Firebrand cleric Khadim Rizvi dies

Updated 20 Nov 2020

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KHADIM Hussain Rizvi’s TLP ended up as the fifth largest party in the 2018 general election.
KHADIM Hussain Rizvi’s TLP ended up as the fifth largest party in the 2018 general election.

LAHORE: Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a firebrand right-wing preacher who shot to fearsome prominence on the national scene in the last five years, breathed his last on Thursday evening. He was 54.

Though he was reported to have had temperature for the last few days, the immediate cause of his death is not known. Some blamed it on Covid-19 while others held heart failure responsible for the death. However, neither family nor his party officially shared the cause of his death.

Khadim Rizvi’s health situation deteriorated on Thursday afternoon and he was taken to Shaikh Zayed Hospital, where he was reportedly pronounced dead. His family, however, took him to a nearby private hospital, which confirmed his passing away.

Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed condolence over Maulana Rizvi’s death.

PM offers condolences

“On the passing of Maulana Khadim Hussain Rizvi my condolences go to his family. Inna lillahi wa Inna Ilayhi Raji’un,” APP quoted the premier as having said in a tweet.

Maulana Rizvi had cut off the federal capital — third time in the last five years — from the rest of the country when he led a protest rally last week against blasphemous caricatures published in France. He had earlier done it twice — in 2016 demanding hanging of blasphemy accused Aasia Bibi, and then in 2017 in defence of blasphemy law and had succeeded in securing resignation of then law minister Zahid Hamid, holding him responsible for conspiring a change in the wording of oath for public representatives.

Maulana Rizvi became a national figure when one of his followers, Mumtaz Qadri, assassinated Punjab governor Salman Taseer in January 2011. He led a movement for the release of Qadri, who was official bodyguard of the governor.

After Qadri’s hanging in February 2016, Maulana Rizvi converted the movement into Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah for the protection of section 295C of the penal code and vowed to resist any attempt to change or abolish the law. However, he once again renamed and restructured the religious movement into a political party called Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan just before the 2018 polls and contested the elections.

Maulana Rizvi shocked his critics when his party won two provincial assembly seats in Sindh, nearly won a National Assembly seat, secured 2.2 million votes in the elections and ended up as the fifth largest party on the final chart.

The resulting political weight gave him clout, at least in perception of many, at the national level. However, his clout started waning in November 2018 when he crossed lines with powerful institutions in the country during a protest in Lahore and criticised judges and generals at the rally.

He was picked up by law enforcement agencies and languished in jail for the next six months. He was released in March 2019 after furnishing some written guarantees for good behaviour.

Though a wheelchair-bound man, Khadim Rizvi spent an eventful life, especially the last few years when he became a household name. Well versed in Persian and an avid reader, Maulana Rizvi was an orator par excellence who could fire passion of his audience.

“Everything was sudden about him; his rise and his fall. He came from nowhere to rise as the most charismatic and controversial radical Barelvi leader, and he is gone — all within five years,” said Nadeem Farooq Paracha, a columnist at Dawn.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2020