TLP chief
Published July 12, 2018

'Winner or spoiler?'

by Ashaar Rehman

Khadim Hussain Rizvi is someone to watch out for. A dark horse still, Rizvi has yet to prove his worth as a winner or spoiler in a general election, though he has proudly displayed his powers to bring the state down on its knees with the famous Faizabad dharna

He has demonstrated that he has cadres at his command. Not least significantly, these cadres were active during some of the recent by-elections in Lahore, Chakwal, etc.

Can Rizvi use similar tactics to go through an election that may go a long way to determine his place in the country’s politics?

Many would be hoping that his co-option into mainstream Pakistani politics would lead him to tone down his high-tension oratorical brand, which has distinguished him from those who-also-spoke-at-the-event crowd.

The danger for Rizvi would be that any signs of mellowing down on his part could lead to other firebrands to eclipse him fast with their rhetoric.

The Barelvi branch which Rizvi leads has employed the institution of the mosque to facilitate their foray into mainstream politics.

The rather quiet use of the mosque network has run as an effective parallel to the loud, emotional, almost habitual, pronouncements by Rizvi.

He has to now decide whether he would want to compete with other contestants using the usual modes of canvassing that they use, or whether he would prefer an ambush-style fight carried out by his committed followers from constituency to constituency.

Cadres at Rizvi’s command know how to pull an ambush off and cause general panic. Example, a national assembly constituency in Lahore in 2002. A virtually unheralded Barelvi candidate fell just short of upstaging the much-celebrated and fancied ‘joint’ PPP-PML-N candidate in Lahore by the name of Aitzaz Ahsan.

A comparison between the difficult-to-quantify Barelvi challenge now and the remarkable Sunni ‘awakening’ in Jhang during the 1970 election is a tempting discussion, but it can best wait until after the general election.

For now, let it be known that the Barelvis did warn the opponents of their potential to turn a contest on its head, and sometimes, even in their favour.

Key stances

Rizvi considers himself among the protectors of Khatm-i-Nabuwat and Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which is part of Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

He had led the 20-day sit-in at Islamabad's Faizabad interchange against the modification to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath. The sit-in in the capital had culminated with the signing of the Faizabad agreement — seen as a complete surrender by the state — which was brokered by the army.

He's contesting the upcoming election with the same message. “We are quite confident that all those who believe in Khatm-i-Nabuwat would side with us," Rizvi said as he launched the 2018 electioneering campaign of his party in Karachi.

Rizvi also wants to transform Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state.

“Our manifesto is the same as that of Islam. Our all struggle is aimed at having a welfare state,,” he said when asked by a reporter about the party manifesto.

Rizvi, a Sunni Barelvi, is a staunch supporter of the Sunni Barelvi school of thought and has vowed to protect the group's interests.

“Barelvis have been subjected to suppression for over a century and a reversal to this phenomenon has started. Though it will take time but eventually the voice of the majority will prevail,” he said in an interview to Eos.