Cleric suspended after he poses for selfies with Pakistan's 'Kim Kardashian'

Mufti Abdul Qavi posing for selfies with social media starlet Qandeel Baloch.
Mufti Abdul Qavi posing for selfies with social media starlet Qandeel Baloch.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/QANDEEL BALOCH

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - A high-profile Pakistani cleric who posed for selfies with a controversial model famed for her suggestive photos has been suspended from a senior government committee, the country's Religious Affairs Ministry said, rebuking him for his behaviour.

Mufti Abdul Qavi was removed on Wednesday from the country's moon-sighting committee which decides when the ongoing holy month of Ramadan begins and ends, according to a notification issued by the ministry and seen by AFP.

The suspension comes after he was widely ridiculed when social media starlet Qandeel Baloch - a deeply polarising figure in the conservative Muslim country - uploaded the pictures earlier this week along with a video of herself with the preacher, wearing his hat and pouting.

Baloch, a Kim Kardashian-type figure who frequently posts semi-nude selfies, later called Qavi "a blot on the name of Islam" and accused him of inappropriate behaviour.

Qavi was also suspended as a member of the Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf opposition party, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, a former socialite who became more religious after his retirement as a sportsman.

"Mufti Qavi's fate will be decided after the opinion of the (National religious scholars) Council regarding his selfies and behaviour," a spokesman for the ministry told Pakistan's Dawn newspaper Wednesday.

Social media users expressed their amusement over the affair. "Qandeel Baloch for President," said Urooj Zia on Facebook.

In the video that was uploaded on Baloch's Facebook account, Qavi is seen saying he will guide the starlet on religious matters and she had agreed to become his student.

He has also said the meeting took place at her request and told AFP Thursday that she had apologised for the inconvenience caused by the episode.

But Baloch said the cleric had sought her number after the two had appeared on a TV panel together and that he had behaved inappropriately toward her.

"I thought I would expose him as he is in reality," she told AFP, adding: "He is a different person alone and different when he has his followers around him.

"He is a blot on the name of Islam. Who is he to claim to be a guardian of Islam?"

Though she is reviled by many and frequently subject to misogynist abuse online, Baloch has also won praise by some of the country's youth for her forthright attitude.

On Valentine's Day, she donned a plunging scarlet dress and posted a video message defying the country's president, who had issued a stern warning against the "Western" holiday.

The post garnered more than 70,000 "likes".