ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Pakistan army on Sunday condemned a prominent Islamic political leader who called the Pakistani Taliban chief killed by a U.S. drone strike a martyr.
Syed Munawar Hasan, the head of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, told a Pakistani TV station earlier this month that he thought slain Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud was a martyr. He later implied that Pakistani soldiers killed while fighting Islamic militants are not martyrs because they are allied with the U.S.
The army condemned Hasan's comments in a statement posted on its website as "irresponsible and misleading," demanding he apologize.
The Pakistani Taliban have killed thousands of civilians and security forces in their quest to overthrow the country's democratic government and impose a harsh version of Islamic law.
Many analysts have also criticized comments like those made by Hasan that glorify the Taliban, saying they confuse the Pakistani public about the country's true enemies.
The leader of another one of Pakistan's main Islamic political parties, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said after the Nov. 1 drone strike that killed Mehsud that he would even call a dog a martyr if it was killed by the U.S. — a particularly strong statement because dogs are widely disliked across the Muslim world. Rehman is the head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party.
Analysts also have criticized the response by civilian Pakistani officials to the drone strike that killed Mehsud. The officials condemned the U.S. for killing the Taliban chief and accused Washington of sabotaging peace talks with the militant group, without mentioning the scores of Pakistanis that Mehsud was responsible for killing.