September 24th, 2021
By Hamid Riaz
A recent video of Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, a notorious anti-Shia cleric, formerly a designated terrorist and current chief of the banned Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), has created furor online. In the video, Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi can be seen openly boasting about his party’s violence against the country’s Shia minority.
“Our small organization was able to pressure the enemies of Islam to such an extent that they were forced to remove their ‘Alams’ (black flags flown by the Shia minority) from their houses,” says Ludhianvi while hinting towards the waves of anti-Shia violence perpetrated by his organization in the 1990s.
“They were forced to remove plaques carrying Naqvis, Taqwis (names particular to the Shia minority) from their houses. They stopped wearing black on their way to annual Muharram processions (out of fear), instead they wore white on the way to their religious gatherings and changed into black only once they had reached their destination. They hid their black clothes in shopping bags,” proudly asserts Ludhianvi narrating what he posed was the sense of perpetual terror his organization had struck in the hearts of the Shia community.
But people online have come out in droves to point out that the video in itself is an inevitable admission of guilt by Ludhianvi, calling on the security forces to take cognizance of this hate speech.
Protecting the integrity of the companions of the Prophet
Even though most of the criticism levelled at the video online pertains to the content of the video the venue and setting of the speech is a cause for concern it its own right. On September 19 the Sunni Ullema Council, a consortium of right wing Sunni organizations including organizations such as Jamiat Ulema Islam (S), Jamiat Ulema Islam (F) and Jamiat Ulema Pakistan, held an ‘All Parties Conference’, the venue where Ludhianvi’s viral speech was delivered.
A member of the proscribed, ASWJ confirmed to Voicepk that this conference is in fact the first in a series of mobilization events, the next planned for October 31, to pressure the government to take stern action against those who “blaspheme against the companions of the Prophet”, a veiled reference to Pakistan’s Shia minority.
‘Maulana’ Qasim, a spokesperson for Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi was more overt in his explanation of the ‘objectives’ behind the event. “During the last Muharram (2020) there were clear and public incidents of blasphemy against the companions of the Prophet. We made it clear to the government that such acts will be tolerated and that effective legislation needs to done to curb this menace. But nothing happened. Then this Muharram (2021) arrived, similar blasphemy incidents took place so we decided to act this time,” explains Qasim.
“The conference attracted representatives from all three dominant Sunni factions, the Barelvis, Deobandis and the Ahl-e-Hadith. United under a single purpose of pushing for legislation against those who Blaspheme against the companions of the Prophet (S.A.W),” concludes Qasim.
Taking Ludhianvi off the Fourth Schedule despite threat
Analyst and former caretaker governor of Punjab, Hassan Askari, says that the launching of such a campaign would further damage the social fabric of Pakistan, “There is indeed an environment whereby extremist groups are feeling emboldened after the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Though the situation is not alarming at this point but there is some cause of concern. And if Ludhianvi and his ilk persist on their path of hate mongering then we should all be worried,” explains Hassan Askari.
But Askari is soon to point out the complexities of these fringe organizations and warns against making simplistic conflations, “The ASWJ may have been inspired by the Taliban but we must understand that they have their own distinct agenda and operate independently from the group. There is virtually no coordination between these groups specially on an operational level,” continues Askari.
When asked why then was Ludhianvi was removed from the 4th Schedule list during his tenure as the caretaker governor of Punjab Askari distances himself from the move “the decision was taken before I was appointed as the caretaker governor. The decision was merely implemented during his term.”