LAHORE A prominent anti-Taliban scholar was killed Friday, June 12, in a suicide attack in Pakistan's largest city of Lahore, in what is seen as a deliberate effort to send the country into the abyss of sectarian violence. "This seems to me a calculated efforts to plunge the country into Deobandi-Brelvi clashes," Abdul Khalique Ali, a Karachi-based political analyst, told IslamOnline.
Dr. Sarfraz Naeemi, a veteran scholar from the Brelvi school of thought, was killed when a bomber blew himself up at his office in the Jamia Naeemia seminary.
"I saw him moving fast towards the office. He was young clean-shaven man aged between 16 and 17," Samiullah, a seminary student, told IOL.
IslamOnline in Swat "I was just thinking what to do because he did not look like a student of our madrasah when a huge blast occurred. "We rushed to office where we saw Dr Naeemi lying in a pool of blood with his legs chopped due to blast," he said.
Three people, including administrator of Jamia Naeemia, the headquarters of the Brelvi seminaries in Pakistan, were also killed in the attack.
Angry students took to Lahore streets, attacking police personnel and chanting slogans against the government and rival sects.
"These Wahabis (Deobandi) have killed our leader. They are happy over his killing," an angry student chanted.
Dr Naeemi, the head of the Tanzeem-ul-Madaris Pakistan, an umbrella organization of Brelvi seminaries in Pakistan, has been known for his anti-Taliban stances.
He had led an anti-Taliban rally two weeks ago in Lahore in support of the army operation against the Taliban in Swat.
The prominent scholar had also issued a fatwa (edict) against suicide bombings carried out by Taliban militants.
Brelvis make up 30 to 35 percent of Pakistan's Sunni Muslim population.
The Taliban belong to Deobandi sect, which makes up 40 to 45 percent of the Sunni population.
Analysts fear divisions between scholars of different schools of thought following the attack.
"This will be very dangerous for religious harmony in the country," Ali, the political analyst, said.
"I am afraid that it (attack) will create a wall between religious scholars belonging to different sects, who earlier gathered on various issues."
Pakistan's Suunis, including the Deobandi, Brelvi and Adl-e-Hadit schools of thought, and Shiites have formed a joint platform in the name of Ittehad Tanzeem-ul-Madaris Pakistan (United Madaris Front) against government's US-backed campaign to take control of some 15000 religious seminaries in Pakistan.
"I fear that the religious scholars who till yesterday used to attend each others' conferences, seminars and meetings, will not do that now," Ali said.
The political analyst chides the government for its divide and rule policy.
"The government has been pushing the religious scholars belonging to Brelvi school of thought to support the military operations," he said.
"It was not a wise move because it has made a sectarian division giving an impression that Dubendis are against the operation, while Brelvis are in favor.
He cited that all anti-Taliban rallies and seminars have been held by Brelvi religious scholars.
"The government is on the one hand exploiting the sectarian sentiments in its favor, while on the other hand it is not providing even ordinary security to those who are opposing Taliban," he said.
Despite repeated threats against Dr. Naeemia, only a single policeman was deputed outside Jamia Naeemia seminary.
Ali, however, thinks that any sectarian tension would not spread across the country.
"There will be no sectarian clashes on masses level, but certainly there will be division among religious scholars of the two schools of thought," he said.
Ali opines that Friday's attack will make Brevli scholars supporting the military operations to change mind.
"Whoever has done this, has tried to play double game. On the one hand, they have eliminated a moderate person like Dr Naeemi, and on the other hand they have pushed the anti-Operation Brelvis to change their minds."