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Video of Pakistani Religious Leader Ashrafi Slurring Words Goes Viral

Video of a prominent religious leader slurring his words on television has set off a social-media firestorm in conservative Pakistan.
Ashrafi speaks during an interview with Reuters in Islamabad
Tahir Ashrafi, head of Pakistan's powerful Ulema Council of clerics, speaks during an interview in 2013. Mian Kursheed / REUTERS

ISLAMABAD - A prominent Pakistani religious leader is under fire after he appeared to slur his words on national television, sparking allegations in the conservative nation that he had been boozing. Muslims are forbidden from drinking alcohol in Pakistan, and the video of Allama Tahir Ashrafi appearing on "Tonight With GEO News” show quickly went viral on social media. One website featuring the video had around 350,000 views. Ashrafi is the head of Pakistan’s Ulema Council, which represents thousands of Islamic clerics, schools, mosques and religious groups.

In the clip, Ashrafi slurs his words while discussing the moral and religious character of opposition leader Imran Khan, causing the anchors to smirk and shift uncomfortably. Adil Ansari, from Khan''s popular Movement for Justice Party, questioned on Twitter whether Ashrafi should be arrested and given an alcohol test. Pakistan’s Oscar-winning documentary maker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy tweeted that the clip underscored a “double standard” for religious figures. Ashrafi was not immediately available for comment, but told local media he had been chewing “paan” – or betel leaves, which are a mild stimulant.


- Wajahat S. Khan