-tul-Uloom-il-Islaamiyyah Banuri Town, a Madrassah in Karachi, where he studied the customary Dars-e-Nizami, which is taught at the most elementary level of religious education in Pakistan.
Tensions between the government and religious students led by Abdul Aziz had simmered over the demolition of mosques. However, Islamabad was shaken out of its political stupor by the female students and teachers of the seminary in the last week of March. They announced the launch of a "moral drive" against all "immoral activities" in the federal capital. Coming on the heels of these actions by the female students was the announcement by the cleric Abdul Aziz for the establishment of a parallel Taliban style court system, which would punish perpetrators of moral crimes in the federal capital. He issued a one month ultimatum from his pulpit to the government to clean Islamabad of all "immoral activities."
He also warned the government in clear words that his students could resort to suicide attacks in the case of a violent police operation launched against the seminary. "If the government fails to eradicate all these moral evils from the society within the specified period of one month the students of the seminary would themselves take actions against all the people involved in such activities," said Maulana Abdul Aziz while addressing Friday Prayer congregation at Lal Masjid.
In his speech the cleric declared drugs, music, movies, and photographs of women as moral evils. His students subsequently resorted to various acts of vandalism, violence, kidnapping, and arson. They even ordered local barbers not to shave men to force them grow beards in accordance with the "teachings of Islam".
The Lal Masjid brigade came to public notice when they kidnapped accused prostitutes from Islamabad's residential areas and then later kidnapped several police officers. The brigade increased their activities and took to the crime of kidnapping Chinese workers from very famous massage centers. This particular event created international pressure on Pakistan, especially from the Chinese government.
On July 3, 2007, the standoff with the government ended in bloody gun battles in which more than 100 were killed and scores wounded. A FIR was later registered against brothers with charges ranging from kidnapping, and murder to treason, and terrorism.
To avoid collateral loss, on July 4, 2007 at 8.05 PM local time., the government offered amnesty to juvenile students if they surrendered. Hundreds of his student followers reportedly surrendered. Aziz was arrested while leaving the complex disguised in a burqa.
Many people falsely believe the way he was arrested does not fit a person who was preaching to others to sacrifice their lives for the cause. According to Shah Abdul Aziz, the justification for his cross-dressing escape is that, "He was deceived. He was called by a senior official of an intelligence agency with whom he has been in touch for long. Since this man could not enter into the mosque to meet him (to save his cover and identity) he asked Maulana Aziz to come down to Aabpara police station, situated on a walking distance from the mosque and asked him to wear a burqa to avoid identification."
Maulana Abdul Aziz was released on April 16, 2009 by the Pakistani supreme court as he awaited trial on charges of murder, incitement, and kidnapping. He was greeted by throngs of supporters.
- Religious Cleric Threatens Suicide Attacks
- Profile: Islamabad's red mosque
- Red Mosque leader attempts to flee in burka
- Mosque leader in burqa escape bid
- "Red mosque siege leader walks free to hero's welcome". The Guardian. April 17, 2009. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
- Lal Masjid
- DAWN.COM | Archive | Your Source of News on the World Wide Web Newspaper report on Maulana Aziz's arrest.