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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

PTI government bans JUI-F’s Ansarul Islam ahead of Azadi March

Will Maulana Fazlru Rehman’s movement yield any substantive results, especially, when JUI-F and other political parties have started using the word ‘Jalsa’ (rally) instead of Dharna (sit-in) for the upcoming Azadi March? Will it be a trick or treat as the rally and Halloween would fall on the same date – October 31.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government has banned a subsidiary group of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) – Ansarul Islam – with an immediate effect and the federal government has sent a summary to the authorities concerned in this regard.

Apparently, Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken the decision with the approval of the federal cabinet and the same has been communicated to the provincial governments.

A few days ago, JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman started issuing videos showing a large number of Ansarul Islam volunteers marching in a ground and giving a ‘Guard of Honor’ to JUI-F chief just like the army’s special service group presents Guard of Honor to government high-ups during the March 23 parade.

In no time, the parade and ‘salute’ simultaneously turned into scare and joke across social media. The video was considered scary because no political party in Pakistan in the last 70 years has created a militant wing or a militia in uniform for itself. Netizens argued that parties can have baton-carrying or stick-carrying volunteers to fight like Tahirul Qadri’s followers, who clashed with authorities during the 2014’s sit-ins in the federal capital.

However, the idea of putting a militia with the uniform is totally abhorrent to the political parties of Pakistan, to the Pakistani government and to state institutions, said a senior political expert, adding that action against such a move was inevitable and that is what the government has done; banned the outfit.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken the decision with the approval of the federal cabinet and the same has been communicated to the provincial governments.

On the other hand, the video showing JUI-F’s militia with the background commentary of March 23 parade left many people in fits of laughter, especially, when Maulana was presented Guard of Honor and he returned the salute. In the next few hours, it is expected that Maulana would give his reaction over the decision.

The political experts commented that JUI-F chief would probably tell his workers and supporters that the PTI government was panicked and afraid of Ansarul Islam. With the ban, they said, the substance that Maulana wanted to add to its marchpast has dissipated. Also, they added, neither Maulana nor any other political party was talking about sit-in anymore and everyone has started using the word ‘Jalsa’ instead of ‘Dharna’.

Moreover, the political commentators expressed that PML-N has verbally extended full support to JUI-F but has linked participation of PML-N’s president Shehbaz Sharif in the rally with PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto’s attendance.

If Bilawal doesn’t attend the rally then both the parties are likely to send in their second tier of leadership. “The condition that Shehbaz would only attend the rally if Bilawal comes has shown the division and fault lines within the political parties,” said a political analyst. “No one really thinks that Maulana’s movement would yield substantive results.” However, he said, if Maulana does something that weakens Imran Khan’s government, it would be an opportunity for PML-N and PPP.

Read more: Maulana’s Agenda: FM Qureshi Urges to Reconsider Azadi March on Kashmir Black Day

History of Ansarul Islam

Ansarul Islam is a name and term that has been used by several organizations in the past 100 years. A similar name was used by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind in the early 20th century as a sort of an organization that would resist British imperialism and do Jihad against them. Subsequently, the organization had lost its importance.

The outfit’s name resurfaced in 2004 when followers of an Afghan Sufi preacher, Pir Saifur Rehman, formed Ansarul Islam to counter the Lashkar-e-Islam (Army of Islam) formed by Mufti Munir Shakir, a hardline cleric who opposed Sufism. Both the clerics followed two different sects as Rehman preached Brelvi school of thought while Shakir advocated puritanical Deobandi philosophy.

Tahirul Qadri’s followers, who clashed with authorities during the 2014’s sit-ins in the federal capital.

For years, both the outfits remained engaged in propaganda war while declaring each other ‘infidels’. In 2008, the federal government banned outfits. However, the remained functional and kept fighting each other.

On the contrary, there is some evidence that Free Europe and Radio Liberty have been writing pieces that suggested that Ansarul Islam was moderate and less severe and was fighting against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Read more: JUI-F’s Azadi March Will Not Sustain More Than a Week: Imran Khan

Talks, resignation and Halloween

Soon after the militia in uniform emerged on the political scene, JUI-F announced that Ansarul Islam group would enter Islamabad before the other members of JUI-F and would be holding clubs.

On the speculations that the entrance of the militia in uniform in the federal capital might lead to a law & order situation, the party leadership had to clarify that Ansarul Islam group would remain peaceful and would not resort to violence. As Maulana announced the date for the rally, the government constituted a committee under Defence Minister Pervez Khattak to hold talks with the JUI-F leadership.

PM Khan directed his ministers that the open and clear dialogue should be held with the JUI-F to know their demands. However, Maulana rejected the dialogue offer with Khattak committee, saying that they would not come to the talks unless the PM resigns.

“Hurling abuses and talks cannot go together. Without resignation of Imran Khan, we will not hold talks with the government,” JUI-F chief thundered. PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal said that: “without resignation of Imran Khan, talks on the Azadi March will not be held with the government”. He added that the opposition was unanimous to send the PTI government home.

On the other hand, PTI leader Dr. Aamir Liaquat Hussain quipped that Maulana and his supporters were coming to Islamabad to celebrate Halloween and PTI was ready with candies for the participants of the rally.

Halloween is annually celebrated each year on October 31, and Halloween 2019 occurs on Thursday, October 31. It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.