Saad Rizvi, Allama Rizvi’s 26-year-old son, was chosen to lead the party by its 18-member shura.
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, the newest politico-religious party that was formed in 2016 and for whom over 2.2 million people voted in 2018, has lost its founder.
Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the ultra-rightwing cleric, died on November 19 in Lahore. The party’s command has been handed over to his 26-year-old son, Saad Hussain Rizvi.
Why is Khadim Hussain Rizvi important?
People didn’t know Allama Rizvi before he launched a movement in 2015 to free Mumtaz Qadri, the convicted killer of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. Two years later, he had become a name to be reckoned with in political and religious circles. He had one cause: death to blasphemers.
His TLP pulled off comment-worthy rallies and sit-ins across Pakistan. In 2017, it camped out at one of the main entrances to Islamabad, Faizabad Interchange, for 21 days to force the government to go back on an oath lawmakers take when being inducted. The sit-in ended after the military stepped in between the TLP and the then government of Nawaz Sharif. The law minister was sacked for making changes to the oath.
On November 17, just two days before he met his Maker, Allama Rizvi had returned to Faizabad interchange to lead a rally against the publication of blasphemous caricatures in a French magazine. The sit-in ended after ministers assured him that the government would expel the French ambassador and announce an official boycott of French products.
What kind of party is the TLP?
Before the TLP, Pakistan had two Barelvi political groups: the Sunni Tehreek and Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan. (Barelvi as opposed to Deoband). None of them was mainstream, explains Sabookh Syed, an Islamabad-based analyst who monitors such groups. “The JUP and Sunni Tehreek never fielded candidates all over the country but the TLP did in the last election.”
There is only one man who deserves credit for making TLP mainstream and that was Allama Rizvi, said, Syed. Of course, every religious group tried to erect Mumtaz Qadri as their symbol but they all failed where Rizvi succeeded. “He had a charismatic personality and an aggressive unique style of delivering sermons that made him the center of attraction.”
Syed said in his opinion it would be an uphill task for his son to mimic such style and aggression and the party could lose support in the next elections.
Who is Saad Rizvi?
Saad Rizvi, Allama Rizvi’s 26-year-old son, was chosen to lead the party by its 18-member shura. He has been active in the party for the past few years, serving as its deputy secretary-general. He used to stay in touch with reporters and made the party presence felt on social media.
According to his friend Salman, Saad is a student of Darja-e-Aaliya of Dars-e-Nizami. He is studying at his father’s Abuzar Ghaffari seminary.
“He is a smart man with a deep interest in books,” said Salman. “Unlike other madrassa students, Saad knows the importance of social media and used it to spread his father’s message.”
The TLP and its members had accounts on Facebook but they knew nothing about Twitter, said, Salman. Saad knew that the microblogging site was a very important platform and believed that the party should have a presence on it because the mainstream media wasn’t giving them coverage.
“He visited several madrassas and explained Twitter and its use to the students,” his friend said. “Now, you can see TLP trends on Twitter.”
Saad is popular among young party workers and also worked as a bridge between them and Allama Rizvi, according to his friend.
The old party hands also think that Saad has leadership qualities which is one of the reasons the shura appointed him as leader.
“There will be no problems in the party,” Mufti Mubarak Abbasi, a TLP leader, told SAMAA Digital. “He was unanimously appointed leader.”
He is the heir of our leader and no worker will object to his appointment, said Mufti Abbasi.
Sabookh Syed believes, however, that the party will be run by the shura because Saad hasn’t proven himself yet. The TLP made him a leader because they wanted someone on the stage who could remind people of Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi. There are fears that the party would be divided into groups after its founder’s death.
In the last five years, two companions of Allama Rizvi, Asif Ashraf Jalali and Pir Afzal Qadri, have parted ways with the TLP and formed their own groups, said Syed.
The party’s future also depends on the support of the State institutions, Syed adds. Such groups have always been the need of the state. “If they get support from certain quarters and Saad Rizvi manages to learn the style of his father’s oratory, he may have some future.”