Clerics receive threats for conducting Taseer funeral prayers

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M Zulqernain

Lahore, Jan 13 (PTI) Three Pakistani clerics whoconducted the funeral and memorial prayers for slain PunjabGovernor Salmaan Taseer have received death threats, policesaid today.

Maulana Afzal Chishti, the head of the ''ulema'' orclerics'' wing of the ruling PPP, had led the funeral prayerfor Taseer along with Qari Muhammad Younus.

The ''qul or memorial ceremony was led by Qari AkhtarQureshi.

"We have provided police guards to two clerics - Younusand Qureshi - after they received death threats probably fromthose who consider Taseer a blasphemer," a senior policeofficer, who did not want to be named, told PTI.

The third cleric, Chishti, had gone into hiding becausehe feared for the lives of his family members, the policeofficer said.

Taseer was gunned down in Islamabad on January 4 by apolice guard who said he was angered by the Governor''scriticism of the controversial blasphemy law.

After a group of over 500 clerics and scholars of theBarelvi school of thought asked Muslims not to lead or offerthe funeral prayer for Taseer, top clerics in Lahore hadrefused to lead the ''namaz-e-janaza''.

"Younis and Qureshi have publicly expressed regret forparticipating in the prayers and re-embraced Islam afteradmitting their mistake due to pressure from hardliners, butwe cannot withdraw the security provided to them," the policeofficer said.

The clerics of the historical Badshahi Mosque, the DataDarbar shrine and the mosque at the Governor''s House hadrefused to lead the funeral prayer for Taseer.

Several groups of clerics had announced that anyone wholed the funeral prayer of a "blasphemer" would be consideredan infidel.

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