Is Islamabad on the brink of another confrontation at Lal Masjid as TTP joins the fray

Ghazi has been booked by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) on terror charges along with four other people. He has been booked under the charges of rioting with weapons, unlawful assembly, obstructing public servants and attempt to commit qatl-i-amd - which means that the cleric tried to cause death.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has threatened Pakistani security forces after they tried to arrest Abdul Aziz Ghazi - the controversial cleric of the famous Lal Masjid at Islamabad.

Ghazi has been booked by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) on terror charges along with four other people. He has been booked under the charges of rioting with weapons, unlawful assembly, obstructing public servants and attempt to commit qatl-i-amd - which means that the cleric tried to cause death.

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The Lal Masjid, which has always been associated with terror outfits and radical students is no stranger to controversy. It is known to shelter terrorists and radical elements from internationally proscribed terror groups.

On behalf of the TTP militants, spokesperson Muhammad Khurasani issued a statement threatening the CTD with severe consequences if the radical cleric Ghazi was harmed. The forces had tried to question the cleric on Wednesday after which tension prevailed in the Pakistani capital.

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Burqa-clad women students from the mosque blocked roads and beat up police women with sticks.

Umme Hasaan, the wife of the maulana, sought help from the TTP, inviting the banned terror group to intervene. In her fiery speech, she sought revenge and threatened suicide attacks on Pakistani security personnel. The TTP has been running a campaign against the Pakistan government and the security forces ever since the Taliban came to power in neighbouring Afghanistan in 2021.

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In her video, the maulana's wife said: "I urged TTP to kill CTD ISI armed or unarmed, as you have killed them... before... if they do something to Maulana Abdul Aziz, we will kill 1,000 for one". She said in her viral video that the students of the Lal Masjid seminary had earlier braved the brutality of President General Pervez Musharraf, adding that the government now has forgotten about the suicide bombers.

Pakistan's security forces said there were reports of firing by the maulana's supporters from the Lal Masjid.

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Pakistan's security forces are already under attack from the TTP which wants to install a Sharia-compliant government in Islamabad. The group which operates from the Afghan-Pakistan border areas has led a campaign against Pakistan's security forces in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces killing hundreds of police personnel in the last few months. One of their major operations included the takeover of the Karachi Police Headquarters and the bombing of a mosque in Peshawar that killed 101 people, mostly policemen.

In 2007, clerics and students of the Lal Masjid had unleashed a campaign of terror by indulging in kidnappings, violent demonstrations and attacks on security personnel for over 18 months. Finally, General Musharraf was forced to launch a security operation to cleanse the mosque and the madrassa of terrorists. China also mounted diplomatic pressure on Islamabad as the Lal Masjid students had kidnapped seven Chinese women.

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The Lal Masjid operation took the lives of 100 security personnel, madrassa students, clerics and other people. The commando operation also found terrorists from the Lashkar-e-Tayiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islami with a huge array of Ak-47 guns, hand grenades, petrol bombs and rocket launchers.

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