Islamabad: Armed activists of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah forcibly occupied a mosque in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi for several hours, before police conducted negotiations with them and allowed them to leave the area.
   
Dozens of JuD activists took over of Marlazo Jamia Masjid in Gulzar-e-Qaid area near the Rawalpindi airport on Wednesday night following a quarrel with members of another group, local residents and police told the media.
   
A police contingent led by SSP (Operations) Yasin Farooq held negotiations with the armed men for 16 hours to get them to end the siege.
   
After the negotiations ended successfully, the armed men were allowed to cover their heads as they were escorted out of the mosque by policemen.
     
Local residents and other sources said that none of the JuD activists involved in the incident were arrested and that no case had been registered so far by police.
     
The JuD takeover of the mosque triggered a protest by local residents and members of the Jamaat-e-Ehl-e-Sunnat and other groups, who blocked the Airport Road for several hours.
     
"The real issue is sectarian (in nature) as a retired army officer residing near the mosque was not happy with the practices carried out by a majority of the worshippers over there," Muhammad Ali, who lives near the mosque.
     
The protesters who opposed the occupation of the mosque stoned the residence of the retired army officer.
     
However, nobody was willing to reveal the name of the officer.
     
A senior unnamed police officer confirmed to the daily that the men who occupied the mosque were members of a banned group.
     
SSP Farooq told the media that a thorough investigation of the matter will be conducted and "befitting legal action" will be taken against those involved.
     
The incident occurred six days after some 60 masked men, reportedly students of a madrassa, stormed a girls’ school in Rawalpindi and beat up some students. The attackers demanded that the girls should wear the hijab.
     
Police failed to arrest the attackers and officials later told the media that they were directed not to take any action.

(Agencies)