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‘Pro-Mumtaz Qadri religious group morphing into militant outfit’

By Zia Ur Rehman
July 31, 2017

Casting aspersions on the activities of the Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY), a law enforcement agency has mounted a watch on the group, The News learnt on Sunday.

The TLY is a Barelvi group that was formed to run a campaign to release Mumtaz Qadri, who was convicted and executed for the murder of the then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.

A senior law enforcement official in Karachi told The News that the group had initially restricted itself to protests and rallies for Qadri’s release. “But after his hanging, the TLY’s subversive activities show that the group has been morphing into a militant outfit.”

The official said the group was recently found involved in attacks on members of rival Deobandi groups and non-Muslim communities, adding that some intelligence agencies were monitoring the activities of the outfit’s active members.

He said that after Qadri’s arrest, a number of Barelvi groups had formed a joint body titled ‘Tehreek-e-Rihai Ghazi Mumtaz Qadri’ for his release, but months after hanging him, several mainstream Barelvi groups abandoned the committee.

Some of its hard-line clerics formed the TLY, and their aggressive stance on blasphemy issues attracted a significant number of like-minded young men to the group, he added. “They are ditching the tag of spiritualism and Sufism. If not kept in check, they could emerge as a lethal and violent militant outfit.”

Sources familiar with the affairs of Barelvi groups agreed with the assessment. They said Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Dr Asif Ashraf Jalali, Pir Afzal Qadri and Pir Irfan Shah Mash’hadi – all of them based in Punjab – are the clerics who have formed the TLY.

A TLY rally had paralysed Islamabad last March, while another of their rallies organised this January on the eve of Taseer’s sixth death anniversary had choked Lahore.

“Successes in these events have provided them with more strength,” said a source, adding that after Punjab, Karachi had become the centre of the outfit’s activities.

Dozens of TLY members had arrived at the Karachi Press Club this January to disrupt a rally of civil society activists protesting for the release of five missing bloggers.

TLY workers pelted stones on civil society activists and chanted slogans asking the police to file blasphemy cases against the missing activists. They also defaced the press club’s boundary walls that were adorned with murals of several progressive civil society activists.

Sources said the Bahar-e Shariat mosque in Bahadurabad and the Habibia mosque in Dhoraji were the TLY’s main headquarters in the metropolis where Mufti Asif Abdullah and Muzaffaf Hussain Shah delivered heated sermons on blasphemy issues and in favour of Qadri. The group is also more active in the areas dominated by Memon communities, they added.

They said that prior to the TLY, the last Barelvi group in Karachi to be placed on the watch list was the Sunni Tehreek in 2002 for the party’s involvement in subversive acts.

Mainstream Barelvi parties, such as the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP) and the Dawat-e-Islami, and several Sufi groups have also kept their distance from the TLY, they added.

A JUP leader said: “After the ST, the TLY is another group that would defame the Barelvi community, which has been famous for its Sufism and tolerance.”