Faizabad sit-in was an act of political opportunism at its finest

Just last month, Khadim Hussain Rizvi and his group of followers took over a vital intersection between the twin cities, threatening the flow of life in the capital of a nuclear-armed federation. The sight of bearded men, defying state writ brought on an eerily familiar feeling of Lal Masjid bandits in 2007. The resemblance was uncanny; rogue elements with their loud speakers and hard-line rhetoric demanding implementation of what they thought the version of Shariah should be.

Sure, one could argue that the respect of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) is above all in a state that is declared an Islamic Republic by its constitution, but were the means used by Khadim Hussain Rizvi and his followers (armed in many cities) be declared lawful or even Islamic?

Would a law abiding citizen have taken the same path as Rizvi? And most importantly, would any other law abiding citizen been granted as much concession for the two weeks sit-in as have been provided to this particularly foul mouthed preacher? Surely we have seen the state give lesser room to manoeuvres to doctors demanding fair wages and even to blind people demanding basic employment.

By allowing hardliners to dictate terms to the state, a dangerous precedent has been set by the incumbent government yet again; One only needs to assemble a couple hundred men, occupy the capital and threaten to jam the wheel of life across the country. The rest of the followers just need to unleash hell on public transport, government infrastructure and roads in other major cities. A mini-coup like atmosphere, with a tinge of pseudo-religious touch.

Of the damages incurred is a long and multi-pronged story. Hundreds of vehicles were set on fire while government property, used by the masses, was shamelessly vandalised, all the while shouting religious slogans, undoubtedly inspired by their leader at the helm of affairs.

A motorbike is hardly used by the elite or governing class, against which the protesters were undoubtedly coming to vandalise. These bikes may have served as the only transport of the sole breadwinner of a poor family. One can almost say that this is not what a religion of peace would endorse. This is not, of course, to discredit Islamic teachings, but to highlight the hypocrisy of a flawed figure at the center of the controversy: Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

Whatever spin-off of the religion he has come up with, this is certainly not Islam. Notwithstanding the monetary losses incurred to the national exchequer, common man and common sense, the disillusioned hardliners have hit the soft image of the country. The one that nearly a decade of democracy and countless operations by the military against terrorism have succeeded to project. These armed protesters might have managed to damage the soft image of the country in a way that not even the ‘agents’ they often accuse of.

Forget the PR nightmare for the country and the field day western mainstream media had for reporting the hijacking of the country by a bunch of armed hooligans, one can imagine the monumental screw up when even sports website Cricinfo reads ‘Religious unrest disrupts domestic cricket in Pakistan‘. Bravo Mr Rizvi, we don’t need enemies as long as we have patriots such as you in our ranks.

For those interested in the religious side of things, there are times when the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) let go of the insults hurled at him and there are times when the death of the perpetrators was sanctioned, directly or indirectly. But one thing was always clear that the property and lives of fellow Muslims (and citizens) were declared forbidden for the fellow Muslims. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) even forbade such scorched-earth policies in the times of war. These gentlemen appear to have forgotten these basic pleasantries in peacetime.

People who were looted, their shops and livelihood set on fire and vehicles vandalised, have been subjected to victimisation by those instigated or inspired by Mr Rizvi’s antics. A far cry from someone who aspires to be a defender of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him)’s Sunnah.

What this looks like, loud and clear, is an act of political opportunism at its finest. The religious political party had its debut in NA-120 elections. It was only a matter of time before its party heads ventured into political opposition as well. The aim has been achieved. Khadim Hussain Rizvi has come out of the whole fiasco with a better political profile and is primed to reappear in the coming elections. The cost to the country, is an indifferent collateral to every politician in the country. Why should Rizvi’s rise to the big stage be any different?

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