The Ghost of Mumtaz Qadri and the Mainstreaming of Khadim Hussain Rizvi
Not many Pakistan watchers were aware of Khadim Hussain Rizvi until a year ago. He was a Mullah preaching in a Lahore mosque and a self-proclaimed Brelvi scholar.
Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer has transformed Khadim Hussain Rizvi from a Mullah into a political leader. Rizvi used the Qadri trial, launching a movement against the blasphemers earlier, leading to the formation of a political party in 2017, just before the elections for the NA-120 in September 2017. Rizvi’s speeches, available in the public and also in Social Media, are inflammatory and provocative. Though the stated objective of Rizvi’s movement was the release of Qadri, it had an anti-minority agenda. In the name of targeting the blasphemers, it opposed any reasonable and rationale debate on blasphemy within Pakistan.
His party contested in the two elections during the last month in Lahore (NA-120) and Peshawar (NA-04). Now, everyone within Pakistan is talking about his party. It did not win either of the two elections, but made a significant impact by securing 7100 and 9400 respectively in Lahore and Peshawar elections. In both places, it has polled more than the decades-old and well-established religious parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). The latter could secure only 590 and 7400 votes in these two bye-elections. Besides the Tehreek-e-Labaik, the JuD supported Milli Muslim League (MML), formed recently is also making a significant presence. Since the Election Commission has not recognized the MML as a political party, its candidate contested as an independent and polled around 5800 and 3600 votes in Lahore and Peshawar respectively.
Where does the support to the extreme rightwing come? Whose share are they eating into? Is it only the right-wing political parties such as the JI, which is yielding political space to the extreme right? Or, even the mainstream secular parties such as the PPP are losing to the above? The Tehreek-e-Labaik and the Milli Muslim League together have polled around 26000 votes in Lahore and Peshawar; PPP could only secure around 13,500 votes from the same constituencies.
Until now, the religious Right in Pakistan stood in the periphery electorally. With the Tehreek and the MML, how real is the danger of periphery in Pakistan’s politics coming into the Core?