An influential Pakistani cleric has denied accusations that he was drunk when he appeared on television and claimed he has been the victim of a smear campaign launched by political opponents.
Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, who heads a powerful body that advises the government on issues relating to Islam, found himself at the centre of widespread criticism and ridicule when he appeared on a news channel and appeared to be slurring his words.
While many Pakistanis do drink alcohol, Muslims in the country are prohibited by law from doing so. Drinking also breaches the teachings of the Koran.
Mr Ashrafi, who heads the All Pakistan Ulema Council, had appeared on a late night television talk show where he criticised the actions of former cricketer Imran Khan. Supporters of Mr Khan, who heads a grass-roots political party, had for weeks occupied the centre of Islamabad and demanded that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stand down.
During his appearance on the show, Mr Ashrafi appeared confused and struggling to concentrate. On social media, many said it seemed he had been drinking. The Oscar-winning documentary maker Sharmeen Obaid, said: “What an interesting clip feat Maulana Ashrafi worth watching 2 understand #maulvis in #pakistan double standards.”
But Mr Ashrafi has denied the allegations and said he would be holding a press conference on Wednesday to explain what had happened to him. He told The Independent: “I, along with the clerics of Pakistan Ulema Council, not only reject these allegations but will move the court against those behind it.”
He said he had been on medication that caused dizziness and had been chewing betel nut when he appeared on television, which made it seem he was slurring his words.
The cleric claimed he had been attacked by supporters of Mr Khan and Sufi cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, who has also been organising anti-government rallies in the capital city.
“Just to avoid any controversy, we got our blood samples tested the very next day,” he said. “We also challenge Imran Khan to come forward and volunteer for the blood test.”