Islamabad, Nov.13: A heavy contingent of police and Pakistani Rangers has been deployed in the areas surrounding Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad to maintain law and order in the wake of cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz leading a rally. In an earlier press release, Aziz had said that he plans to launch a fresh movement for the enforcement of a system based on the Holy Quran and Sunnah after Friday prayers today.(Read: India-Korea sign MoU to enhance bilateral air service cooperation)

The rally, led by Aziz and Umme Hassan, the head of the Jamia Hafsa seminary, is expected to comprise of students of the seminary and is currently under way, reports the Dawn. Those attending the rally shouted anti-government slogans in favour of Maulana Abdul Aziz. They also demanded the enforcement of a system based on the Quran and Sunnah.

Lal Masjid was in the news eight years ago when Pakistani troops laid siege to it in the month of July after being confronted by Islamic fundamentalist militants. The siege was ordered by then President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. The focal points of the operation then also were the Lal Masjid and the Jamia Hafsa madrasah complex.

Since January 2006, Lal Masjid and the adjacent Jamia Hafsa madrasah had been operated by Islamic militants led by two brothers, Maulana Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Ghazi. This organization advocated the imposition of Sharia (Islamic religious law) in Pakistan and openly called for the overthrow of the Pakistani government.

Lal Masjid was in constant conflict with authorities in Islamabad for 18 months prior to the military operation. They engaged in violent demonstrations, destruction of property, kidnapping, arson and armed clashes with the authorities. After Lal Masjid militants set fire to the Ministry of Environment building and attacked the Army Rangers who guarded it, the military responded, and the siege of the Lal Masjid complex began.

The complex was besieged from July 3 to July 11, 2007, while negotiations were attempted between the militants and the state’s representatives Shujaat Hussain and Ijaz-ul-Haq. Once the negotiations failed, the complex was stormed and captured by the Pakistan Army’s Special Service Group.