ISLAMABAD - A meeting of the Council of Islamic Ideology had to be put off abruptly when its chairman Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani got into a physical clash with one of its members, Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, over the agenda.

Insiders said the clash started when, at the outset of the meeting held with Maulana Sherani in the chair, Maulana Ashrafi who is also Pakistan Ulema Council chairman, objected to the inclusion of the debate on the status of Ahmadis on the agenda list and argued that since Ahmadis had already been declared non-Muslims in the Constitution and there was consensus of ulema on the matter, it should not be made controversial by placing it on the agenda.

In a brief chat with media persons later, Maulana Asharfi criticised Maulana Sherani for his allegedly unbecoming behaviour and asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to dissolve the CII and bring in some capable and uncontroversial ulema as its members.

Both Maulana Ashrafi and Maulana Sherani entered into heated arguments, which turned personal and both of them came up with allegations against each other. Ashrafi blamed the chairman for being part of some conspiracy to make the status of Ahmadis controversial.

The CII chairman rose from his seat all of a sudden, ostensibly walked towards Asharfi and both of them got into a physical fight. The other members of the council had to intervene to end the physical clash. Later, the meeting had to be called off.

After the ugly and regrettable episode, Maulana Ashrafi accused Sherani of attacking him while the latter said he was just asking him to give him the way as he wanted to go out, but, he tried to attack him. Some members of the council, however, intervened and saved him, he added.

Later, a CII spokesman, in a statement on the brawl, said Maulana Tahir Asharfi and Maulana Zahid Qasmi, at the outset of the meeting, wanted to discuss the matter not on the agenda, but they were not allowed, on which they started shouting at the chair and used abusive language against the CII chairman who was left with no choice but to adjourn the proceedings of the council.

The spokesman further said as Tahir Ashrafi was going to retire as a CII member and, probably, this was the last meeting he attended, it was best known to him which agenda he was pursuing and why he tried to create the scene by involving the chairman in controversial matters.

Later, talking to media persons, Maulana Sherani who is also an MNA and JUI-F central leader refuted all the allegations levelled against him by Tahir Ashrafi and said the council itself had placed the issue of Ahmadis on the agenda list and it was not listed in the resolution moved by Ashrafi as he told the media.

He further said the meeting was also going to plan a farewell for Tahir Ashrafi and some other members going to retire in a next few days, but he failed to understand why they had messed up the things and what actually they wanted out of it.

Maulana Ashrafi accused Sherani of manipulating things to make the consensus laws on Ahmadis controversial and push the country toward violence.

However, Maulana Sherani, talking to reporters, said, “Ahmadis are non-Muslims under the Constitution and there is a unanimous fatwa on that.” He said the council had no intention of declaring Ahmadis Muslims.

Sherani said the matter was taken up by the council because the Ahmadis issue had been a bone of contention in the society with new fatwas on the matter appearing from time to time.

The CII is a constitutional body that advises the legislature whether or not a certain law is repugnant to the Quran and Sunnah.

Agencies add: The scuffle broke out when Sherani called on the group to consider whether Ahmadis should be considered murtads that have rejected Islam. Tahir Ashrafi strongly opposed any discussion of the incendiary issue.

Ashrafi, who is obese and has limited mobility, said he was unable to move from his chair when Sherani lunged at his throat, ripping his shirt and scratching his neck. One of Sherani’s assistants attempted to punch Ashrafi, but was restrained by others at the meeting in the CII headquarters in Islamabad.

Ashrafi said discussion of the Ahmadis issue would have been dangerous. “Even if five members of the council agree they are murtads it will be a big problem, it will create violence across the country,” he said.

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At Tuesday’s meeting, Sherani also attempted to force a discussion on whether millions of non-Muslims in Pakistan should be subject to the medieval practice of paying a jizya tax, despite enjoying equal rights under the Constitution.

Ashrafi said the grip of Sherani and other hardliners over the council had been weakened after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed nine relatively moderate new members.