Saturday 21 September 2019

Pakistan’s ‘father of Taliban’ cleric killed in knife attack

Maulana Samiul Haq’s son said his father was alone in his home in Rawalpindi when he was attacked by an assailant.

Samiul Haq (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash, File)
Samiul Haq (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash, File)

By Munir Ahmed and Riaz Khan, Associated Press

Prominent Pakistani cleric Maulana Samiul Haq, known as the “father of the Taliban”, has been killed in a knife attack at his home in Rawalpindi, his family and police said.

Haq’s son Hamidul Haq said his father was alone in his bedroom when he was attacked by an assailant, who escaped undetected.

“My father has been martyred. He was alone at his home. His guard had gone out minutes before the attack and upon his return he saw my father in critical condition,” he told reporters.

Police say Haq, 81, was taken to a nearby hospital where he died.

Supporters outside the hospital in Rawalpindi (BK Bangash/AP)

Yousaf Shah, Haq’s spokesman, told the Associated Press that neither the attacker nor the motive was known.

Soon after his death, scores of Haq’s supporters rioted, damaging shops and vehicles in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. His family appealed to his followers to remain peaceful.

A well-known religious scholar with a large following among radical Islamists, Haq was the head of his faction of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI) party.

Haq’s sprawling Haqqani seminary taught many of Afghanistan’s Taliban and thousands of other students a strict interpretation of Islam.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Haqqani network, a US-designated terrorist organisation, was one of dozens of Taliban leaders who graduated from Haq’s seminary in the conservative Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province on the border with Afghanistan.

Maulana Samiul Haq, left, with Syed Munawar Hasan, the head of the Jamaat-e-Islami party (KM Chaudary/AP)

In recent weeks, dozens of Afghan clerics had appealed to Haq to use his influence with Afghanistan’s Taliban to plot a path to peace that would end the 17-year war there.

Pakistan’s president Arif Alvi and prime minister Imran Khan condemned Haq’s killing.

“We lost a great scholar and religious leader today,” said Mr Khan in a statement from China where he is on an official visit.

Mr Khan was widely criticised for embracing Haq ahead of Pakistan’s July elections that put the former cricketer-turned-politician in power.

His provincial government in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa donated millions of pounds to Haq’s hardline seminary.

He defended the move saying he wanted to see Pakistan’s thousands of madrassas, or religious schools, broaden their curriculum.

Haq’s funeral is expected to be held on Saturday in Akora Khattak.

PA Media

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