ISLAMABAD-Situation remained tense around Lal Masjid for another day on Friday as former cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, his family and the female students did not vacate the premises even after the expiry of the given deadline.

Under immense pressure, the authorities, however, allowed the local residents and male students of the religious seminaries to offer Friday prayers inside the mosque after a sizeable crowd gathered outside the premises, demanding the authorities to open the mosque doors where Maulana Abdul Aziz has holed up along with several students of Jamia Hafsa. Soon after the prayers were offered, the authorities asked the public to leave the premises and sealed the mosque again. They did not leave anybody inside for offering the Asr prayers and few of the male students of the religious seminaries being run by Maulana Abdul Aziz and the locals offered the Asr prayers on the road in front of the mosque.

Lal Masjid was again cordoned off by the law-enforcement agencies on Wednesday evening after the deadline given to former cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz to vacate the premises expired. According to reports, an agreement was reached between the capital city administration and Maulana Abdul Aziz on Sunday under which he was promised a piece of land for Jamia Hafsa and the mosque was to be vacated in return. However, Maulana’s nephew, Haroon Abdul Rasheed Ghazi denied that they had agreed to vacate the mosque. Police, personnel from the Counter-Terrorism Force, commandos, riot police and women police officials were seen camping around the Lal Masjid and no one was being allowed to move inside. Personnel of the law-enforcing agencies had been deployed around the mosque on Municipal Road, Masjid Road and Shaheed-i-Millat Road. Since Thursday, entry into the mosque has been restricted. Police has been guarding the area since three weeks when Maulana Abdul Aziz entered the mosque ‘in breach of the agreement with the local administration.’ Since then it is tense around the mosque with the female students clad in black burqa roaming inside the premises.

Few of the male students of the religious seminaries were seen roaming outside the mosque with a pledge to stand by Maulana Abdul Aziz. A young student who did not disclose his name to this scribe, said that the government was not allowing them to perform their prayers inside the mosque. Aged between 16 and 17 years and standing in a group of his age fellows, he was a sort of investigator, questioning the scribe about his purpose of the curiosity. The residents of the area and the bystanders were seen watching the police deployed around the mosque with curiosity and concern. The capital administration has also banned the entry of women and girls in the mosque.

The mosque is under the administrative control of the Auqaf department, and only an official from the department can be appointed khateeb or naib khateeb on a regular basis, according to the officials. They said that the occupants at the moment have demanded the position of khateeb but neither Aziz nor his nephew Haroon Abdul Rasheed Ghazi are Auqaf employees. The house and seminary, which they have claimed ownership of are built on government land.

On the other side, the authorities have been trying to resolve the issue amicable through negotiations. According to the officials, visit of Turkish President to Pakistan was also a factor which cautioned restraint for them when it comes to use of force to vacate the mosque premises from what they view illegal occupants. Aziz had demanded land for the Jamia Hafsa seminary at locations that were not acceptable to the government, the officials said.