ISLAMABAD: While all the past 200 meetings of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) witnessed arguments and discussions, for the first time in its 53-year history the CII saw scuffles among its members on Tuesday.
The 201st meeting of the council saw heated arguments, including the use of foul language, in both Urdu and Punjabi by senior clerics over what the officials termed non-issues. The exchange of harsh words eventually led to trading blows between Maulana Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi and CII Chairman Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani.
“The meeting started at 9:30am with a briefing by the Quran Board Punjab as the council wanted to streamline and standardise the calligraphy of all copies of the holy Quran to be printed in the country,” said an official of the CII who was present in the closed-door meeting.
He said soon after the briefing spanning over about half an hour, Maulana Ashrafi along with Zahid Mehmood Qasmi entered the hall and created a scene.
The situation worsened when some of the members, mainly clerics belonging to KP, objected to the use of street language by the two clerics against senior members.
“It was good that the female member of the council was not present in the meeting but Maulana Sherani asked both Maulana Ashrafi and Zahid Qasmi not to not to use foul language as both men were swearing in Punjabi,” one of the council members said on the condition of anonymity.
Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi says chairman Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani grabbed him by the collar
Among the points of heated arguments between the CII chairman and Maulana Ashrafi was the discussion over two agenda items.
Though both the warring parties talked to the media after the meeting and accused each other of creating the scene, they stopped short of speaking about the reasons that could have annoyed the other group.
Maulana Sherani is also an MNA of the JUI-F while Hafiz Ashrafi is the chief of Pakistan Ulema Council and usually known for his liberal views.
Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Maulana Ashrafi alleged that Chairman Sherani had grabbed him by the collar.
“He tore my collar with his own hands and tried to bully me,” he said, also accusing Maulana Sherani of promoting extremism by bringing up the issue of Ahmadis to the meeting.
“Maulana Sherani wants to make the law on Ahmadis controversial and push the country towards violence,” Maulana Ashrafi said, adding most of the council members, including himself, were opposed to the idea of debating the status of Ahmadis because the matter had been resolved by parliament.
But another member confided to Dawn that the CII chairman did not grab Ashrafi’s collar but the participants had to intervene to stop Maulana Ashrafi from attacking Maulana Sherani.
He said Maulana Ashrafi even shouted at Maulana Sherani accusing him of declaring Ahmadis as Muslim citizens of the country.
Flanked by Hafiz Zahid Mehmood Qasmi, Maulana Ashrafi accused Maulana Sherani of fanning sectarianism by not taking up his (Ashrafi’s) ‘code of conduct to end sectarian tension in the meeting.’
The accusation prompted irritating reply by Maulana Sherani, who said they had been declared ‘Shias’ as non-Muslims in the past.
“Maulana Sherani was referring to Hafiz Zahid Mehmood Qasmi who is the son of late Ziaur Rehman Qasmi, the founder of the proscribed Sipah Sahaba Pakistan,” said a senior member of the council.
However, talking to the media, Maulana Sherani said the issue of Ahmadis had been on the agenda for almost two months but could not be taken up.
“There is no point under discussion to declare Ahmadis as Muslims as they are non-Muslims under the Constitution,” he added.
“What we say is the current generation of Ahmadis is not Murtad as they did not back off from Islam but are non-Muslims and kafir. At the same time, we say that Ahmadis being non-Muslim citizens of the country should enjoy the rights given in Islam to minorities.”
Some of the members told Dawn that they could not understand the reasons behind the extreme behaviour shown by the two clerics, as both sides seemingly wanted to say that extremism and the use of ‘fatwa’ for inciting violence against Ahmadis should end.
Meanwhile, the CII chairman said the 201st meeting was the last session for Maulana Ashrafi and that he possibly wanted to make an explosive exit from the CII.
Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2015