Page last updated at 18:16 GMT, Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Obituary: Qari Mohammad Zafar

Qari Mohammad Zafar, the head of militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, is understood to have been killed in a drone attack in north-west Pakistan. The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad looks at the life of one of Pakistan's deadliest militants.

Qari Zafar: Photo from US state department
Qari Zafar is blamed for a string of militant attacks

Qari Mohammad Zafar gained international notoriety after the 2006 assassination of a US diplomat in Pakistan, which he is alleged to have masterminded.

The timing was potent: the diplomat - who some sources believe was a high-ranking intelligence official - was killed by a suicide blast one day ahead of a state visit by then US President George W Bush.

Zafar had been at the helm of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, one of Pakistan's deadliest militant groups, for a year.

Before the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US, the group had an anti-Shia Muslim agenda.

But a US-led crackdown after the attacks changed its orientation. Pakistani authorities managed to arrest or kill the top leadership of the group shortly afterwards.

After 2004, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, inspired by Zafar, made a comeback - becoming the local franchise for al-Qaeda along the way.

For the sheer number of attacks he is thought to have planned and the casualties which resulted, his record appears to be virtually unmatched.

Religious youth

Qari Mohammad Zafar was born into a family which originally came from the Seraiki-speaking belt of Punjab province.

Pakistani army soldier stands guard after Rawalpindi attacks
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was blamed for the 2009 attack on army HQ in Rawalpindi

While he was still young his family moved to Sindh province and eventually to the port city of Karachi.

The young man was brought up in a religious atmosphere. His father is said to be a teacher of the Koran.

Along with his five brothers, Zafar also sought a career in Islamic education. But Qari Mohammad Zafar was an ideologue influenced by his religious upbringing.

In 2004, he was serving as the prayer leader of a mosque in Karachi's eastern neighborhood of Model Colony - but he was also acting as a conduit for al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi recruitment.

At that time he was forced to go into hiding, as security officials were closing in on him.

Hours before police raided his mosque he fled. He has since been on the run.

And he is not the only family member who has taken up militancy. Two of his brothers are currently imprisoned for "jihadi" activities.

Expanding power

Unsurprisingly, there are many gaps in his recent biography. But it is thought that for one brief period in 2007 he was captured by security forces.

The details of that incident are not clear - except for the fact that he escaped and found shelter in Waziristan.

During this time he continued to expand his power base, and was instrumental in reviving jihadi recruitment and activities in Punjab.

Analysts believe that many of the attacks recently claimed by the Taliban were in fact carried out by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi under his leadership.

The group is believed to be behind the Punjabi Taliban who are blamed for a series of audacious assaults against top Pakistani military targets in 2009.

Print Sponsor

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific