LAHORE - The internal rifts among religious parties of different schools of thought and intra-Barevli organizations stood exposed following end of the standoff between pro-Mumtaz Qadri protesters and the government in Islamabad on the fourth day.
It exposed the hype created by religious parties’ moot held in Mansoora on March 15 when the leaders of 32 parties met to make a strategy against ‘pro-secular’ moves of the PML-N government. The leaders had warned of starting a movement on the pattern of the one in 1977 launched by then opposition, Pakistan National Alliance, which resulted in the overthrow of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government and imposition of martial law.
The flop show of Islamabad made it clear that most of religio-political organizations, subscribing to the Barelvi school of thought, do not have organized structures and networks. Pirs or custodians of shrines and influential Barelvi scholars mere constitute the local power centres and seek strength from the followers of their respective shrines only during elections and secure their interests at local level.
It was predicted that the Barelvi parties can have a chance to revive themselves by lodging protest against the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, but their popularity, lack of coordination and trust were exposed. An alliance of religious parties from different schools of thought, after the passage of women protection bill from the Punjab Assembly and execution of Qadri was also being predicted on the chehlum of Qadri.
The government succeeded in getting D-Chowk cleared of a handful of protesters without accepting any of their 10-point demands.
Their main demands were enforcement of Shariah in Pakistan, official declaration that Mumtaz Qadri is a martyr and his cell in Adiyala Jail as a national heritage, establishment of a library in Qadri’s cell, ban on ‘anti-Islam’ NGOs and an assurance from the government that blasphemy laws will not be changed.
Sunday’s march from Liaquat Bagh to D-Chowk was led by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah— a coalition of several Barelvi groups, most of them unknown. Among these, the most active group was Sunni Tehreek, led by Sarwat Ijaz Qadri, then Aalmi Tanzeem-e-Ahle Sunnat, led by Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri, and Fidayaan-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwat, led by Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Allama Rizvi is also the movement’s patron-in-chief, while Pir Afzal Qadri is its patron with Dr Muhammad Ashraf Asif Jalali as its chairman.
Main religious parties distanced themselves from the protesters, but Jamaat-e-Islami and both factions of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP and JUP-Noorani) issued statements, asking both the sides (the government and the protesters) to resolve the issue peacefully. Deobandi parties like JUI-F of Maulana Fazlur Rehman and JUI-S of Maulana Samiul Haq remained totally absent from the scene. Jamiat Ahle Hadith of Maulana Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer and Markzi Jamiat Ahle Hadith of Professor Sajid Mir were also not visible. They even avoided issuing statements during the sit-in. Though Islami Tehreek of Allama Sajid Naqvi and Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen had declared Mumtaz Qadri a martyr, they did not support or attend the protest. Both are Shia parties and also rivals to each other.
A few workers of JI participated in the agitation, but they went back when the protesters entered the red zone. The supporters of JUP, led by Pir Ijaz Hashmi and Ans Noorani, and JUP-Noorani, led by Sahibzada Abul Khair Muhammad Zubair, remained away from the protest started on the chehlum of Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Punjab governor Salman Taseer.
Another interesting thing noticed during the protest was that the government picked Ans Noorani as a negotiator with the protesters, completely ignoring Sahibzada Abul Khair Muhammad Zubair despite the latter’s strong wish for it. Ans Noorani is close to Maulana Fazlur Rehman, an ally of the PML-N government, while Sahibzada Khair’s JUP is close to Jamaat-e-Islami, an ally of PTI in KP.