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January 15, 2013 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 920

The Ideology And Politics Of Pakistani Religious Leader Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri

January 15, 2013 | By Tufail Ahmad*
Pakistan | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 920


Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri (Image courtesy: Tribune.com.pk)

Introduction

Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri (born February 19, 1951) is an eminent Islamic scholar who, after five years of self-exile in the United Kingdom and Canada, returned to Pakistan on December 23, 2012, and on the same day addressed a mass public rally in Lahore, pledging to unseat the elected Pakistani government through a mass uprising just weeks before it is to complete its five-year term. In recent years, Tahir-ul-Qadri has achieved an international reputation as a moderate Islamic cleric after he issued a celebrated fatwa (Islamic decree) against suicide bombings by Taliban militants.[1] He is a proponent of the Barelvi school of Sunni Islam, a noted follower of which, Mumtaz Malik Qadri, a member of an elite Pakistani commando force on duty to protect Pakistan's liberal provincial governor Salman Taseer, assassinated him in January 2011 for advocating reforms to Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws.

The stated purpose of Tahir-ul-Qadri's return is to bring about fundamental political and electoral change to Pakistan, where the British form of parliamentary democracy is in practice, with a lawmaker directly elected by the people being nominated with parliamentary consent by the victorious political party to the post of prime minister as the executive head, and the president elected as the titular head of the state by members of parliament and provincial legislatures. Before arriving in Pakistan, Tahir-ul-Qadri was interviewed from his base in Canada by a Pakistani journalist about the relevance of democracy. Qadri responded: "I am neither a representative of the Western world nor I am coming [to Pakistan] with any agenda of Western democracy. Rather, right from the beginning I am opposed to this notion [of democracy] itself. My notion, my concept, and my teachings are that every country has a right to develop its own model of democracy in consonance with its political, social, economic, and geographical situations."[2]

Tahir-ul-Qadri's return is seen in Pakistani politics as a big bang, causing worry among some rival Islamic scholars and politicians. Maulana Fazlur Rehman – a leading Islamic scholar, politician, and chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) party – has described Qadri's slogan of Save the State, Not Politics as "illogical" and has expressed concern that "such tactics… [could be] only used to derail democracy."[3] For the first time in Pakistan's history, the current government of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is set to complete a full term, opening the possibility of a peaceful transfer of power in the 2013 elections. However, the suddenness with which Tahir-ul-Qadri has arrived in Pakistan, where elected governments have been routinely dislodged by the military, has many politicians wondering about who is behind him and whether the current government will be allowed to complete its full term by the Pakistani military's controversial Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). A day after his December 23 rally in Lahore, the Urdu-language daily Roznama Ummat carried frontpage reports with headlines: "Reforms in the System: Tahir-ul-Qadri presents agenda for delaying elections; rally in Lahore – declares [2013] elections under the present administration unconstitutional and if not rectified by January 10, threatens march on Islamabad"; and "Tahir-ul-Qadri has returned to turn democracy's continuity upside down."[4]

In a parliamentary democracy like Pakistan, the existence of a nationwide party organization is a prerequisite to winning elections. Tahir-ul-Qadri will probably take years to build a party and win an election to form a government. However, one factor that has led some to believe that he is supported by some hidden forces, possibly the Pakistani military's ISI or foreign powers like the United States and the UK, is Qadri's quick collaboration with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the third largest political party in Pakistani parliament with strong pockets of influence in Karachi and other parts of Sindh province. Unlike other mainstream parties, the MQM is known for a consistent secular position on most issues facing Pakistan but has also been engaged in an unending series of violence by followers of different political parties in Karachi. Tahir-ul-Qadri arrived in Pakistan on December 23, 2012, declaring that the present system of elections and politics is a hurdle in the way of real change in the country. He also addressed a mass public rally jointly organized by the MQM in Karachi on January 1, 2013, where he vowed to turn Islamabad into a second "peaceful Tahrir Square" on January 14.[5]

Tahir-ul-Qadri is a former Pakistani parliamentarian and heads a party named Pakistan Awami Tehreek, founded on May 25, 1989 but which holds no electoral presence. He may not win power outright, but he is a leading proponent of the Barelvi School of Sunni Islam and his followers are present in large numbers in Pakistan, India, the United Kingdom, Canada, and other countries. His return to Pakistan is likely to turn international attention to the thoughts and practices of the Barelvi clerics in Pakistan and elsewhere. His likely influence on the country's politics is expected to strengthen the hands of Barelvi clerics in Pakistan, and possibly in neighboring India where he travels frequently.

The Barelvi School Of Sunni Islamic Thought

The Barelvi School of Sunni Islam was propounded in the 19th century by Ahmed Raza Khan of Bareilly, a town in northern India. Ahmed Raza Khan (1856-1921) is popularly known as Aala Hazrat (of the highest station) and his followers are generally described as Barelvis, in opposition to the Deobandi School of Sunni Islam, which follows the teachings of the scholars at the leading Islamic seminary Darul Uloom in Deoband, another northern Indian town. Darul Uloom Deoband is the second largest Islamic seminary in the world, after Cairo's Al-Azhar University.

The Barelvis are criticized by Deobandi scholars for sanctioning bid'ah (innovation) in Islamic practices such as some spiritual forms of singing, music, and dance prevalent at numerous shrines of Sufi mystics across South Asia. In Pakistan, the Taliban are known to be followers of the Deobandi school and have bombed several Sufi-Barelvi shrines in recent years. Literally, thousands of religious organizations, owing their allegiance to the Deobandi and the Barelvi doctrines, are active in Pakistan and India. In Pakistan, Barelvi and Deobandi followers have attracted media headlines for armed attacks and for preaching violence against each other, as recently as in 2010.[6]

In Pakistan, the Deobandi stream enjoys the support of the state institutions, but the majority of Pakistanis follow the Barelvi practices. Despite doctrinal differences, the Barelvi followers are also known for holding Taliban-like orthodox and militant views, notably adhering to unconditional love for Prophet Muhammad. It was due to this unconditional love for Prophet Muhammad that Barelvi follower Mumtaz Malik Qadri assassinated Salman Taseer, after the liberal governor had called for reforms in Pakistan's laws regarding blasphemy of the prophet and had been working for release of Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother sentenced to death in Pakistan in an alleged blasphemy case.

Mumtaz Malik Qadri, member of a Barelvi group called Dawat-e-Islami, was influenced by Barelvi scholar Allama Muhammad Hanif Qureshi, who called for killing anyone who caused disrespect to Prophet Muhammad, stating in a December 31, 2010 sermon: "We explicitly say it without mincing any words that if the death penalty was not provided in Section 295-C [one of Pakistan's blasphemy laws stipulating the death penalty] for the blasphemers in that case Allah has given us the courage. We know how to trigger a gun, how to shoot somebody dead and how to behead those who commit blasphemy against our beloved Prophet [Muhammad]."[7]Thousands of Barelvi clerics and their supporters from different sections of Pakistani society organized mass rallies in support of the assassin. Pakistani lawyers garlanded the assassin, and Justice (retired) Khwaja Muhammad Sharif, the former chief justice of Lahore High Court, defended the assassin in court hearings.[8]

The Barelvi assassin was also defended by Al-Qaeda. Umar Ahmad Farooq, the Head of Al-Qaeda's Media and Dawa Department for Pakistan, spoke in favor of Mumtaz Malik Qadri, reminding the Pakistani nation that Prophet Muhammad himself had advocated such practices. Farooq stated: "On the Day of Victory of Mecca, when all people were granted amnesty, the Prophet [Muhammad] was informed that there were about 10 people, including women, who had committed blasphemy against him. He ordered that even if they are found hanging by the curtains of the Kaaba (the Holy Mosque of Mecca), they deserve no respect, and their blood should be spilled; and indeed it was spilled."[9]

Tahir-ul-Qadri's politics has suddenly boosted the Barelvi school of thought. He is a leading international pioneer of the Barelvi movement in the early years of the 21st century and is on record telling his followers that his organization Minhaj-ul-Quran International was founded at the urging of Prophet Muhammad.

Tahir-ul-Qadri Says Prophet Muhammad Told Him: "If You Want Me That I Stay In Pakistan, Then The Condition Is That Only You Become My Host"; "You Will Be Responsible For [Bus/Train] Ticket For Wherever I Come And Go In Pakistan"; "Set Up Your Organization Minhaj-ul-Quran"


Tahir-ul-Qadri's video was first posted on Facebook and later removed

In a black-and-white video whose date is difficult to ascertain, Tahir-ul-Qadri narrates a dream in which Prophet Muhammad visited him in Pakistan and urged him to establish Minhaj-ul-Quran International, an organization that propagates the cause of Islam through his books, videos, and religious activities. Throughout the video, Tahir-ul-Qadri sobs, weeps, and cries – along with the audiences – and wipes his tears repeatedly as he addresses a crowd of Islamic clerics and followers, narrating the dream. Tahir-ul-Qadri tells the audience:[10]

"[In the dream, Prophet Muhammad visits me in Pakistan] I sit on the floor, kissing the prophet's pious feet… and the lord [Prophet Muhammad] begins the process of conversation and tells me: 'Tahir, I had come to Pakistan at the invitation of the inhabitants of Pakistan, at the invitation of the religious institutions, religious parties, and Ulema [Islamic scholars]…. and despite inviting me here they did not accord me respect, were not a host for me.

"'And now, displeased at the inhabitants of Pakistan, I am returning to Medina. I am saddened; they have hurt me; they have invited me, but did not play host to me…. [The Prophet] said they have hurt me, invited me but did not play a host for me…. Being saddened, I have decided now that I am leaving Pakistan to return [to Medina]. That is why I did not meet with people [here in Pakistan]. I am now returning, leaving Pakistan.'

"After hearing of this, I fall to the feet of the prophet, peace be upon him. I hold the pious feet, stick to them, kiss them, weep and cry. I fold both my hands before him, beseeching, 'lord, for the sake of Allah, please change the decision; do not leave Pakistan; do not leave Pakistan [sobs and cries, along with the audience]… revise the decision.' The lord says, 'No, Tahir, you do not know; they have hurt me very much.'

"Repeatedly, [Prophet Muhammad] says, 'They had invited me; I had come at their invitation, but they did not respect me despite having me invited…. I have decided that I will leave Pakistan, to return [to Medina].' I keep crying, pleading: lord, have mercy; do not leave Pakistan, do not return; please order me, lord, is there a way for you to stay here… [He] repeatedly says, no…. After lots of crying and pleading, the pious feelings of the lord change, a little love and affection comes, the pious anger cools down a bit. And he says: 'Tahir, if you want me to stay more in Pakistan, there is one condition: if you promise to fulfil that condition… (I ask him, the lord, what is that condition and he says)… Tahir, if you want me that I stay in Pakistan, then the condition is that only you become my host… you become my host, then I stay here….'

"I respond: 'lord, I cannot refuse, it is a blessing, but I am not capable, I am a very weak and frail person; your highness, how can I be worth hosting you, how will I host you?' He says: 'there is only one condition, you promise to me… to play host, you alone promise to host, then I promise to stay.' Crying, I submit, your highness, I undertake the promise to you; I become a host to your highness. [He] says, 'Tahir, you promised me, so I too promise that I stay.' And he said: 'For seven more days, I stay in Pakistan. I will stay here for seven more days….' Now, I cannot say what is meant by 'seven days'….

"I say, your highness, this is acceptable to me but how will this be organized. He says, 'you promise and everything will be arranged…' And he tells me then, 'Promise me one thing more; you will have to arrange my stay; you will be responsible for my food and drink; you will be responsible for [bus/train] ticket for wherever I come and go in Pakistan... And when I have to return to Medina, then too only you will buy me the ticket valid till Medina; you will be responsible for this entire arrangement; promise me this.' I said, your highness, I promise all of this. [He] says, 'then I stay here for seven days.' Then the lord told me, 'you set up your organization Minhaj-ul-Quran, and I promise to you that I will visit you at your organization.'"

In another video statement, Tahir-ul-Qadri, when challenged by his critics, has denied that the Minhaj-ul-Quran was named on Prophet Muhammad's "order" in the above-narrated dream, stating: "In such matters, if the Prophet (peace be upon him) wishes to issue an order to the ummah, he can do it through dreams. But the matter is this that I have never said and have never understood so [about the prophet telling me to found the Minhaj-ul-Quran]."[11]

Tahir-ul-Qadri's Doublespeak On Pakistan's Blasphemy Law: Speaking In English – "[It] Is Not Applicable On Non-Muslims, Is Not Applicable On Jews"; Speaking in Urdu – "Whoever Be The Guilty Of Blaspheming The Prophet [Muhammad]… Whether He Be Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu Or Any Other… The Punishment… Is Killing"

Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws have attracted international headlines in recent years after a number of Christians, Ahmadi Muslims, and others were accused of blaspheming the Koran and Prophet Muhammad, and in several cases were sentenced to death. In many cases, militant religious followers have taken upon themselves to deliver justice by shooting to death those accused of blasphemy who were granted bail by Pakistani courts. Barelvi groups have organized mass public rallies against any proposal to amend the blasphemy laws, at least one of which under Article 295-C stipulates death punishment.[12]

Salman Taseer, the liberal governor of Punjab province, was assassinated by his security guard for advocating reforms in the blasphemy laws. Less than two months after him, in March 2011, Pakistan's federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in the Pakistani cabinet, was shot dead for supporting calls for reforms in the blasphemy laws. Liberal Pakistani lawmaker Sherry Rehman, who had introduced a legislative bill to amend the controversial blasphemy laws, received threats from militant Pakistani groups and had to be removed out of Pakistan by being appointed to the post of Pakistani ambassador to the United States.

While addressing Western audiences, Tahir-ul-Qadri is on record for arguing that the blasphemy laws of Islam do not apply to Christians, Jews, Hindus, and other non-Muslims. However, he is also on record supporting the blasphemy laws, including killing of Jews, Christians and Hindus. These conflicting viewpoints articulated by him at various times are on video, removing even a possibility of denial. In September 2012, Denmark's Minister for Integration Karen Hækkerup cancelled an anti-radicalism conference with Tahir-ul-Qadri.[13] In a highly controversial video, which combines video clips of Tahir-ul-Qadri and is being circulated on the internet, he states the following:[14]

"[Speaking in English in a Western country] whatever the law of blasphemy is, is not applicable on non-Muslims, is not applicable on Jews and Christians and other non-Muslims, minorities. It is just to be dealt with Muslims.

"[Speaking in Urdu sometime earlier, before his supporters] I was taking the stance… about the said [blasphemy] law that I got enacted [in Pakistan], my point of view was that whoever be the guilty of blaspheming the Prophet [Muhammad], whether Muslim or non-Muslim, man or woman; whether he be Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu or any other, or be man or woman, the punishment for one who commits blasphemy is killing.

"[Speaking in English at a conference] To explain the situation; the Danish integration ministry and the minister [Karen Hækkerup], they… have been totally receiving wrong information [regarding blasphemy laws of Pakistan being enacted at my advice]; they should try to correct their source of information; the fact is… I am not saying for the sake of the conference; the fact is I was never a consultant or adviser to General Zia-ul-Haq, the president who made the laws of blasphemy in '80s.

"I had never been a member of his cabinet; I was never a member of the parliament in his days. He invited me, offered me to be federal minister for three times, [but] I refused. And I never joined his dictatorial rule. And the way he was formulating the shari'a law, I was totally against it…. Finally, when this [blasphemy] law was made, President Zia-ul-Haq never consulted me. And I was never a part of shaping this law in the parliament made by General Zia-ul-Haq….

"[Speaking in Urdu sometime earlier before his supporters] I want to tell that this law on the protection of the honor of the Prophet [Muhammad], 295-C, this law that was enacted in this country, I want to bring it on record as to whose efforts this law was enacted. It is I who got this law enacted. Then it happened, let me tell you the entire matter.

"In 1985 when I completed 18 hours of arguments [before a court in favor of blasphemy law], at that time the rule was of General Zia-ul-Haq and there was a shura [cabinet led by Zia-ul-Haq] through 1986 and 1987. Some people of the cabinet met General Zia-ul-Haq and told him that the court has taken the decision, written the decision, my arguments were very solid, the court is about to announce the decision soon; if the law is enacted on the order of the court, the credit will not accrue to you [General Zia-ul-Haq]; but since you [General Zia-ul-Haq] are issuing the Hudood Ordinance [stipulating strict Islamist laws on women]… if you include the [blasphemy] law in that as an act of parliament, then the credit will go to you that you have served the deen [religion of Islam]; so instead of this decision being announced by court, you announce this decision on the behalf of the parliament.

"Upon this, General Zia-ul-Haq sent an order to the court seeking a copy of the entire file and the decision… and the decision that was [already] written was turned into an act of parliament. And this is how this law was enacted through the parliament. So, I want to tell that this law on the protection of the prophet's honor, the blasphemy law 295-C, was made by Allah through your this servant and brother [i.e. Tahir-ul-Qadri]….

"[Speaking in English about his position on the blasphemy laws] I differ with the procedural and administrative, all procedural law of this matter; I have many reservations, I have differences of opinion….

"[Speaking in Urdu earlier before his supporters] For the protection of the honor of the Prophet [Muhammad], so that all paths and all possibilities for blasphemy be eliminated, whether Muslim or infidel, man or woman… whoever committed the blasphemy of his highness [Prophet Muhammad] be killed and be kicked to hell like a dog….

"[Speaking in Urdu when asked by a television reporter while travelling in a car as to how much of truth Tahir-ul-Qadri uses in his life] Thanks to Allah, I speak 100% truth…."

Tahir-ul-Qadri On His Fatwa On Terrorism And Suicide Bombings: "Not Only Does [Islam] Renounce Suicide Attacks … But It Excludes Anyone Involved In Them From The Fold Of Islam, Which Is To Say That They Are Considered Infidels"

On March 2, 2010 in London, Tahir-ul-Qadri released a fatwa against suicide bombings in Pakistan. The 600-page fatwa, titled "Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings," was later published by Minhaj-ul-Quran International in December 2010.[15] The fatwa attracted global attention because it was delivered by one of the leading scholars of Islam in contemporary times. Tahir-ul-Qadri has authored more than a thousand scholarly and polemical books on Islam and his followers are based in several countries. According to his own website, Qadri has written "one thousand books in Urdu, English, and Arabic languages…. His revivalist, reformative, and reconstructive efforts and peace dynamics bear historic significance and hold an unparalleled position in promoting the cause of world peace and human rights, propagating the true Islamic faith, producing prodigious research work, and preaching the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah [sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad]."[16]

In several interviews, Tahir-ul-Qadri has condemned terrorism in Islamic as well as Western countries. It should also be noted that several Pakistani clerics have issued fatwas against terrorism and suicide bombings in Pakistan in recent years, but the same clerics have also declined to speak clearly against the Taliban's suicide bombings in Afghanistan. Following the release of his fatwa, Tahir-ul-Qadri was interviewed by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, a London-based Arabic-language daily. In the interview, Tahir-ul-Qadri noted that he had written against terrorism as early as 1995 and was now concerned about "the growing strength of terrorism in Pakistan."[17] He also declared that suicide bombers "cannot claim their suicide [attacks] to be acts of shahada [martyrdom]" and that "not only does [Islam] renounce suicide attacks … but it excludes anyone involved in them from the fold of Islam, which is to say that they are considered infidels."[18] Following are excerpts from the interview:[19]

"I have written 1,000 books, 400 of which were actually published, and 12 of which deal with this issue [of opposing terrorism]. The first [book on terrorism] was published in 1995 and dealt with the issue from the perspective of human rights... I wrote that killing [people] – Muslim or non-Muslim – through acts of terror is unequivocally forbidden... The second book was published in 2004 and titled Islam on Human Rights, one-third of which discusses the prohibition of terror according to shari'a proofs drawn from the Four Imams [founders of the four leading schools of Islamic jurisprudence] and from other important religious scholars, such as Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz bin Bazz, Nasser Al-Din Al-Albani, 'Sheikh Al-Islam' Ibn Taymiyya, and Saleh Al-Fawzan....

"I have written jurisprudential studies and books of this sort in the past, but my reason for drafting the fatwa at precisely this moment is the growing strength of terrorism in Pakistan over the last year. And [the terrorists] are no longer satisfied with simply killing people, but slaughter them like animals in Swat and the tribal districts. Furthermore, several eyewitnesses have reported that [the terrorists], after killing people, disinterred their bodies and hung them on trees for three days. This happened in Swat, where many people were slaughtered. Later on, the terrorists launched a campaign of bombing mosques on Fridays... Their heinous, barbaric deeds prove that they are 'modern-day Khawarij,' 'an old evil with a new name.'"

It appears that Dr. Qadri's fatwa and similar fatwas against suicide bombings by various Pakistani clerics were driven by a concern for saving the state of Pakistan, the first nation formed in the name of Islam in 1947, and possibly not by a belief that Islam itself is against suicide bombings even in a non-Muslim nation. Several Pakistani religious scholars have issued fatwas against suicide bombings in Pakistan. Zaid Hamid, a nationalist Pakistani security analyst who frequently cites Islamic literature in his writings, has also condemned suicide bombings in Pakistan.[20] A juristic clarification is still needed from Pakistani clerics on whether suicide bombings are forbidden by Islam even in non-Muslim countries.

Minahj.org, a website that belongs to Tahir-ul-Qadri, indicated in a report on December 6, 2009, that his fatwa against suicide bombings was meant for Islamic nations. That report said: "Qadri has termed suicide attacks and bomb blasts in a Muslim country [emphasis added] as anti-Islamic…. Islamic teachings do not allow anyone to take arms against any Muslim state [emphasis added]…."[21]

Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, a liberal Pakistani author who enjoys support among moderate Islamic forces around the world, noted that the 600-page "fatwa tends to offer a new theory of rebellion and state response to this phenomenon [of terrorism and suicide bombings] in a Muslim state and society [emphasis added]."[22] She added: "The legal-theological opinion by Qadri creates an impression that there is a consensus in Islam on the Khariji [those who rejected the authority of the Islamic state] which did not exist in Prophet Muhammad's … time but came about during the reign of the Fourth Caliph Hazrat Ali… and challenged his authority. The fatwa indeed is historical and manipulates the opinion of many earlier jurists to establish its thesis regarding the legality of the use of force by non-state actors in an Islamic state.

"For instance, the author has used Ibn Taymiyyah, one of the most prominent Islamic scholars of the Hanbali school of thought, who has driven the thinking of the Taliban, at least five times without any reference to the scholar's core argument. Indeed, this is to create an impression of a consensus which is not the case. The problem with this approach is that a strong counterargument cannot be constructed without engaging with the argument first.

"The fact that Tahir-ul-Qadri has misguided in the past, for example, about an assassination attempt on him, may not help in convincing hard core Takfiris [those who accuse Muslims of being apostates] or even Deobandis who are fed on an equally manipulative work by others such as [Pakistani terrorist group Jaish-e-Muhammad chief] Masood Azhar's three-volume justification of jihad, which, in turn, is styled on a research thesis of a modern Saudi scholar. What Qadri condemns as terrorism and Azhar applauds as jihad is actually an undecided debate in Islam on the legality of the state and rebellion…. Considering the very thin line in the fatwa between licit and illicit rebellion [against an Islamic state], one wonders how Qadri will justify his own rebellion against the political system [i.e. against the current elected democratic government in Pakistan]."[23]

Anti-Shi'ite Militant Group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Lauds Tahir-ul-Qadri For Saying: "One Who Does Not Consider A Shi'ite an Infidel Is Himself An Infidel"


The Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), a former political party banned by the government for its role in the killings of Shi'ite Muslims, continues to function as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), led by Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi. The SSP's armed wing Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which is possibly more powerful than the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), carries on the killing of Shi'ite Muslims across Pakistan. The group considers all Shi'ites as non-Muslims and has demanded that the Pakistani Shi'ites be declared minorities, or non-Muslims, like Ahmadi Muslims were declared non-Muslims under the Pakistani constitution in 1974.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has posted a six-part video series on YouTube in which it justifies the killing of Shi'ites. The above footage from the video shows Tahir-ul-Qadri, with the Urdu text stating: "One who does not consider a Shi'ite an infidel is himself an infidel."[24] Another text under the image of Tahir-ul-Qadri, who dismisses the literature of Shi'ite Muslims in the accompanying video statement as false and without authentic sources, states: "The Shi'ite and the Sunni can never be brothers. The Shi'ite is the biggest infidel of all."[25]

The LeJ video also notes that Ahmed Raza Khan, the founder of the Barelvi school of thought to which Tahir-ul-Qadri belongs, also considered Shi'ites as non-Muslims. Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the slain founder of SSP-LeJ, is shown addressing a crowd while the Urdu text clarifies his speech:"There is a fatwa [Islamic decree] by Maulana Ahmed Raza Barelvi [the founder of the Barelvi school of Sunni Islam] stating that the Shi'ite is a kafir [infidel], and anyone who doubts this is also a kafir."[26]

At Public Rallies, Tahir-ul-Qadri Describes Taliban As "Sons Of Soil", Demands End To U.S. Drone Attacks, Calls For Four-Year Interim Government In Pakistan


 

On December 23, 2012, at his first rally in Lahore, Tahir-ul-Qadri told his followers that the political and electoral system in Pakistan is "a sheer violation of the [Pakistani] Constitution."[27] The public rally was supported by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party, and some other politicians. Importantly, he issued a highly impractical deadline of January 10, 2013, for the Pakistani government to begin electoral reforms, failing which he called for four million people to march on Islamabad on January 14 and vowed to turn the Pakistani capital into a second Tahrir Square. Calling for an interim government in Pakistan, Tahir-ul-Qadri said that his agenda was to correct, not to postpone, the 2013 elections, but "there is no bar in constitution under its Article 254 to extend the date of elections for 90 days, if needed."[28] However, he has said earlier that such an interim government could be for three to four years, according to a September 1, 2012 interview.[29] His line of argument has kicked up a political storm in Pakistan, with democratic forces expressing concern that he is out to sabotage democracy in Pakistan, especially since the elected government is the first in Pakistan's history to complete its full five-year term by February 2013.

Addressing the crowd in Lahore, Tahir-ul-Qadri warned: "If the job [of electoral reforms] is not done by that time [January 10] we will throng Islamabad on January 14, with a gathering double the size of today's, and the marchers will decide for themselves how to eliminate the corrupt and dishonest from the system…. I will convene a people's parliament in Islamabad on January 14 to take decisions in the interest of the people which professional parliamentarians had been refraining from throughout our history…. My ultimatum is for all stakeholders of the present system, including the judiciary, armed forces, politicians, bureaucracy, and common man, to sit together and decide necessary changes in the system within the specified time to ensure that all constitutional provisions governing the conduct of free, fair, and impartial elections are implemented in letter and spirit."[30]

Qadri's argument that judiciary and military both should have a role in the formation of an interim government has lent to suspicions that he is supported by the Pakistani military, as both the judiciary and the military have played controversial roles in dislodging elected governments from power throughout Pakistan's history. A Pakistani journalist noted that Tahir-ul-Qadri's "stress on a role for both the military and the judiciary in choosing an interim government has sparked rumours that he probably had the backing of the military establishment [referring to the ISI, which is known for supporting the Taliban]."[31] In fact, as he led a people's march on Islamabad into the night of January 14, Qadri took an oath on the Koran from his followers not to leave the Pakistani capital before his demands were met and issued a deadline of 11 am of the next day for the government to dissolve the parliament and all elected provincial assemblies, and within hours the Supreme Court of Pakistan extended a helping hand to him by ordering the arrest within 24 hours of Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf in a corruption case.[32]

According to a report in the Urdu-language daily Roznama Express, Tahir-ul-Qadri, in his address at Lahore, urged the people to support him in establishing an Islamic system of governance on the lines of the first Islamic state established by Prophet Muhammad in Medina. Qadri stated: "I believe in politics, and the establishment of the state of Medina was the beginning of the politics of Muhammad. I want the system of Abu Bakr and Umar Farooq [respectively the first and second caliphs of Islam who succeeded Prophet Muhammad]."[33]

According to a report in The News daily, Tahir-ul-Qadri said that "those who have taken up arms [i.e. the Taliban militants] and are indulging in extremism due to some misunderstanding are also the sons of the soil."[34] Calling for an end to the U.S. drone attacks, the Islamic scholar sought to build bridges with the Taliban. According to the report, "He invited them to join hands with him if they wanted an end to drone attacks and to rid the country of foreign dominance. Addressing the extremists, he said if they talk of social and legal justice, the Constitution and real Islamic values, he would stand with them."[35] He also alleged an American hand in terrorism in Pakistan, especially on the December 17, 2012 Taliban attack on Peshawar airport, stating: "The bodies of the [terrorists] killed during the Peshawar airport attack bore tattoo marks, which is a proof of the involvement of foreign hands."[36]

In 2012, on a visit to the Indian town of Vadodara, Indian reporters sought Tahir-ul-Qadri's stance on terrorist attacks in India originating from across the border in Pakistan, but he declined to condemn the Pakistani terror groups, most of whom enjoy the support of the powerful Pakistani military establishment. Qadri stated: "I will not comment on matters between India and Pakistan. I will speak in general [against terrorism]. I will not say something that might cause more misunderstanding in the relations between India and Pakistan…. My topic is only love. I condemn terrorism in general, whether it be in any country, any religion…."[37]

On January 1, 2013, Tahir-ul-Qadri addressed a large public rally in Karachi with the support of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which has a strong presence in the biggest Pakistani city. Addressing the crowd, Qadri rejected concerns in the Pakistani media that some hidden hands and foreign agenda are behind his sudden rise in politics and stated: "There is no agenda behind us. Our agenda is ahead of us… our agenda is the elimination of feudalism and capitalism…. We want a caretaker government which is totally impartial, powerful and honest and possesses the courage and the political will to bring about electoral reforms."[38]

Altaf Hussain, the leader of MQM, also addressed the rally by telephone from his base in London, urging the Pakistani military to support Tahir-ul-Qadri. The MQM chief said: "For the protection of Pakistan, the armed forces and the institutions of national security should support this revolution instead of acting as an obstacle in the path of the poor people's revolution; the revolution's journey has begun and, Allah willing, it will end only after reaching its conclusion."[39] MQM leader Altaf Hussein, who later withdrew his support for Qadri's January 14 march on Islamabad, had warned of a political drone striking Pakistan.

Tahir-ul-Qadri Seen As A Threat To Pakistan's Fledgling Democracy - Former Pakistani PM: Qadri Wants "To Sabotage The Election Process"; Religious Leader: Qadri's Mission Is "To Destabilize Pakistan"


Tahir-ul-Qadri's Facebook wall proposes: "Green, popular, peaceful revolution"

The suddenness of developments surrounding Tahir-ul-Qadri's return to Pakistan and the message of radical political and electoral reform reiterated in his speeches and media interviews has caused a serious concern in Pakistan that he is here to delay, as he has proposed, the 2013 elections, which could result in the imposition of martial law or some other form of a non-democratic administration on the country.

On January 3, the ruling and opposition parties in the legislative assembly of Pakistan's Punjab province passed a unanimous resolution demanding that Qadri be arrested and tried for treason as he is involved in "conspiracies against democracy."[40] The resolution – titled "Resolution against Conspiracies against Democracy, Assemblies and Upcoming General Elections" – reads: "The house condemns conspiracies against democracy, assemblies and upcoming general elections. The house condemns the plan to [impose an] unelected person on the nation in order to postpone the upcoming elections…. The house demands all political forces unite against conspiracies including sabotage of the elections and democracy."[41]

On January 3, former Pakistani Prime Minister and top opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who leads the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), accused Tahir-ul-Qadri of panning to disrupt the general elections ten weeks away. Sharif, reminding Qadri that a Canadian passport-holder like him cannot lead a party in Pakistan, told reporters: "Some people say he is in Pakistan to fulfill some foreign agenda while others see a hand of [Pakistani intelligence] agencies behind him…. I am also thinking why he has chosen this particular time and the only available answer is that he wants to sabotage the election process…. The people of Pakistan are all set to bring about a change in the country when all of a sudden a man intervenes and starts giving ultimatums to the government."[42]

Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, the nationalist leader of the militant religious group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, said Tahir-ul-Qadri's mission is "to destabilize Pakistan."[43] Asked if his group will join the Qadri-led march, he said: "We will never destabilize Pakistan and completely respect its law and order situation."[44] On December 31, former Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, vice president of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), described Tahir-ul-Qadri's march as "uncalled-for" and asked him to enter politics as per the country's electoral system.[45]

On January 4, a petition filed in the Islamabad High Court accused Qadri of trying to create a parallel parliament by organizing the march on Islamabad, and described it as a "direct challenge to the sovereignty of Pakistan."[46] On January 9, another petition filed in the Supreme Court of Pakistan sought an injunction that Qadri "be directed not to do anything, which is illegal, improper, unlawful and unconstitutional" as apprehensions are being expressed that his "real agenda … [is] to derail the nascent democracy."[47]

 

* Tufail Ahmad is Director of MEMRI's South Asia Studies Project (www.memri.org/sasp)

 

Endnotes:

[1] Senior Pakistani Sheikh Issues Fatwa Against Terrorism, Says Suicide Bombers Go To Hell, Not Paradise, MEMRI Special Dispatches Series No. 2914, April 16, 2010 (Senior Pakistani Sheikh Issues Fatwa Against Terrorism, Says Suicide Bombers Go To Hell, Not Paradise)

[2] http://tune.pk/video/15700/MazaratKSath10Dec2012, December 10, 2012. Original English of all media reports used in this dispatch has been mildly edited for clarity and standardization.

[4] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), December 24, 2012.

[5] The News (Pakistan), January 2, 2012.

[7] Sermon By Pakistani Cleric That Led To Assassination of Liberal Punjab Governor Salman Taseer; Former Chief Justice Defending Assassin, MEMRI Special Dispatches Series No. 4218, October 20, 2011 (Sermon By Pakistani Cleric That Led To Assassination of Liberal Punjab Governor Salman Taseer; Former Chief Justice Defending Assassin)

[8] Sermon By Pakistani Cleric That Led To Assassination of Liberal Punjab Governor Salman Taseer; Former Chief Justice Defending Assassin, MEMRI Special Dispatches Series No. 4218, October 20, 2011 (Sermon By Pakistani Cleric That Led To Assassination of Liberal Punjab Governor Salman Taseer; Former Chief Justice Defending Assassin)

[9] Al-Qaeda Official Ustad Ahmad Farooq: Upon His Victory in Mecca, The Prophet Muhammad Ordered The Blood of Those Who Were Against Him To Be Spilled, MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor Report No. 4550, March 6, 2012 (http://www.memrijttm.org/content/en/report.htm?report=6149)

[10] A copy of the video is available upon request. Scores of readers of Pakistani website Siasat.pk commented on the video, questioning Tahirul Qadri's detailed assertions in the dream; see here http://www.siasat.pk/forum/search.php?searchid=12100442, January 1, 2013.

[12] Pakistani Commentators Examine the Extremist Religious Mindset in Pakistan After Assassinations of Liberal Politicians over the Blasphemy Laws Controversy, MEMRI Special Dispatches Series No. 3639, March 4, 2011 (Pakistani Commentators Examine the Extremist Religious Mindset in Pakistan After Assassinations of Liberal Politicians over the Blasphemy Laws Controversy)

[15] Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings by Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, Minhaj-ul-Quran International (UK), December 2010.

[16] http://www.minhajbooks.com, accessed January 2, 2013.

[17] Senior Pakistani Sheikh Issues Fatwa Against Terrorism, Says Suicide Bombers Go To Hell, Not Paradise, MEMRI Special Dispatches Series No. 2914, April 16, 2010 (Senior Pakistani Sheikh Issues Fatwa Against Terrorism, Says Suicide Bombers Go To Hell, Not Paradise)

[18] Senior Pakistani Sheikh Issues Fatwa Against Terrorism, Says Suicide Bombers Go To Hell, Not Paradise, MEMRI Special Dispatches Series No. 2914, April 16, 2010 (Senior Pakistani Sheikh Issues Fatwa Against Terrorism, Says Suicide Bombers Go To Hell, Not Paradise)

[19] Senior Pakistani Sheikh Issues Fatwa Against Terrorism, Says Suicide Bombers Go To Hell, Not Paradise, MEMRI Special Dispatches Series No. 2914, April 16, 2010 (Senior Pakistani Sheikh Issues Fatwa Against Terrorism, Says Suicide Bombers Go To Hell, Not Paradise)

[20] http://criticalppp.com/archives/226972, accessed January 13, 2013.

[22] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), January 3, 2013.

[23] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), January 3, 2013.

[24] Using Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Other Internet Tools, Pakistani Terrorist Group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Incites Violence against Shi'ite Muslims and Engenders Antisemitism, MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 816, March 21, 2012 (Using Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Other Internet Tools, Pakistani Terrorist Group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Incites Violence against Shi'ite Muslims and Engenders Antisemitism)

[25] Using Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Other Internet Tools, Pakistani Terrorist Group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Incites Violence against Shi'ite Muslims and Engenders Antisemitism, MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 816, March 21, 2012 (Using Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Other Internet Tools, Pakistani Terrorist Group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Incites Violence against Shi'ite Muslims and Engenders Antisemitism)

[26] Using Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Other Internet Tools, Pakistani Terrorist Group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Incites Violence against Shi'ite Muslims and Engenders Antisemitism, MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 816, March 21, 2012 (Using Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Other Internet Tools, Pakistani Terrorist Group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Incites Violence against Shi'ite Muslims and Engenders Antisemitism)

[27] The News (Pakistan), December 24, 2012.

[28] Daily Times (Pakistan), December 24, 2012.

[29] Nation.com.pk (Pakistan), September 1, 2012.

[30] The News (Pakistan), December 24, 2012.

[32] Tribune.com.pk (Pakistan), January 15, 2013.

[33] Roznama Express (Pakistan), December 24, 2012.

[34] The News (Pakistan), December 24, 2012.

[35] The News (Pakistan), December 24, 2012.

[36] Roznama Express (Pakistan), December 24, 2012.

[38] The News (Pakistan), January 2, 2013.

[39] Roznama Express (Pakistan), January 2, 2013.

[40] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), January 4, 2013.

[41] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), January 4, 2013.

[42] The News (Pakistan), January 4, 2013.

[43] Tribune.com.pk (Pakistan), January 7, 2013.

[44] Tribune.com.pk (Pakistan), January 7, 2013.

[45] Nation.com.pk (Pakistan), December 31, 2012.

[46] Nation.com.pk (Pakistan), January 4, 2013.

[47] Nation.com.pk (Pakistan), January 9, 2013.

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