Lahore: The cleric who led the funeral prayer of slain Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer has left Pakistan after receiving threats from extremist and hardline religious groups.
According to a report by the Press Trust of India, Muhammad Afzal Chishti, who is secretary general of the ‘ulama’ or clerics wing of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, had been hiding in different places over the past seven months due to the threats he began receiving shortly after he led Taseer’s ‘namaz-e-janaza’ in Lahore on January 5.
Chishti recently left for an undisclosed location abroad, sources close to the cleric said.
In a related development, Chishti’s son Moin Chishti yesterday filed an application in the office of the Punjab Police chief, requesting him to provide security to the cleric’s family living in Lahore.
“Although my father has left Pakistan for abroad as there were threats to his life from different hardline religious groups, the other members of my family have received fresh threats,” Moin said.
He said he had urged the police to provide security to all members of the family.
Taseer was gunned down in Islamabad on January 4 by a police guard who was angered by the outspoken politician’s calls for changes in Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.
After a group of over 500 clerics and scholars of the Barelvi school of thought asked Muslims not to lead or offer the funeral prayer for Taseer, top clerics in Lahore had refused to lead the ‘namaz-e-janaza’.
Chishti then stepped in to lead the funeral prayer.Members of religious groups and the lawyers’ community feted Mumtaz Qadri, the policeman who confessed to gunning down Taseer.
Religious and extremist groups have warned the government and the anti-terrorism court conducting the policeman’s trial against convicting Qadri.
Taseer was a successful businessman and publisher of the English newspaper Daily Times.
A secular-minded member of the PPP, Taseer was vocal in his opposition to religious extremists throughout his life.
He also backed calls to pardon Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who was given the death sentence after being convicted for allegedly committing blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad(PBUH).