Maulana Aziz returns to Islamabad in triumph


The leader of the July 2007 insurrection in Islamabad has been released from custody and will preach at the very mosque where he and his followers staged their battle against the Pakistani government.

Maulana Abdullah Aziz, the former leader of the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, was freed by the Pakistani Supreme Court on $2,500 bail yesterday after spending less than two years under house arrest. Aziz was greeted by throngs of students from the Lal Masjid and other supporters as he was released from jail.

According to the current leader of the Lal Masjid, Aziz will deliver the sermon this Friday, just one day after his release, The News reported.

Aziz's release from prison and the planned sermon at the Lal Masjid constitute the third major victory for the Taliban this week. Just days earlier, the Pakistani government approved the enforcement of sharia, or Islamic Law, in the vast Malakand Division, an area that encompasses more than one-third of the Northwest Frontier Province. Within the same time period, the Taliban marched into Buner unopposed and took over the district, which is just 60 miles from Islamabad. The Taliban followed their victory in Buner with a brazen armed road march through several districts that have yet to fall under Taliban control.

During the early months of 2007, Aziz and his brother Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, who ran the Lal Masjid complex together, attempted to establish an Islamic mini-state in the heart of Islamabad. Their followers established the Lal Masjid Brigade, an armed group of followers who enforced sharia on the streets of Islamabad in a region less than one mile from the parliament and the president's residence. Ghazi and Aziz's followers occupied buildings surrounding the Red Mosque complex, beat so-called prostitutes, and kidnapped civilians and police officers.

Security forces stormed the Red Mosque complex after heavy fighting on the streets in Islamabad in late May and early July. Eleven security personnel and more than 100 students were killed during the operation. Ghazi himself was among those killed. Although several hundred followers of the Red Mosque were detained, they were quickly released. Aziz was the last person involved in the Lal Masjid uprising to be still in government detention.

Aziz has strong links to al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, including Osama bin Laden; Mullah Omar; and Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed's Law]; as well as TNSM/Taliban leaders Fariq Mohammed (Bajaur), Mullah Fazlullah (Swat), and Omar Khalid (Mohmand).

Both Ghazi and Aziz were behind the 2004 fatwa, or religious edict, which stated that Pakistani soldiers killed while fighting against the Taliban and al Qaeda in South Waziristan did not deserve a Muslim funeral or burial at Muslim cemeteries. This fatwa had an impact on Pakistani soldiers and some refused to fight.

The assault on the Lal Masjid was a rallying cry for Pakistan's Taliban. Shortly after the assault, the Northwest Frontier Province and the tribal areas, already suffering a deadly insurgency, exploded in violence as the Taliban doubled attacks against security forces and government installations. The government has responded by launching limited military offensives followed by peace negotiations that have increasingly ceded ground to the Taliban.


For more information on Maulana Abdullah Aziz's release from prison and the insurrection at the Lal Masjid, see: Pakistan releases Red Mosque leader who led insurrection in capital.



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READER COMMENTS: "Maulana Aziz returns to Islamabad in triumph"

Posted by C. Jordan at April 16, 2009 3:20 PM ET:

Spare the rod, spoil the child

Posted by Spooky at April 16, 2009 3:48 PM ET:

I hope so. Another one of those sieges, coupled with Mumbai-style tactics and the current state of Pakistan, would be far far worse than last time.

Posted by Neo at April 16, 2009 7:54 PM ET:

The Taliban's latest road march indicated which direction they will move. Consider it a probe of whether the police would interfere with them. Looks like it was very successful too. They will likely move into the Swabi district than encircle the city of Mardan. Mardan may well be the first city they move on. They will be looking for a test case this summer, to see how things go as they start moving into more populated areas.

Posted by Spooky at April 16, 2009 10:23 PM ET:

One has to be wary of the future. Pakistan at this point of its existance is like Humpty Dumpty: Once it falls, all the kings horses and all the kings men will not be able to put it together again. Balkanization is almost a guarentee at this point.

This balkanization, if it happens, will make Yugoslavia look like a cakewalk. It really is a worst case scenario and it isn't foreign billions that will keep it from happening. What it will take does not exist. Only the Punjabis and Sindhis still believe in the idea of Pakistan anymore, and moreso the former than the latter.

If the state falls, Balochistan will take the first opportunity to break free in the same way Somaliland did with Somalia proper in 1991. US/India would be moving into NWFP, including North Balochistan as part of that mess. What happens to it after it is secured depends on what remains of Pakistan. India (especially under the BJP) would take the remains of Kashmir, ostensibly to take out terrorists and get a land connection to Afghanistan/NWFP to help out the Americans. Taking into account the remnants of the Pakistani Army in its delusions of sovereignity at that point, all of this has the potential to be very bad.

The GoP is leading the region into a nightmare.

Posted by Mwaqar at April 17, 2009 6:46 PM ET:

I am really shocked to see that they released this thug,criminal and terrorist.

Posted by Rhyno327 at April 18, 2009 11:42 AM ET:

PAK soveriegnty is a JOKE. They just let a viper out of its pit to bite them again. US should ramp up the air strikes, the end is near for Pakistan. R.I.P