The Pakistan army Sunday demanded unconditional apology from an Islamist leader for calling a dead militant a “martyr”, saying his remarks “hurt the feelings” of families of those who died fighting for their country.
The leader of the main Jamaat-e-Islami party, Syed Munawar Hassan, sparked controversy by terming slain Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud — killed by a US drone — a “martyr” in a recent television programme.
He also said that Pakistani troops who died in gunbattles with Taliban militants were not martyrs because they sided with the United States.
“The people of Pakistan, whose loved ones laid down their life while fighting the terrorists, and families of shuhada (martyrs) of the armed forces demand an unconditional apology from Syed Munawar Hassan for hurting their feelings,” a military spokesman said in a statement.
“It is also expected that Jamat-e-Islami should clearly state its party position on the subject.”
The spokesman “strongly condemned the irresponsible and misleading remarks” by Hassan, and said that he “insulted” the martyrdom of thousands of innocent Pakistanis and soldiers.
“Syed Munawar Hassan has tried to invent a logic based on his political convenience. Strong condemnation of his views from an overwhelming majority leaves no doubt in any one’s mind that all of us are very clear on what the state of Pakistan is and who are its enemies,” he said.
Neither Hassan nor his party spokesman were immediately available for comment.
Another top Islamist, chief of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party Maulana Fazalur Rehman, also created ripples in a separate television programme by saying that he considered even a dog a martyr if it was killed in a US drone attack.
Islamabad condemns drone strikes as a violation of sovereignty, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged President Barack Obama to end them during White House talks last week.
But analysts say Sharif’s ability to issue demands to Washington are constrained by the fact the US last month agreed to release around $1.6 billion in aid.
In addition, Pakistan has just embarked on a new $6.7 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan package with support from Washington.
Mehsud’s death last Friday was the third major blow struck against the TTP by the US this year, following the killing of number two Waliur Rehman in a drone strike in May and the capture of another senior lieutenant in Afghanistan last month.
On Thursday, the TTP named its new leader as hardline cleric Maulana Fazlullah, known for leading the Taliban’s bloody two-year rule in Swat Valley and for links to the shooting of schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai.
Pakistan is a frontline state in the US and NATO-led fight against militants in Afghanistan.
It says more than 40,000 people have been killed in Pakistan by Taliban and Al-Qaeda-led militants, who oppose Islamabad’s US alliance.