Many are disgusted at the PMLN government’s inability to subdue the Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan group laying siege to the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The religious group is demanding the federal law minister resign over allegedly having insulted Islam’s Prophet through a hastily abandoned amendment to the election bill. On Nov. 20, two weeks after the siege began, “Labaik has caused business losses worth billions, besmeared our national image in the world, beating up commuters, attacking school buses and vans, smashing private cars, taking over public property, causing deaths by blocking roads to hospitals, inciting violence, abusing and threatening etc.”
The man leading them is Khadim Hussain Rizvi—Rizvi here pointing to the founder of the Ahmad Raza Khan sect—who is literally worshipped by his 2,000-odd devotees. Pictures and videos show his supporters approaching him and kissing his hand, as if he was a deity come down to deliver a miracle: take down the sinful PMLN government and replace it with one directly run by Rizvi, who has been quick to inform the police he cares nothing for the 18-odd cases registered against his group in Islamabad’s police stations. He has a confidence bred over decades when the state was busy handling the Deobandis it considered more dangerous.
Whereas the Deobandis swaggered because of their participation in state-orchestrated jihad and thought nothing of forcibly occupying Barelvi mosques, the “qadris” and “chishtis” of the small city grew as cults with big money made from selling “miracle-based” religion to a largely illiterate population. Those who think Barelvis lack in jihadi muscle and generous Saudi funding should have taken a lesson from the 2014 sit-in of the Canada-based Barelvi leader Tahirul Qadri. Now, if the country has not realized what it is facing, it should take a closer look at Rizvi and his wicked smile as he shows more Barelvi muscle.