Prominent Pakistani cleric Maulana Samiul Haq, who was also known as the ‘Father of Taliban,’ was stabbed to death at his residence in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on Friday, 2 November.
82-year-old Haq, a heart patient, was the head of the Islamic religious seminary Darul Uloom Haqqania in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Akora Khattak town and also the chief of the hardline political party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Sami (JUI-S), the Geo News reported.
WHAT WE KNOW
Haq's son, Hamidul Haq, said his father was alone in his bedroom when he was attacked by an assailant, who escaped undetected. Hamidul confirmed that his father was attacked with knife, reported PTI.
“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.”Hamidul Haq
Police say Haq was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died. JUI-S's Peshawar president also confirmed Haq's death following an assassination attempt in Rawalpindi.
Yousaf Shah, Haq's spokesman, told The Associated Press that neither the attacker nor their motive was yet known.
So far, no outfit has claimed the responsibility of the killing.
A probe has been launched to nab the assailants who apparently escaped on a motorbike, police said.
Haq's funeral services will be held at 2:00 PM on Saturday in Akora Khattak.
Soon after his death, scores of Haq’s supporters rioted, damaging shops and vehicles in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Haq’s family appealed to his followers to remain peaceful.
Haq’s death comes after Pakistan’s Supreme Court on 31 October, set aside the death sentence for Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who was earlier convicted of blasphemy and accused of insulting Prophet Muhammad.
Several groups have been protesting against the Supreme Court's ruling and Haq’s death is likely to exacerbate the already volatile situation in the country.
WHO WAS SAMIUL HAQ
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 organization, was one of dozens of Taliban leaders who graduated from Haq's seminary, located in the conservative Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province on the border with Afghanistan.
Haq’s seminary, which was dubbed as the “University of Jihad”, had several other extremist leader among its alumni including Haqqani Network founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AIQS) leader Asim Umar and slain Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.
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-long war there.
Haq was elected twice to Pakistan's parliament on Islami Jamhoori Itehad ticket.
He was also the chairman of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council – an umbrella coalition of more than 40 groups, including Hafeez Saeed-led Jamat-ud Dawa (JuD) and the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba.
POLITICAL LEADERS CONDEMN ATTACK
Pakistan's President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned Haq's killing.
"We lost a great scholar and religious leader today," said Khan in a statement from China where he is on an official visit.
Khan was widely criticized for embracing Haq ahead of Pakistan's July elections that put the former cricketer-turned-politician in power. Khan's provincial government in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa donated millions of dollars to Haq's hard-line seminary. He defended the move saying he wanted to see Pakistan's thousands of madrassas, or religious schools, broaden their curriculum.
Former PM Nawaz Sharif reportedly said:
“I am very sad to learn this has happened. I pray God has mercy on Pakistan. May the deceased’s ranks be raised [in Heaven] and may his bereaved family members be granted patience.”
Meanwhile, his brother and Leader of Opposition in Pakistan's National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif called Haq's murder a "despicable ploy to cause further disturbance in Pakistan", as he called for unity of the nation.
(With inputs from AP, PTI and Dawn.)