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Thousands Attend Funeral Of Pakistani Cleric Known As 'Father Of The Taliban'

Thousands attended the funeral of the slain Pakistani cleric Maulana Sami ul-Haq on November 3.

Thousands of people attended the funeral of Maulana Sami ul-Haq, a prominent Pakistani cleric known as the "father of the Afghan Taliban," in Pakistan's northwestern city of Noshera on November 3.

Sami ul-Haq, 81, was killed in a knife attack at his home in the city of Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, on November 2.

The funeral was held under tight security and was also attended by the governor and the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, as well as leaders of political and religious parties.

Local TV channel Geo News quoted the cleric’s son, Hamid ul-Haq, as saying he was stabbed to death by unidentified attackers.

"My father was his on way to a sit-in protest in Islamabad. He returned to his house due to closure of roads and went to his bedroom. Later, he was found dead in pool of blood,” Hamid ul-Haq told Geo News.

Police say that the motive behind the killing was not immediately known and no group has so far claimed responsibly for the attack.

FILE: Pakistani religious cleric Samiul Haq, left, talks with Syed Munawar Hasan, the head of the Jamaat-e Islami party in Lahore (2014).
FILE: Pakistani religious cleric Samiul Haq, left, talks with Syed Munawar Hasan, the head of the Jamaat-e Islami party in Lahore (2014).

The killing prompted scores of Sami ul-Haq's supporters to riot, damaging shops and vehicles in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The cleric’s family appealed to his followers to remain peaceful.

For decades, Sami ul-Haq ran an Islamic school -- the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary -- that educated several key Taliban leaders.

The madrasah is located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in Pakistan’s northwest.

One of his students from the 1980s, known later as Mullah Mohammad Omar, went on to found the Taliban, which seized power in Afghanistan in 1996 after years of chaos and civil war following the Soviet Union's military withdrawal.

Sami ul-Haq was known as the father of the Afghan Taliban due to the immense influence and respect he enjoyed among the leaders of the militant group.

He was the head of his faction of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam party and was twice elected as member of the Senate, the upper house of Pakistan's parliament.

Pakistani media reported that he had been aligned with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Party during for the July 25 elections, which the party won.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, currently on an official visit to Beijing, condemned the killing and ordered an investigation, his office said in a statement.

In recent weeks, dozens of Afghan clerics had appealed to Sami ul-Haq to use his influence with Afghanistan's Taliban to help convince the militant group to begin peace negotiations.

With reporting by AP, Reuters,