News Analysis |
The recent Faizabad crackdown crisis has unleashed a new religiopolitical party in the Pakistani arena. The emergence of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) group from the Pro Mumtaz Qadri movement signifies a hazardous shift in Pakistan’s political paradigm whereby the large Barelvi denomination has opened up to violent extremist rhetoric. The largely politically marginalized Barelvi component may have at last found a strong electoral platform to campaign on.
The TLYR and its political wing the Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan party arose out of a popular protest movement that glorified the murder committed by Mumtaz Qadri, a bodyguard of the governor of Punjab province. The governor, Salman Taseer was gunned down by Qadri in 2011 over his attempt to interfere in a blasphemy case.
The leader of the TLYR, Khadim Hussain Rizvi appealed to protesters across the country to disperse. However, protesters under the guidance of Dr. Asif Jalali have refused to wrap up their sit-in at Lahore’s Faisal Chowk and Shahdara, saying they will not leave until their demands are met.
As the movement progressed, it has only become more explosive. Given the events of the past few days, the violent actions are to translate into a mass appeal for the party. Heralding itself as a guardian of the Khatam-e-Nubuwat (Finality of Prophethood), the movement seems to have galvanized the political Barelvi element in Pakistan.
After the formation of Pakistan, Maulana Abdulsattar Niazi and Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani from the Barelvies remained in Pakistan politics but were largely restricted to only one national and two provincial constituencies. The dominance on Islamist politics and key national issues has always been the scholars of the Deoband school of thought and the semi Salafist Jamaat-e-Islami.
In the past 70 years, religious pressure groups in national politics came out of the strain of Islamist ideology derogatorily called ‘Wahhabis’ by the Barelvis. In the recent two decades, their archrivals the Deobandis became a major factor due to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. In order for dialogue with the TTP, the Government and the army had to reach out to the Deobandi Ulema, which led to the balance of religious political force completely shifting in favor of the Deobandis. The constant presence of the JUI-F in the last 6 Governments is a clear proof of Deobandi religio-political power.
In this whole situation, Tahir-ul-Qadri while not a strict Barelvi tried to marshal the Barelvi groups but was not successful. After he shifted to Canada, the Barelvis had to be content by coming under the banner of a nonpolitical Karachi based organization called the Dawat-e-Islami.
The governor, Salman Taseer was gunned down by Qadri in 2011 over his attempt to interfere in a blasphemy case.
From the Dawat-e-Islami, arose the violent political party called Sunni Tehreek to counter the infamous Sipah-e-Sahaba in Karachi. Being ineffective, it devolved into another extortion outfit inflicting the hapless masses of Karachi (something ironically its notorious nemesis the SSP never did). There were attempts mainly by the Americans to prop up the Barelvis as a counterbalance against the Deobandis by using the Sunni Ittehad Council. Utilizing anti-Taliban feelings and attacks on shrines, the SIC received aid from the American embassy but ultimately failed.
The execution of Mumtaz Qadri and now the resignation of the Federal Law Minister have made the power of the TLYR manifest across the nation. The Barelvis after enduring decades of domination seems to be back in the driving seat now. The rise of the TLYR seems to make the newly reformed MMA’s power to be limited to no more than 4 seats.
However, the rise of TLYR seems to be experiencing turbulence. The worst thing for the TLYR right now would be division. And that seems to be happening right after its perceived victory in the Faizabad crackdown. Protesters belonging to the faction under the lead of Dr. Asif Jalali have refused to disperse in parts of Lahore despite the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid and an agreement between the government and protesters in Islamabad.
In order for dialogue with the TTP, the Government and the army had to reach out to the Deobandi Ulema, which led to the balance of religious political force completely shifting in favor of the Deobandis.
The weeks-long protest at Faizabad Interchange in Islamabad was called off on Monday following the voluntary resignation of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid and an agreement signed between the government and protesters. Following the negotiations, the leader of the TLYR, Khadim Hussain Rizvi appealed to protesters across the country to disperse. However, protesters under the guidance of Dr. Asif Jalali have refused to wrap up their sit-in at Lahore’s Faisal Chowk and Shahdara, saying they will not leave until their demands are met.
These protesters, from a different faction of the same religious group, are demanding the resignation of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, and have said they will not disperse even after demonstrations across the country began to end, restoring life to normalcy in Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Karachi and other cities. If infighting erupts inside the TLYR or if they are perceived to be weak, this may stop the flow of support and many voters from the group. The new age of religiopolitical politics that is dawning may even end before it ever rises.