Anti-Taliban cleric killed in Pakistan suicide blast

A prominent Pakistani cleric who spoke out against the Taliban and supported the government’s military operation against militants has been killed in a suicide bomb attack on his seminary.

Sarfraz Naeemi, who had organised demonstrations against the Taliban and helped form an alliance of religious organisations opposed to their often brutal interpretation of Islam, was attacked at his mosque complex in Lahore just after leading Friday prayers. “Unfortunately, Maulana Sarfraz Naeemi has been martyred,”  said Pervez Rathore, the head of the city’s police force. Another person was also killed and several injured.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, Mr Naeemi’s high-profile campaign in which he denounced the Taliban had made him and his mosque highly vulnerable. Last month, the newly created Sunni Ittehad Council, made up of 22 different groups, held a news conference where they said the Taliban’s authoritarian brand of Islam was creating problems for moderate Muslims and that it supported the military’s operation to drive them from the Swat Valley and elsewhere.  

 Announcing a “Save Pakistan” campaign, the group, which claimed to represent around 85m followers of the moderate Barelvi school of Sunni Islam, declared, “We strongly condemn the Taliban and urge the Pakistan military to eliminate them at the earliest.”

The group said it intended to “unveil the real face of the Taliban before the public” by highlighting public executions and floggings. It would do this by delivering sermons at Friday prayers and holding rallies and conferences. Some members of the alliance even said they were ready to take up arms against the Taliban.

 Among Pakistan’s Sunni Muslims, it is estimated there is an even divide between the differing Barelvi and Deobandi schools. The Taliban doctrine represents a violent shift from Deobandi Islam. Deobandis control around 60 per cent of the country’s madrassas.

Mr Naeemi’s mosque and seminary were moderate and the 125 students from poor families received a broader education than that offered in most Pakistani madrassas.

Computer studies and maths were taught alongside more traditional Islamic practices such as learning to recite the Koran. Mr Naeemi and other members of the alliance said they were monitoring young students in their seminaries who might be vulnerable to approaches from militants after it was reported the Taliban may be targeting such institutions for recruits.

His brother, Tajwar Naeemi, said seven people were wounded in the attack that killed the cleric. “When I came out of the office a few people went in and the suicide bomber was probably among them,” he told Reuters.

At almost exactly the same time that the seminary in Lahore was attacked, leaving part of the building destroyed, a suicide car-bomber set off a device near a mosque in the north-western town of Nowshera, killing at least three people and wounding more than 100. Police official Aziz Khan said it was possible that more people could be trapped in the rubble. “We fear that there could be more deaths. We are waiting for the equipment to remove the debris,” he said.

In recent weeks there has been a wave of attacks in Pakistan’s cities. The Pakistan Taliban has claimed responsibility for a number of the incidents, saying they were carried out in response to the military’s operation to drive militants from the Swat. 

Despite the revenge attacks, the government of Asif Ali Zardari and the Pakistan army appear determined to press on with the effort. Indeed, yesterday they stepped up their operation, with police in Bannu, a town in North West Frontier Province adjacent to North Waziristan, reporting that the army had been firing at militant positions throughout the night. The army says that up to 130 militants have been killed in the fighting near Bannu this week. Confirming such claims is impossible as journalists are prevented from reaching much of the conflict zone.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea