Pakistani Radical Cleric Captured From

Red Mosque Leader Arrested in Burqa

Dawn reports,

‘ Maulana Aziz was caught after a group of 50 burqa-clad women from the mosque started screaming as they were taken to a nearby school for security checks after giving themselves up, saying the procedure was un-Islamic.

“Our officers spotted his (Aziz’s) unusual demeanour. The rest of the girls looked like girls, but he was taller and had a pot-belly,” an official said. ‘

Dawn says that the cleric, Abdul Aziz Ghazi, had holed up and refused to surrender unconditionally, then attempted to slip out when women caught in the siege were permitted by police to leave:

‘ “After all the things he has said and all the oaths he took from his students that they should embrace martyrdom with him, look at this man,” Minister of State for Information Tariq Azeem said.

Another 1,000 or seminarians and other persons at the mosque were captured, but several hundred holdouts remained inside Thursday morning, when loud blasts were heard.

Authorities fear that the remaining jihadis, may use the women and children with them as human shields.

Most of the militants appear to be ethnic Pushtuns and from the neo-Deobandi school of South Asian Islam that also produced the Taliban. Islamabad and Rawalpindi are largely Punjabi in ethnicity, and most Muslims there belong to other schools of Islam, including the milder reformist strain of the Barelvis. Last I knew, there were few Deobandi mosques in Punjabi cities such as Rawalpindi and Lahore, and the few that existed were not influential.

Dawn is talking about the government giving many of the seminarians bus fare back up to the Northwest Frontier Province, the largely Pushtun province in the north that has come under heavy neo-Deobandi influence through seminaries such as the Haqqaniya. Most Pushtuns are not fundamentalists, but there is now a higher proportion of fundamentalists among them than is common in other Pakistani ethnic groups, such as the Punjabis, Sindhis, and Urdu speakers.

The major protests against the government’s crackdown on the mosque appear mostly to have been held in towns and cities with big Deobandi and/or Pushtun populations, such as the northern town of Mingora, or in Quetta, where there are a lot of Deobandi seminarians and clerics. A protest was held by the Ashrafiya Mosque in Lahore, a southern Punjabi city, but it doesn’t seem to have been that significant.

It is said that the image of the pot-bellied mawlana in a burqa has provoked a good deal of mirth among the Pakistani populace as a whole.

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