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Pak govt holds talks with cleric
K J M Varma in Islamabad | July 10, 2007 03:25 IST
The Pakistan government on Monday night held last-ditch talks over loudspeakers and cell phones with a radical cleric and hundreds of militants holed up in Lal Masjid in Islamabad.
There were little indications of a breakthrough.
"Based on the talks held so far I cannot say that there can be a big breakthrough. But this is an effort which are making based on humanitarian considerations to save the lives of those holed up in the mosque complex," Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani told the media after the talks at the besieged mosque.
Durrani, who was part of the government delegation, said the talks to arrange the surrender of the Masjid's deputy administrator Abdul Rashid Ghazi under the supervision of a district sessions judge as directed by the Supreme Court continued till late into the night through cell phones.
The decision to send the delegation was taken by President Pervez Musharraf [Images] at a high-level meeting on ways to resolve the crisis after security forces put on hold any move to storm the mosque.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the government would allow Ghazi to be held under house arrest with his ailing mother if he surrenders and frees the trapped women and children.
The delegation that went close to the mosque complex was headed by former Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and consisted of seven top clerics of the country.
The delegation first contacted Ghazi over the loud speakers but later on his request slipped in a mobile phone through which the two sides discussed. Earlier, attempts by both sides to meet failed as Hussain rejected Ghazi's request to go into the mosque.
Durrani said there was no question of going inside as the militants have already held eight parents, who went inside, as hostages. Instead, a request has been made to Ghazi to come to talk, which he rejected saying that he cannot trust.