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Pakistan Today: Sheikhul Islam, Protest Demonstrations, Sectarian Perceptions And The Current Situation


By Mujahid Hussain, New Age Islam

January 17, 2013

Despite inhospitable weather and fast receding participation of people in the sit-in in Islamabad, Sheikhul Islam finally appears to be successful in creating a situation in Pakistan that will help the parliamentary politics of Pakistan to take its direction.  Though there are many guesses and no clear picture has emerged till now, one thing can be said with conviction that Tahirul Qadri has indeed created trouble for the armed Deobandi and Ahl-e-hadith factions.

The Deobandi and Ahle-hadith factions of Pakistan have their reach from the highest echelons of power to the common Pakistanis with reference to financial assistance and where on one side the jihad for Afghanistan and Kashmir goes on and on the other communal war is also fought on the local level.

Till now, Sheikhul Islam’s organisation Minhajul Quran has had to face only written and verbal onslaughts of the extremist Ahle Hadith and Deobandi sects with reference to sectarian beliefs but the issue had not reached the level of violence.  But now there is a clear possibility that an armed war is going to begin on a new front. Sheikhul Islam also possesses numerical and financial strength and has the full capacity to attract the attention of those countries and organisations that are worried about the ever growing power of ahl-e-hadith and Deobandi forces in Pakistan.

Whether the demonstration of power by Shiekhul Islam in Islamabad and his speeches being continuously telecast on the national media bear fruit or not is another question but it can be said for sure that Sheikhul Islam will now go a step forward and take part in intensifying the sectarian divide. Sheikhul Islam knows from day one that a large number of his opponents in other sects are very organised and their group is more powerful than his organisation with respect to the ongoing jihad in the region.

An organised group of ahl-e-hadith faction has ‘adopted’ local journalist Nawaz Kharal’s book titled ‘The most controversial personality of Pakistan’ and has posted it on  their website prominently.  Although the book is in the context of a judgment of Lahore High Court against Sheikhul Islam, it consists of the writings of eminent right wing journalists, intellectuals, religious scholars and persons from other walks of life in Pakistan apart from some disclosures by his former colleagues.

The summary of the book is that the head of Minhajul Quran, Mr Tahirul Qadri is an opportunistic religious leader who not only extracts money from simple common people by showing them unrealistic dreams but also hankers after fame so much that sometimes he does not hesitate to lie as he did on the issue of fatal attack on him in Lahore. On the other hand, Sheikhul Islam and his followers call the judgment a conspiracy against him.

The situation of uncertainty arising out of bad governance of the civil rulers of Pakistan and the regular interferences of the army promoting corruption and opportunism is Pakistan’s problem. Common people are fed up with the insecurity, uncertainty, rising prices of essential commodities and their unavailability. In spite of all this whenever the atmosphere is charged with religious violence, these people unite and the society becomes hysterical. Every year billions of rupees are spent on religious conferences and the larger chunk of the advertisements goes to the channels that carry the live telecast of the programmes of ‘sama’ and Naat. More often there is news that a successful reciter of naat was weighed in gold and he charges upto Rs 5 lakh for a one night performance whereas there are other numerous naat and marsiah reciters who earn upto Rs one lakh per day and bask in the glory like the film stars.

If the Pakistani society is analysed on proper lines, it is observed that sometimes the analyses and predictions of the ‘electronic intellectuals’ sitting on TV screens go unheeded and as the people  see the situation and affairs with the help of wisdom and vision obtained from religious myths and thus they see not only the West but India, Israel and even some other Islamic countries as the enemy of Pakistan and Islam.

The dominant majority of the country believes that democracy is an anti-Islam system and the arch enemy of Islam, the West, wants to destroy the collective religious conscience and dignity of Pakistanis by imposing it on Pakistan. For example, claimant of the ideal love of the people, Hafiz Sayeed has declared democracy kufr in his writings and speeches dozens of times and interprets this system as a revolt against the religion of God. On the other hand the most lethal weapon in possession of Tahirul Qadri’s detractors is that he is a Canadian citizen and the country is anti-Islam though his identity in Europe and Canada is his religious personality and his organisation and not his support for democracy.

That Sheikhul Islam is presenting his demands with such a great conviction and calling a crowd of thousands of people a sea of humanity brings before the eyes the numerous stories, incidents and dreams associated with his past. Not long ago, he had pronounced triple talaq to the dirty politics of Pakistan by taken an oath on the Quran. And after a short period, Sheikhul Islam was found on a protest vehicle along with the important characters of the national politics.

During the Musharraf reign, he got a seat in the national assembly which he renounced when he became sure that Musharraf did not want to make him the Prime Minister. Shortly after that he marched ahead with the historically failed slogan of Shia-Sunni unity with the hope of increasing the number of his followers. He met considerable success in his efforts too but he after some time the success met with the same fate as that of a former federal minister and the most famous online TV aalim who was eager to gain acceptability among the Shias with the help of some historical references but when the reaction of the followers of the Sunni Islam came forth, he fell flat. After biting dust on the sectarian front, Sheikhul Islam is now close to political defeat also. It is a testing time for his wisdom and tact and it remains to be seen if he wriggles himself out of this vortex with the help of some sacred dream or gets salvation through some operation of the government or his credibility is temporarily saved by the traditional bailsman of crises in Pakistan, Choudhary Shuja’at through dialogue.

A regular columnist for New Age Islam, Mujahid Hussain is the author of nine books including the recently published ‘Punjabi Taliban’. He has been writing for various reputed newspapers as an investigative journalist for the last two decades. His writings cover a wide range of topics related to political and social aspects of Pakistan right from its inception. In recent years, issues relating to terrorism on local, regional and national level and security have been the subject of his study. He has readers in the mature circles in Pakistan and abroad.

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