LAHORE: The future political stakes of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah hang in the balance as its internal rifts are widening.
The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), being touted as the political face of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah, has begun disowning the faction led by Dr Ashraf Asif Jalali. The fact came to the fore when TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who had led the Islamabad protest, disowned the Lahore sit-in in a TV talk show on Thursday.
Pir Afzal Qadri from Gujranwala, another central character of the Faizabad sit-in, has already formed his own faction of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik.
The sit-in by the Jalali-led Tehreek-i-Labbaik outside the Punjab Assembly building on The Mall entered the sixth day on Thursday as the protesters, numbering not more than a few dozens, pegged their tents at one of the busiest intersections of the city, sending the traffic out of gear to the disadvantage of the Lahorites.
The Lahore sit-in was started by the Jalali-led Tehreek-i-Labbaik following reports of police operation against the participants of the Faizabad sit-in on Saturday (Nov 25) morning.
The protesters had blocked the main entrance to Islamabad for about three weeks, demanding that the federal law minister resign admitting responsibility for deleting a clause from the law relating to Khatm-i-Nubuwat oath taken by Muslim candidates.
The Islamabad episode culminated in an agreement brokered by the army between the federal government and the protesters led by fiery cleric Khadim Rizvi. But ironically, their colleagues in Lahore led by Dr Asif Jalali didn’t accept that in the first hint of grouping within the outfit.
Apparently grieved at being ignored in the agreement with the federal government, Dr Jalali told the media that “qisas for 70 martyrs of Khatm-i-Nubuwat was not incorporated in it”. He also sought the resignation of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah for allegedly speaking for the Ahmadi community’s rights in a TV show.
Dr Jalali had earlier staged an eight-day sit-in close to D-Chowk in Islamabad. The protest missed media limelight and ended on Nov 3 after an assurance from the government that the Raja Zafarul Haq-led committee’s report on the controversial law would be made public within 20 days. He insists on continuing the Lahore protest until Mr Sanaullah steps down.
Insiders say that besides making other offers, the PML-N government in Punjab has also promised to politically accommodate the Tehreek-i-Labbaik by conceding a certain number of seats to it in the coming general elections.
Already heading Tehreek Siraat-i-Mustaqeem, Dr Jalali claims that he had formed Tehreek-i-Labbaik the day Mumtaz Qadri — a police guard who killed former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer — was hanged on Feb 29 last year while Khadim Rizvi headed the TLP formed in Karachi in August 2015.
The Tehreek-i-Labbaik was little known until it took part in the by-poll for National Assembly constituency NA-120 (Lahore-III) against former first lady Begum Kulsoom Nawaz. The seat had fallen vacant after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case.
To the astonishment of many, Tehreek candidate Sheikh Azhar Hussain Rizvi came third in the electoral race outnumbering the mainstream Pakistan Peoples Party and Jamaat-i-Islami by bagging over 7,000 votes, though there’s hardly any election activity of the outfit visible to the voters. Most of its election campaign remained confined to mosques mostly addressed by Khadim Rizvi with occasional motorcycle rallies in the constituency.
The outfit improved its tally further in the subsequent by-election in NA-4 (Peshawar), although the Barelvi school of thought the Tehreek represents does not enjoy as much following in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as in Punjab and elsewhere in the country.
Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2017