LAHORE - The Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) has removed its chairman Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, appointing Maulana Zahid Mahmood Qasmi as the new head of the body.

The decision to dismiss Hafiz Tahir, who is widely considered a moderate cleric, was made in the PUC’s upper council (Shoora) meeting held in Jamia Qasmia, a Deobani seminary in Faisalabad, yesterday.

Hundreds of religious clerics and Imams of mosques, majority of them Deobandis, are the member of the body which generally organises activities to promote religious harmony in Pakistan. The PUC is open supporter of Saudi Arabia’s stand on Yemen and Syria wars. Some Shia scholars claim PUC works under Saudi Arbia’s patronage.

Ashrafi’s spokesperson, however, said the council meeting held in Faisalabad has had no mandate to remove the chairman.

Hafiz Tahir is member of Islamic Ideology Council, a constitutional body comprising religious clerics to advise the legislature whether or not a certain law is repugnant to Islam, and he, on different occasions, developed severe differences with the Council’s head who belongs to JUI-F. Some clerics claim Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s JUI-F is behind the move.

“The central Majlis-e-Shoora of Ulema Council has dismissed Maulana Tahir Ashrafi from the designation of chairman cancelling his basic membership from sub organization of PUC, Ilm Damin Foundation and Tahfuz-e-Madaris Deniya Pakistan, and elected Sahibzada Zahid Mahmood Qasmi as the new chairman,” said a statement, adding more than 500 Ulema attended the meeting which unanimously made this decision.

According to article 7 and clause 11 of the constitution of Pakistan Ulema Council, the system of the council is based on Shoora and the Shoora has the right to elect and change the chairman and the other members through the vote of majority, it said.

“The former chairman has made autonomous decisions on internal and external affairs without consulting the members of the Shoora. Some authentic facts and evidence have come into notice which show that Ashrafi has made foreign contacts that were absolutely against Islam, constitution of Pakistan and manifesto of Pakistan Ulema Council.”

The statement quoted the article 5 of the constitution of the PUC, saying the body will not act as secret movements but Ashrafi violated the constitution.

“Ashrafi has completely lost confidence of the Shoora. Majority of the members of the council were not satisfied with him.”

The PUC Shoora has formed a five-member committee to formulate a new constitution and manifesto according to the demand of modern age to improve the process of the party. The meeting condemned the recent terrorists attack in different cities and backed the operation Radul Fassad. It was decided that PUC will participate in JUI-F’s centurion world congregation which is scheduled to be held in April. The PUC will organise the second annual “Message of Islam” council to be held on April 12.

Maulana Rafiq Jami, Maulana Imdadul Hassan Nagmani, Maulana Abdul Wattoo, Maulana Abaidur Rehman Zia, Maulana Asadul Farooq, Maulana Shabir Ahmad Usmani, Hafiz Muhammad Amjad, Qazi Matiul Allah, Qazi Kifyatullah, Maulana Zubair Abaid, Maulana Usman Baig Farooqi and other participated in the meeting.