Pakistan cleric calls for sharia

Former head of Islamabad's Red Mosque rejoins supporters following release on bail.

    After being detained for almost two years, Aziz returned to the Red Mosque on Friday [AFP]

    "We are peaceful people but if our way is blocked then you have witnessed the scenes in Swat and in Fata," he said, referring to the ethnic Pashtun Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the Afghan border.

    Released on bail

    On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ordered Aziz's release from house arrest on 200,000 rupees ($2,500) bail.

    His lawyer said that 27 cases had been filed against him and bail had been granted earlier in 25 of them while one case had been dropped.

    The Red Mosque, in the heart of the Pakistani capital, made international headlines in July 2007 when more commandos stormed the complex after a week-long standoff with Aziz's followers.

    More than 100 people were killed in the ensuing violence.

    'Sacrifices'

    The Mosque had been under surveillance after students occupied a neighbouring building and mounted a self-proclaimed anti-vice drive that included the kidnapping of seven Chinese nationals who the students claimed were prostitutes.

    Aziz was caught trying to slip out of the mosque dressed in a woman's burqa during the 2007 standoff with security forces, days before the commando assault on the Mosque.

    His brother, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, also a cleric at the mosque, was killed in the assault.

    Those in favour of the enforcement of a strict version of sharia, or Islamic law, in Pakistan received a boost recently after the government agreed to the imposition of a strict interpretation of sharia in the northwestern Swat valley as part of a deal to halt violence in the area.

    Speaking at prayers on Friday, Aziz said: "The implementation of Islam being seen in Swat, the implementation of Islam being seen in the tribal areas today, is because of the sacrifices of the Red Mosque. We have to speed up our struggle."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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