LAHORE - A man on Sunday hurled a shoe at PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif here at a well-known religious seminary, which represent country’s popular Brelvi school of thought.

The gross act was widely condemned by all major political and religious parties, including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan Peoples Party and Jamat-e-Islami.

The former prime minister was invited to address a seminar at the Jamia Naeemia in memory of seminary’s late head Mufti Sarfraz Naeemi, who was killed in a suicide attack on June 2009.

Nawaz and his family have great regard for the Naeemi Family and they have been frequent visitors to the seminary, situated in Garhi Sahoo at the heart of the city where hundreds of students are getting religious education.

PML-N Quaid was about to start his address when a bearded man, standing a few feet away from the podium, threw a shoe at him with full power and started chanting slogan “Labaik Ya Rasool Allah”.

The shoe hurled by the man, identified as Hafiz Abdul Ghafar, slightly hit the shoulder of Nawaz – who was surprised and shaken a bit by the suddenness of the act.

The condemnable act apparently was committed in protest against execution of Mumtaz Qadri in February 2016, during the last tenure of the three-time prime minister.

Qadri was a police guard of Punjab ex-governor Salmaan Taseer who murdered the governor for seeking reforms to the controversial blasphemy laws.

The blasphemy laws were initially framed by the British to suppress inter-faith violence between followers of different religions in the united India.

The legal code was brought to its present form in Pakistan during the dictatorship of late General Zia and it has now come to be believed as sacred and untouchable by the large majority of the country.

The slogan, Labaik Ya Rasool Allah, got popularity among the Brelvis – which make up 55 percent of country’s population – after the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri.

It has also led to a movement, led separately by religious clerics Allama Khadim Rizvi and Dr Ashraf Asif Jalali, who both are politically exploiting the sentiments of Qadri sympathisers.

Although founders of the Labaik movement and head of Jamia Naeemia are representatives of the same schools, but the latter is widely considered a moderate Islamic scholar and ally of the Sharifs.

The Labaik movement leaders condemn and criticise PML-N top leadership because of its alleged involvement in hanging of Qadri.

A failed attempt to change the oath on finality of the prophethood in Election Act 2017 has lent credence to the doubts raised about intentions of PML-N leadership, who Labaik leaders have alleged of trying to appease their ‘foreign masters’ by advancing liberal agendas.

Last year they also organised a weeks-long sit-in in Islamabad which, among other things, forced the federal law minister to resign over the above said issue.

The Sunday’s act of throwing shoe on Nawaz was third such ‘protest’ incident in less than a month. A bearded man chanting the same slogan on Saturday threw ink at federal minister Khawaja Asif during an event in Sialkot. Another federal minister, Ahsan Iqbal, was also attacked with a shoe in his hometown, Narowal, few days ago.

A senior politician and leader the PML-N, Parvez Rashid, had also faced a similar incident at Karachi Airport some two years back.

Now a revival of the same phenomenon, that too with more ferocity and frequency, in the absence of any apparent reason, shows that Tehreek-e-Labaik leaders are warming up again to capitalise on the religious sentiment of people as the general elections draw near.

Decency shown by Nawaz

Nawaz cut short his speech and left the venue without uttering any word in reaction when he was hit with the shoe. However, he mentioned his and his family’s respect and regard for the Naeemis, the founders of the seminary.

The culprit was arrested immediately and sent to the local police station, but the incident spread panic among the gathering. It also invited widespread anger among PML-N workers, who staged protests in different cities against it.

Police arrested two other students, Munawar and Sajid, for their alleged involvement in the planning of the condemnable act. Reportedly, all the three men were the part of the organising committee of the event.

Condemnations

Dr Raghib Naeemi, the son of late Sarfraz Naeemi and current head of the Jamia, along with other management condemned the incident in strong words and denied that the attacker was a former student of the seminary.

Addressing a press conference immediately after the incident, he apologised from the visiting guest and said he felt ashamed over the unfortunate happening.

“I will personally visit Nawaz Sharif residence to say sorry to him. Such acts have nothing to do with Islamic teachings,” said Dr Raghib, who is believed to be a moderate scholar, like his father Dr Sarfraz.

All heads of the political and religious parties condemned the gross act in strongest words.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan said, “This should be condemned at all cost. I am happy no one from PTI has done this act. All differences aside, such acts cannot be endorsed at any pretext.”

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari termed the incident unfortunate and condemned it in strongest words.

“These acts are disgusting acts & totally unjustified. Under no pretext can we project these despicable acts as sane or acceptable,” said Bilawal in a tweet.

Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq, Jamiat Ahle Hadith head Professor Sajid Mir, JUP head Pir Ijaz Hashmi and other leaders of the religious parties also condemned the incident, saying such acts could not be linked to the Islamic teachings.

SHOE-THROWER BEING GRILLED

AT UNKNOWN FACILITY

The ‘religious activist’ who hurled shoe at the face of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a public meeting at a religious seminary in Lahore on Sunday was shifted to an unknown facility for interrogation in connection with incident that was immediately condemned by all and sundry.

A police officer late Sunday told The Nation that the 25-year-old man, who also chanted religious slogans after attacking the PML-N Quaid, was shifted to an unknown facility from the Garhi Shahu police station.

“Some senior investigators will also grill the suspect to uncover the whole episode,” the officer said on the condition of anonymity.

Soon after the incident, the accused person identified named by police as Abdul Ghafoor a resident of Tehsil Kahuta district Rawalpindi, was shifted to the Garhi Shahu police station for investigation.

A few hours later, some police and plainclothesmen visited the police station and they took way the suspect to some unknown facility.

“No FIR has been registered with the police yet,” the officer said.

To a question, the officer said that the police and some other agencies are also investigating this incident.

“All aspects of the incidents will be investigated thoroughly,” he said.

Meanwhile, SP Civil Lines police division told reporters that the main accused Abdul Ghafoor and his accomplice Munawar, a resident of Deepalpur district Okara, were being interrogated at a police facility in connection with the incident.

The suspects were shifted to some other police facility after a large number of political activists belonging to the ruling PML-N reached the police station. They tried to enter the police station but they were repulsed by policemen deployed outside the police station.