Qadri Shrine exposes the two faces of Pakistan

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Islamabad, Apr.4 (ANI): A shrine setup in the memory of the Qadri, the assassin of former governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer, mirrors the two-faced reality of Pakistan — one face meant for the world and the second and more realistic one, meant for militants like Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri and his associates.

Thousands of Pakistanis continue to flock to Qadri’s grave, located in the sleepy village of Athaal, about three miles from Islamabad, to salute his commitment of standing up and dying for his religion.

Since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, Pakistan has faced a historical dichotomy. At the time of independence, its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, wanted Pakistan to be a land of liberal values, but over the nearly seven decades since, the country has slipped and slid towards a more Islamic fundamentalist train of thought, action and administration, backed by an all-powerful military that separately nurtures jihadi groups to serve its geo-strategic interests in Afghanistan and India.

Today, Jinnah’s brand of liberalism literally stands buried by fundamentalist dominant movements, such as those espoused by the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, with which Qadri was associated well before his eventual execution. Qadri today is seen a hero of the Muslim world, because of what he did on January 4, 2011.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s attempts at turning the clock back towards having a less conservative and a more liberal Pakistan is also being challenged by fundamentalist elements. Sharif’s own son-in-law has backed Qadri’s action of assassinating Governor Taseer as ‘religious duty’, and has joined the chorus that has put his father-in-law’s liberal initiatives under the scanner.

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Newspapers in Pakistan, such as the Dawn and The Nation, have said that Sharif’s liberal rhetoric is aimed at keeping Washington satisfied and happy, but at the same highlight the dichotomy of the longevity of liberalism in a region where militant groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) or the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) are nurtured by the military establishment.

JeM – led by Maulana Masood Azhar, and LeT of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed are based in Punjab, Sharif’s home province; and both are not bothered by the American sanctions against them.

According to Cyril Almedia, who works for the Dawn, there is an unwritten survival mantra for political parties in Pakistan.

Asha’ar Rehman, a columnist, says, “All parties practicing popular politics in Pakistan seek to maintain the same horses-for-courses profile. They must have variety so that they have a specialist for every situation, not the least among them the Ulema (religious scholars)”.

Under the banner of liberalism, the Sharif government rejected Qadri’s clemency plea, but at the same time allowed zealots to turn a murderer into a saint.

The dichotomy in the Pakistan story can also be seen in the case of the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) that promotes liberal values, but during recent local body elections, its candidates sported life-size banners and posters of Qadri.

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The Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman-led fundamentalist Jamaat Ulema Islami (JUI) is trying to bring together 35 religious parties and groups under the banner of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, (MMA), to deal with “the ever-changing challenges facing the people of Pakistan.”

The attempt by the Sharifs to pass and give sanction to a tough domestic violence law in Punjab province was met with opposition and forced them to water it down, says The Nation.

Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) Imam Maulana Abdul Aziz has as many as 33 criminal cases registered against him, but today weak investigation by the Sharif government allows him to roam around freely.

The Qadri phenomenon has given birth to ‘legal assassins for hire’, according to The Nation.

There is a 700-strong network called the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat Lawyers’ Forum that offers free service to “secure death for anyone who commits blasphemy”.

Some observers see validity in the popularity of the Qadri Shrine, as Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri belonged to one of the four Sufi orders that exist in Pakistan i.e. Chishti, Suharwardi, Naqshabandi and Qadri.

Senior journalist M.A. Niazi said, “It is a very Sufi thing to resent blasphemy, and to resent the court system”, but at the same time maintained that, “Sufi practices are closely linked to the Sharia”.

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“It should also be clear from the massive turnout at the funeral (of Qadri) that whether Sufi or Salafi, Barelvi or Deobandi, Muslims (of Pakistan) are united upon the honour of Holy Prophet,” Niazi added.

The aftermath of Qadri’s hanging shows that Muslim exclusivism has become a “defining feature” of all main stream sects in Pakistan, and according to noted author Ayesha Siddiqa, has put the spotlight back on state support to the Deobandi and Ahl-Hadith militancy.

“The JeM leadership exhibits neither nervousness nor indicates haste in removing the armed guards around its main centre. The LeT, on the other hand, has a more expansive organisational structure, and is thus quite sensitive to managing the popular narrative,” she remarks.

The Lashkar-e-Toiba stands banned, but its political arm, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa works in an unrestricted way despite the U N Security Council declaring it as a front of the LeT.

Another charitable outfit of the LeT is the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, (FIF), which was established in 2009, and designated a terror entity by the U.S. State Department in November 2010.

In conclusion, there seems to be a well-crafted strategy in place to extend global outreach to gain acceptability as a humanitarian enterprise, while simultaneously attracting a regular inflow of men and money to sustain the pan-Islamic vision. (ANI)

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