Protests break out, highways blocked, traffic jams build
Saad Hussain Rizvi, the chief of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, has been detained in Lahore, confirmed a party spokesperson on Monday.
Pir Ejaz Ashrafi told SAMAA Digital that Rizvi was taken in after Zuhr prayers on Monday from Jamia Masjid Rehmat ul Aalameen on Multan Road, Lahore.
The police didn’t give any reason, Pir Ashrafi said, adding that it could be because the TLP chairperson had announced a protest on April 20.
His detention comes a day after he announced that the party will hold a march against the government on April 20. In November 2020, the PTI government had signed an agreement with the TLP, agreeing to expel the French ambassador from Pakistan with “consensus from parliament” after the group staged a protest in Islamabad over the publication of blasphemous caricatures in a French magazine.
Syed Zaheer-ul-Islam Shah, the deputy head of the TLP, said in a video released on social media that the government had violated the agreement to expel the French ambassador by arresting Rizvi.
Last week, Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri said in a statement that the government will take the agreement it signed with the TLP to parliament. “This issue will be resolved with parliament’s consultation and assistance,” Qadri had said.
“It is parliament’s authority whether they consider it right or wrong,” the minister said, when asked if the French ambassador would be expelled from Pakistan.
Saad was elected as the TLP chief in November 2020, by the party’s Shura after his father Khadim Hussan Rizvi’s death. The announcement was made after the funeral prayers.
A senior police official in Lahore told SAMAA Digital that no FIR has been filed against the TLP leader but he was detained as a “pre-emptive measure”. The government has the power to detain anyone under the Maintenance of Public Order law if they are considered to be a threat to the law and order situation.
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 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.
Protesters block major Pakistan roads, highways
Several highways and busy roads were blocked by the TLP workers after Rizvi’s arrest.
In Karachi, the protesters blocked several busy roads, including II Chundrigar Road, Garden, Jail Chowrangi, Numaish, Malir, Baldia Town and Hassan Square.
Ghulam Nabi Memon, Karachi police chief, told Samaa Digital that his officials are holding talks with the leaders of the TLP but they haven’t been able to reach any breakthrough.
In Punjab, Lahore to Islamabad M-2 motorway and N-5 Highway were blocked due to the protest. According to Lahore police, at least 32 points in the city were blocked due to protest by the workers of the TLP.
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 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 centre 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.
Additional reporting by Riaz Ahmed