By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the bail release of a hard-line cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz Wednesday.
In 2007, Pakistani soldiers raided a mosque in Islamabad because dozens of heavily armed Al-Qaeda militants were inside and refused to surrender. Aziz was arrested when Pakistani soldiers besieged the mosque while he attempted to sneak out dressed in a burqa. As a result of the raid, about 102 people were killed.
Subsequently, suicide bombings and other attacks on the government ensued. This has left more than 1,700 people dead.
Aziz faces 27 various charges including abetting terrorists and illegally occupying a building. He was granted bail by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in exchange for 500,000 rupees (approximately $6,214). Aziz’s lawyer, Shaukat Siddiqui, stated that the only case left before the court was the charge of abetment. He said that the court noted that “bail cannot be withheld on mere charges of abetment.” He added, “It observed that there is no such material which should deprive him bail.” Pending his release, he was moved out of prison and was detained in a house in Rawalpindi.
Aziz was released from house arrest last Thursday. He vows to lead a campaign for Islamic law without violence.
“God willing, the day is not far away when Islam will be enforced in the whole of Pakistan,” Aziz said. “Our struggle has always been peaceful, and we will continue this struggle for the enforcement of Islamic laws in the country.”
“He’s learned no lessons, nothing’s changed as far as his agenda is concerned,” said Zafar Hilaly, a political analyst and former ambassador. “It’s troubling. His supporters will take a lot of heart, as will extremists, who think they’re on a roll.”
According to BBC News, the release of Aziz demonstrates President Asif Ali Zardari’s struggle to control militancy in the northwest part of Pakistan. It is also an example of Pakistan’s history of failure to prosecute militants. Critics say the difficulty in holding perpetrators responsible lies in the cooperation between radicals and national security forces.
For more information, please see:
AFP – Pakistan Red Mosque Cleric Granted Bail: Lawyer – 15 April 2009
Associated Press – Pakistan Grants Bail to Hard-Line Red Mocleric – 15 April 2009
Associated Press – Radical Pakistani Cleric Released on Bail – 17 April 2009
BBC News – Pakistan Red Mosque Cleric Bailed – 15 April 2009
Los Angeles Times – Militant Pakistani Cleric Out on Bail Remains Defiant – 17 April 2009