LAHORE – Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) Chairman Sahibzada Haji Fazal Karim passed away on Monday in a Faisalabad hospital. He was survived by a widow, four sons and one daughter.

Fazal Karim, suffering from liver cancer, had been in the hospital in critical condition since April 4. A couple of days before, he decided not to contest election from his constituency NA-82 due to his illness. His son will now contest from that seat.

Fazal Karim, son of Maulana Sardar Ahmed, was born on October 24, 1954, in Faisalabad.

After the news of his death was aired by TV channels, the SIC leaders and workers of as well as clerics from different sects started reaching Faisalabad. His funeral prayers will be offered at Dhobi Ghat, Faisalabad on Tuesday (today) at 10am.

The SIC has announced a seven-day mourning on his demise during which political activities will remain suspended.

A businessman by profession, he completed his MA degree in Islamic Studies from Jamia Rizvia, Faisalabad, in 1987. Sahibzada was elected general secretary of Jamaat-e-Ahle Sunnat in 1978 at a public meeting held in Multan. He served the organisation in this capacity for 14 years.

He joined politics in 1993 and was elected a provincial assembly member from Faisalabad as a PML-N candidate. He was again elected as an MPA in 1997 and became minister for aukaf.

When Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan was divided into two factions after differences between Shah Ahmed Noorani and Mualana Abdus Sattar Niazi, he joined the later and served the party as its senior vice president.

He was elected as an MNA from NA 82. In 2008, he was made Muttahida Ulema Board chairman. After differences with PML-N on the Data Darbar incident, he parted ways with the party and, along with Haji Hanif Tayyab, he formed Sunni Ittehad Council, an alliance of 30 organisations, in 2009, and remained its chairman till his death. He was one of those clerics who opposed Talibanisation and suicide bombing. He led a long march on October 27, 2010, from Data Darbar, Lahore, to Darbar Bari Imam, Islamabad, against terrorism and attacks on shrines of Sufis. On October 14, 2012, he also led a train march from Karachi to Rawalpindi for the same cause.

Condolence Messages: PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Najam Sethi and former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif have expressed deep sense of sorrow and grief over the death of former MNA and Sunni Ittehad Council Chairman Sahibzada Fazal Karim. In their condolence messages, they said Karim was a great religious scholar whose services for promotion of Islamic teachings would be remembered forever. Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, President Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, Vice Chairman Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Secretary Information Shafqat Mahmood and central leader Ayla Malik expressed profound grief and sorrow over the sad demise of the chief of Sunni Ittehad Council Sahibzada Fazal Karim.

Former deputy prime minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain also expressed sorrow and grief over the demise of Fazal Karim.

In their separate condolence messages issued here on Monday, Imran Khan and other PTI leaders said that Sahibzada Fazal Karim was a man of integrity who raised his voice against the scourge of terrorism in the country.

Pakistan Sunni Tehrik (PST) Chief Sarwat Ijaz Qadri, Muhammad Shadab Raza and others also expressed their sense of sorrow over the sad demise. PST also announced mourning and suspension of political activities for three day. Separately, Dr Asif Ashraf Jalali, in his condolence message, said that Fazal Karim played his role against terrorism.