an Arab Spring?"
The Tahirul Qadri story
Just when everyone was waiting for the current coalition government led by the PPP to complete its 5-year-term and announce fresh elections...
Dr Tahirul Qadri appeared on the scene, waving his fist to lead a ‘long march’ to occupy Islamabad...
His sudden appearance took everyone by surprise...
Most of his critics in the government, the
opposition and the media were quick to denounce
him as being yet another ploy and puppet of those
sections of the country’s military-establishment and
intelligence agencies who have been blamed time
and time again for derailing democracy in Pakistan.
Thus, it is natural for critics of the military-establishment to once again look at it with suspicion when Dr. Qadri arrives to ‘bring a revolution’ and ‘true democracy’ to Pakistan...
So who is Dr. Qadri, and how did he manage to
gather thousands of devoted men, women and
children to stay for almost four days in Islamabad’s
freezing winter, rain and amidst the ever-present
threat of suicide bombings by the rabid extremist lot
always lurking in the shadows in Pakistan?
Dr. Qadri is a former failed politician but who, in the
last 15 years or so, worked relentlessly to build a
loyal network of pious Pakistani and Indian Muslims
around the world who belong to the Sunni Barelvi
strain of Islam.
Qadri is a former student activist who in the 1970s
belonged to the moderate Barelvi youth organisation,
the Anjuman Taleba Islam, at the Punjab University.
His group usually allied itself with various progressive and leftist student groups during student union elections against the student wing of the fundamentalist Jamat-e-Islami.
After graduating in 1974, Qadri enrolled as a lecturer
at Punjab University and then went on to get his PhD
in Islamic sciences...
Details of Dr. Qadri’s political career between 1978
and 1989 are rather muggy...
Some of his critics describe Qadri as a political charlatan who in the 1980s was close to PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, the man whose family in those days were staunch supporters of military dictator, General Ziaul Haq.
During a 2008 lecture on the Barelvi Islamic TV
channel, QTV, Qadri claimed that it was he who
forced General Ziaul Haq to formulate the Blasphemy
He then denied doing this (on a British TV channel),
and in fact claimed that he doesn’t agree with the law.
Views about what Qadri was up to during Zia era:
1. Qadri opposed the dictatorship’s pro-Deobandi orientation and was dismissed from the faculty of the Punjab University for his opposition to the Zia regime.
2. Qadri became close to the Zia regime and helped it formulate a number of controversial ‘Islamic laws.’
3. Zia offered him many political posts, but he refused to accept them and spent his time on becoming an Islamic scholar.
What is certain though is that Qadri formed his
Barelvi organisation, Minhajul Quran (MQ), in 1981.
In 1989 Qadri formed his own party, the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT). He described it as a party that would strive to bring a ‘spiritual revolution’ (Roohani Inquilaab) in Pakistan.
He allied his party with the left-leaning PPP during the 1990 election, but after facing defeats, he almost vanished from the political scene.
This is when he seriously worked to turn MQ into a
large Islamic evangelical outfit, preaching Sufism and
trying to regenerate Barelvi Islam that had
experienced a tough challenge from the more
conservative schools of faith in the 1980s.
Qadri (third from right in the third row) was one of first
civilian politicians to pledge his support to General
Musharraf after the PML-N government was toppled.
Calling himself an ‘enlightened moderate’, Musharraf
wanted to bank on Qadri’s MQ to find a middle
ground for his dictatorship between Zia’s radical
Islam and secularism.
Qadri had a falling out with Musharraf in 2004 when
the latter chose a motley crew of anti-PPP and anti-
PML-N politicians over Qadri’s PAT to become his
regime’s civilian expression. During this period Qadri
became a Canadian citizen.
In 2010, when suicide bombings against the military,
police and common civilians grew alarmingly in
Pakistan, Qadri, who by now had gathered a huge
following among the more religious minded Barelvi
Muslims, wrote a 600-page fatwa against suicide
To him and his followers, Qadri had become the
moderate face of Islam and the defender of the
peaceful injunctions and spirit of the faith in a world
reeling from Islamist violence...
In Pakistan, he was mostly forgotten as a politician,
but among pious Barelvis he became popular as an
Islamic scholar, and a televangelist on QTV.
Neutral viewers found his style to be rather eccentric, especially when he shared with his followers the many divine visions he’s had and the colorful way he interpreted his followers’ dreams.
Though Qadri, seeming egoistical and at times somewhat maniacal in his attitude during his ‘long march,’ and most probably pushed to the fore by the usual anti-politician ‘establishment,’ did manage to demonstrate a rather refreshing angle in the already multi-angular politics of Pakistan.
In spite of the fact that Qadri launched his rhetoric against the country’s two main democratic parties, he was equally open in his condemnation of those Islamist terrorist outfits that have succeeded in scaring even the most animated and ‘revolutionary’ media personnel and leaders.
June 23, 2014
Tahirul Qadri returns from Canada to Pakistan with plans to form a grand 'opposition alliance'...
His revolution will include support from Sheikh Rasheed and the PML-Q among others.
Some term his return a move to destabilise the country, while others call it a legitimate movement for "devolution of power"...no one is quite sure what Qadri's return will mean for Pakistan in the coming days.