ISLAMABAD-The Lal Masjid standoff continued for the third consecutive week on Friday as the former cleric continues pressing the authorities with his ‘illegal’ demands including his re-appointment as Khateeb Lal Masjid and that the government should pay Rs30m in lieu of construction cost of Jamia Hafsa in H-11 and a new plot against the cancelled H-11 plot be allotted.

The authorities have been on their toes since weeks with a literal siege of the mosque in the heart of the capital. According to the sources, earlier, district administration was negotiating with Maulana Abdul Aziz and had reached a way out but the former cleric remained stuck to his demands, being viewed illegal by the authorities.

After three rounds of the talks between the district administration and some local clerics including JUI-F Islamabad chapter chief Maulana Abdul Hameed Hazarvi, there was no progress on the issue. They said, later, Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, Moavia Azam Tariq, son of Maulana Azam Tariq and a member of the Punjab Provincial Assembly from Jhang, and some other clerics were involved in the negotiation process between Maulana Abdul Aziz and the high-ups at the Interior Ministry but Aziz was not ready to step back from his demands thus leading to a continuous standoff.

On Friday, the authorities allowed the locals and seminary students to offer Friday prayers inside the mosque and again sealed the premises. Maulana Abdul Aziz is holed up inside the mosque along with several female students and his wife Umm-e-Hassan.

He delivered the Friday sermon as a considerable number of people were present in the mosque. The police deployed around the mosque looked ready to deal with anything that might happen in the wake of the standoff.

The sources said that the government was not in a position to accept the demands put by Maulana Abdul Aziz due to certain legalities involved in the matter. They said the government has legal bindings and the law cannot be amended only to accommodate one person.

Maulana Abdul Aziz is not authorised to lead prayers or deliver Friday sermons at the state-owned Lal Masjid after he retired from the government service.

The H-11 plot was cancelled on the directions of the Supreme Court in April 2019, according to the officials. CDA had cancelled allotment of the Jamia Hafsa H-11 plot as it lacked legal requirements and a no-objection certificate from the Authority. Maulana Abdul Aziz has also demanded the government to lift the blockades and clear the roads outside the mosque but the authorities were not ready to do so due to the possibility of a law and order situation.

Since 2007, Lal Masjid’s name has popped up repeatedly, sometimes due to protests by the religious parties and this time again due to Maulana Abdul Aziz. Lal Masjid started making headlines again few weeks back after Maulana Abdul Aziz entered the mosque along with several female students of religious seminaries being run by Umm-e-Hassan, wife of Maulana Abdul Aziz.