Men with beards dot the living room floor. The sofas have been swept to the sides. A weekly ‘dars’ is underway. This time, the topic is Mumtaz Qadri.
The maulana talks about how Qadri is a hero, a true ‘Ashiq-e-Rasool’, someone who took the law in his own hands only because the state is corrupt and could never serve justice. But, he warns the audience to never pray for Qadri’s forgiveness. “After all, he is a Mushrik.”
The attendees of the dars are Deobandi – mostly Jamaat-e-Islami workers and sympathisers – though Qadri, who was hanged last week for killing the then Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer in cold blood, belonged to the Barelvi sect. The two sects view each other with suspicion, and never before have they been united over an issue pertaining to religion.
More to it
On March 7, a week after Qadri was hanged, a suicide blast rocked a sessions court in Shabqadar, a city in the Charsadda district.A splinter group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, claimed responsibility, terming it a response to Qadri’s hanging in an email sent out to journalists.
The Taliban are widely blamed (though they never claimed responsibility) for attacks on the Abdullah Shah Ghazi Shrine and Data Darbar in 2010. Qadri, a Barelvi Muslim, must have visited many such shrines; for him it was a matter of faith.
The JI never took out a rally to condemn the act of terror where over 50 devotees were killed and hundreds other injured. But as the Barelvi backed Sunni Tehrik took out a rally to condemn Qadri’s hanging on February 29, gathering thousands of supporters near Numaish Chowrangi, the JI organised a smaller rally on Sharea Faisal, blocking traffic for hours.
The Idara Noor-e-Haq, the party’s headquarters situated on Jamshed Road, has a life-sized poster of Qadri put up outside which hails him as a hero. Banners inviting “true Aashiq-e-Rasool” were exhibited around the city for Sunday’s rally against the state’s decision to hang Qadri.
The convict’s funeral, too, was attended by the top leadership of the JI, including its chief Siraj-ul-Haq.
“We are very clear on our stance on Qadri. He is a hero. What he did was according to the Shariah. Salmaan Taseer, not Qadri, took the law in his hand. Taseer messed with God’s law,” said JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman.
‘An enemy’s enemy’
Professor Jaffar Ahmer, chairman of the Pakistan Study Centre at Karachi University, views this behavior as a manifestation of the old adage about “an enemy’s enemy being a friend”.
“The Taliban have been at war with the state. And Qadri is somebody who stood against the law and killed in the name of the Islam.”
As for the JI, he thinks this would never have happened had Maulana Maududi been alive. “Very few people know this, but Maududi was against the Kashmir Jihad in 1948. That is because he said that a state cannot go to war with another state that it has entered into a pact with. We had several border and water pacts with India at time. Their policy on Qadri is exactly why they have become more and more isolated.”
Amir Rana, analyst and head of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, says, “Qadri’s act went well with all the right wing elements. Therefore, the garb of sectarianism has been shoved under the carpet.”
But, one wonders if there still is more to it. The JI, which once included all Sunni sects, has now adopted a more Salafi stance, estranging the Barelvi vote that is split between the Sunni Tehreek and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
Following its dismal performance in Karachi’s local government elections, the JI has picked up local issues to rally on, and with the MQM lying low, perhaps, the time is right to try and become relevant in the city once again.