Key Barelvi groups agree to stage joint protests against Qadri’s execution under banner of Tanzeemat Ahle Sunnat
Although religious groups belonging to various schools of thought have condemned the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, political analysts believe that Barelvi groups are using the opportunity to unite on a single platform and jointly show their strength to counter the growing influence of Deobandi and Ahle Hadith groups in the country.
The central leaders of key Barelvi parties and groups have agreed to organise joint protests under the banner of the “Tanzeemat Ahle Sunnat (TAH)” instead of doing so separately.
Unlike the Deobandi and Shia groups, the Barelvi parties have been unable to reach a consensus over specific issues.
However, a key Karachi-based Barelvi leader, confirming the revival of the alliance, said the Qadri issue had helped in bringing the groups together and setting aside their differences.
“In future, all main Barelvi groups will make joint efforts and remain united on issues such as the execution of Qadri and the blasphemy law,” he told The News requesting anonymity.
The central leaders of many Barelvi groups have expressed their desire to form the TAH, which will announce the future strategy for the protest campaign.
“The alliance will not have a body and a shura comprising the heads of all groups will make decisions,” he maintained.
Internal organisational differences have caused the emergence of many Barelvi groups in the country.
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP), a key Barelvi political party that won seats in Karachi in the 1970s, was divided into two groups – one led by Shah Owais Noorani, son of prominent Barelvi figure late Shah Ahmed Noorani, and the other by Sahibzada Abul Khair Muhammad Zubair, a former MNA of Hyderabad.
The Sunni Tehreek, a Barelvi group, too has been facing internal rifts in recent times. Ejaz Sarwat Qadri heads its stronger faction, which has recently renamed itself as the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek.
Muhammad Bilal Qadri, son of ST founder Saleem Qadri, has formed his own faction after developing differences with Ejaz Qadri and others.
The Haji Hanif Tayyab-led Nizam-e-Mustafa Party, the Hamid Raza Qadri-led Sunni Ittehad Council, and the Shah Turabul Haq-led Jamaat Ahle Sunnat are the prominent ones among other Barelvi groups.
However, all Barelvi groups are unlikely to become part of the TAH.
Deobandi, Ahle Hadith influence
Religious parties appear to be divided on a sectarian basis in terms of staging protests against Qadri’s execution.
Although religious parties of all schools of thought have condemned the execution, only Barelvi groups are in the forefront in staging protests.
Security experts say that Deobandi, Ahle Hadith and Shia groups’ strength stems from their role in Afghanistan and support from Arab countries and Iran.
However, Barelvi groups have never been part of jihadist or militant activities.
However, they became violent on the issue of the blasphemy law, especially for Qadri’s release.
Muhammad Amir Rana, the director of the Pak Institute of Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based security think tank, said in the last three decades, Deobandi religious groups have gained in strength in the country because of several reasons, especially their involvement in the Afghan insurgency while Barelvi groups took a defensive position.
“Exploiting the issues related to blasphemy, Barelvi groups, especially the ST, have been showing their strength by organising protests,” he added.
Ali Arqam, a Karachi-based journalist, wrote in a tweet that the Barelvis’ show of power was meant to materialise it in a political clout which for some quarters was desperately needed for countering the Deobandi influence.