What happens to a jihadist non-state actor when he becomes a liability to the Pakistani establishment? He dies causelessly, as did the blasphemy activist and head of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party, Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Covid-19, heart failure, something fishy? There are only speculations, no confirmed reports.
The 54-year-old was among the army of clerics who have been clamouring for making Pakistan a truly Islamic state: that is, by purging everything in its constitution, polity, laws, society, culture, and ethos that can be even remotely regarded as un-Islamic. Everything un-Islamic, in his scheme of things, was blasphemous; everything blasphemous should be punishable with death; ergo, his blasphemy activism left a trail of murder, mayhem, and minority persecution.
Whenever he thought that Islam was in danger, he started protesting, be it the fate of anti-blasphemy laws in Pakistan or Muslim sentiments in France. His last campaign was against French President Emanuel Macron's resolve to take on jihad.
"The firebrand cleric made his last public appearance at a sit-in staged by thousands of TLP followers at Islamabad's Faizabad interchange to protest the publication of blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in France," Dawn reported yesterday.
"The group had decided to end the sit-in on Monday after successful negotiations with the government."
That Prime Minister Imran Khan offered condolences on his demise underlines Rizvi's importance in Pakistan. Khan tweeted: "On the passing of Maulana Khadim Hussain Rizvi my condolences go to his family. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un (We belong to God and we are to Him)."
Despite all respect that the Pakistani establishment pays to jihadists, it still regards them as expendables. However, some of them, like 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed, are smarter than Rizvi. Despite massive international pressure, he continues to be in the good books of the establishment.
"Not only was Saeed, a UN designated terrorist who is having a $10 million American bounty on his head, was escorted in and out of the Lahore Anti-Terrorism Court like a well-protected asset—and in a cavalcade of sophisticated SUVs instead of a prison van—the judge announcing the verdict made it clear that the sentence would run concurrently and the detention of the convicts during the trial period would be counted as "an undergone sentence," Ateet Sharma wrote today.
No such luck for the expendables. Perhaps Rizvi was one of them. He certainly became more aggressive and radical than the establishment could handle. The Pakistan establishment is immoral; maybe it is also mad, but there is a method in its madness. Rizvi, unlike Saeed, was not very methodical.