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ISLAMABAD, Dec 11: Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) president senator Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani died here on Thursday after suffering a heart attack. He was 78.

He leaves behind his wife, two daughters and two sons to mourn his death.

Maulana Noorani, who was also the president of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP), suffered a massive heart attack when he was preparing to leave his residence situated in F-8/4 sector for the Parliament House to address a press conference along with other opposition leaders at 12 noon.

He was immediately taken to the Federal Government Services Hospital (FGSH) by his secretary Hasnat Ahmed Qadri, where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival.

Dr Shahbaz and Dr Inamul Haq, who had examined Maulana Noorani at the Coronary Care Unit of the hospital, told reporters that the MMA president was brought dead to the hospital at about 12.37pm.

A family source told Dawn that Maulana Noorani was a heart patient and had a bypass surgery in 1984. He said the Maulana had not been feeling well for the last few days and was taking some emergency medicines.

Leaders of the combined opposition were informed about Maulana Noorani’s death at about 12.45pm during their scheduled news conference, which they had started after waiting for the MMA chief for a few minutes. Soon after receiving the news, journalists and opposition leaders, including senators Raza Rabbani, Safdar Abbassi, Ishaq Dar and Prof Ghafoor Ahmed rushed to the hospital where a large number of newsmen and press photographers had already gathered. Federal Health Minister Mohammad Nasir Khan and senator Mohammad Ali Durrani were also present at the hospital.

Only two nieces of Maulana Noorani, Aziza Raza and Samina, were present at the F-8/4 residence with Tehmina Daultana, the only woman parliamentarian to reach there. Ms Daultana termed the death of Maulana Noorani a great tragedy.

The body of Maulana Noorani was kept at the mortuary of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) for a few hours before it was taken to his residence and later to Karachi on a special C-130 aircraft.

PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, Leader of the House in the Senate Wasim Sajjad and other prominent leaders also visited Pims to pay homage to the MMA chief.

Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani was born in Meerut (India) on October 1, 1926. He was the son of the late Maulana Shah Mohammad Abdul Aleem Siddiqui, who was also a renowned scholar. He became a Hafiz-i-Quran at the tender age of eight.

He graduated from the National Arabic College, Meerut, and obtained the Fazil-i-Arabi degree from Allahabad University and Dars-i-Nizam (Fazil) from Darul-Uloom Arabia, Meerut. He had command over a dozen languages, including Arabic, English and French.

He was also the founder of the World Islamic Mission, established in Makkah in 1972. He was first elected as a member of the National Assembly from Karachi in 1970.

Our Staff Reporter adds from Karachi: The PAF aircraft, carrying the body of Maulana Noorani, landed at the PAF Faisal Airbase at around 8.55pm. It was received by Maulana Ans, the son of Maulana Noorani, and leaders of different political and religious parties including Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, Maulaa Muhammad Ahmad Siddiqui, Babar Ghauri, Mairaj-ul-Huda Siddiqui, Abdul Sattar Afghani, Sardar Rahim, Saleem Zia, Siddique Rathore and others.

MMA leaders Qazi Hussain Ahmad, Maulana Sami-ul-Haque, Pir Ejaz Hashmi, Prof Ghafoor Ahmad, PML leaders Salim Saifullah and Nisar Memon accompanied the body from Islamabad.

From the airbase, the body was taken straight to his residence, Bait-ul-Rizwan, in Clifton in an Edhi ambulance. A big crowd of mourners had gathered outside the airbase as the news of Maulana’s death spread like a wild fire.

According to JUP’s Siddique Rathore, Maulana Noorani’s funeral procession will start from his residence after Friday prayers and will be taken to Nishtar Park where funeral prayers would be offered at around 3.30pm. After the prayers, the funeral procession would be taken back to Clifton where the Maulana would be laid to rest beside the grave of his mother in the graveyard situated on the premises of Ghazi Abdullah Shah Mazar.

Thousands of mourners had converged on the residence of the late politician, who kept reciting Darood Sharif. Proper arrangements had been made to accommodate the visitors.

On the route of the procession, cinema posters had been masked or removed.

Qazi Husain Ahmad told journalists that Pakistan had lost a great personality. However, he pledged to continue his mission.

Maulana Ans also vowed to follow in the footsteps of his father and continue the struggle against secular forces and the mission of Tableegh.