Pakistani cleric threatens attacks against officials


Support TwoCircles

Islamabad : A radical Pakistani cleric has warned the government of retaliatory attacks on officials if a number of his students being held in custody are not released, local media reported Saturday.

"If intelligence agencies continue to kidnap our students, we will start kidnapping their personnel. The hostages will be kept on the mosque premises," the Daily Times quoted Maulana Abdul Aziz, the administrator of Islamabad's notorious Lal Masjid, as saying.

Dozens of his supporters, mainly male and female students of two madrassa religious schools affiliated with the mosque, last month abducted two police officers following the detention of two of their colleagues.

The female students were later released but authorities have since detained about six more students for inciting unrest.

The hostages were later traded for the release of the detained students.

Backed by thousands of students, the hardline cleric has also tried to enforce strict Islamic law in the capital and pledged to trigger a wave of suicide attacks in case of any action against the mosque.

Baton-wielding male students, who were accompanied by burqa-clad female counterparts, under an anti-vice drive also issued warnings to owners of audio and visual entertainment stores to close their businesses.

President Pervez Musharraf is under mounting pressure to use force against the mosque and madrassa pupils. Fearing a backlash from religious conservatives, he has favoured a negotiated solution, but the standoff continues.

However, Maulana Aziz said holding talks with the government did not mean that Lal Masjid would abandon its demand for nationwide implementation of Sharia law.