The riddle of Tahirul Qadri

Published: December 28, 2012
The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore

The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore

Shaikhul Islam Dr Tahirul Qadri has made a comeback in Pakistani politics. And when he said he would gather a million people in Lahore for his first speech, people believed him. He has the money and he has the organisation — of the same scale that his Ahle Hadith counterpart Hafiz Saeed has.

Certain signs point to his ambition despite his assertion that he and his party will not take part in elections. And he can give up his Canadian citizenship to become the ruler of Pakistan.

He has the backing of the MQM. Since he is a Barelvi and in the crosshairs of the Taliban and al Qaeda, and since the Sunni Tehreek has gone radical and is no longer a Barelvi adjunct of the MQM, Tahirul Qadri (TQ) could be the substitute partner and a gateway to Punjab, his treasury.

On December 25, someone shot at and injured Maulana Aurangzeb Farooqui, a central leader of the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat, which is the banned Sipah Sahaba under a new inoffensive name taken as it were from the Barelvi nomenclature. The revenge will now likely be taken by the Taliban on the Shia community and the Barelvis.

This raises other dangerous queries.

Does TQ have Iran‘s backing, too? No one knows who the second-rung leaders in Pakistani Awami Tehreek (PAT) are, but an old ‘Iran connection’, Agha Murtaza Pooya, is a vice-chairman of PAT. Since Pakistan is killing its Shias, Iran would be beholden if Tahirul Qadri can spread some Sunni-Shia peace around. He makes moving speeches on Eid-e-Ghadir. The Ahle Sunnat Ittehad led by an aggressive Fazal Karim will not gravitate to TQ despite his wealth because of his change of heart on the blasphemy law while in the Christian West.

Imran Khan has carefully decided not to take him on but the fact is he can’t get too close because TQ is not well liked by the Taliban. Yet, TQ is more or less like Imran Khan, after staging his comeback at the Minar-e-Pakistan.

The army leadership is humbled by the killing spree of the Taliban. It must hate the killing of the Shia and might favour intimacy with Tehran in opposition to the more ‘realistic’ stance of the PPP and the PML-N who can’t afford to go against the Arab-American strategy in the region.

Tahirul Qadri has made public his dislike of the PPP and the PML-N, which is a sentiment close to what the army feels, too. Flying in the face of the Twentieth Amendment, he suggests that the caretaker government before the 2013 election be set up after ‘additional’ consultation with the Supreme Court and the army. He hints at postponing elections, too. He threatens the PPP government with a ‘Long March’ of four million (sic!) to Islamabad on January 14 if it doesn’t reform the electoral system in three weeks.

The PML-N is furious. According to one statement, which is appropriately right-wing-xenophobic, it prefers to connect TQ with world powers (alami taqatain) who “don’t want the PML-N to come to power”. TQ’s slogan ‘save the state, not politics’ has been interpreted to mean that elections must be set aside till the state is strong enough under a specially constructed caretaker government.

According to some, first the ISI fielded Imran Khan and has now brought in TQ. More alarmingly, it is fielding the Defence of Pakistan Council, too, to prevent the Pakistani change of mind about India. There are so many balls of confused strategy in the air that the wits of the ISI can be clinically challenged, that is, if it has done this.

However, it is not very fair to ask TQ to reveal his wealth and the way he has acquired it. If this is what is required, then other religious leaders whose madrassas are exempt from scrutiny will have to give accounts, too. Where does the ‘green turban’ Dawat Islami get its billions? Who is spending the big money behind the grand mobilisation of the Defence of Pakistan Council announcing jihad against India? Who was handing out cash during the last Long March of the Council to Islamabad?

President Asif Ali Zardari, ever nimble-footed when it comes to survival, has countered the ISI move by moving closer to Nawaz Sharif through the appointment of Makhdoom Ahmad Mehmood as governor of Punjab. No ‘pipliya’ will enter the Governor’s House now. The Makhdoom is out to take down the Tehreek-e-Insaf, the tormentor of both the PPP and the PML-N. He has been and continues to be a friend of the Sharifs; he is additionally a sworn ally of President Zardari.

The Makhdoom says he belongs to no party and probably will not live in the Governor’s House, and if he does, he will spend his own money there. This will facilitate better mixing with the PML-N leadership who would not like to be seen visiting the big place in public view.

It is interesting how the bipartisan system in Pakistan defends itself despite irrepressible hatred between the leaders of the two big parties. They must feel that their vote banks are being raided by the likes of Imran Khan and TQ.

Breaking the bipartisan system often doesn’t lead to good results. General (retd) Pervez Musharraf tried to do it; the army in Bangladesh tried to do it. In India, fragmentation has succeeded the bipartisan system developing between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, and it has made governance more difficult for the large ruling coalitions now routine in India.

You can’t keep big money in Canada without investing it and thus exposing it to risk. That could be a reason for TQ’s comeback. Also, after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the West will retreat into its highly organised states to defend itself against al Qaeda ‘from the inside’. And migrant Muslims might face even tougher laws of surveillance after that.

Or, TQ might go quietly back to Canada, his home country.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (48)

  • batool mirza
    Dec 28, 2012 - 11:16PM

    Dr. Tahir ul Qadri is the single RAY OF HOPE for the nation.. public has shown its belief in him and a CHANGE must come now in PAKISTAN… a great pakistan is awaiting us..thanks to dr.qadri


  • Amer Ali
    Dec 29, 2012 - 12:03AM

    There is no any leader in Pakistan who same time holds PHD like Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal , who is LLB Advocate like Quaid-E-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah ,.. who is Educationist like Sir syed Ahmad Khan ,..who has largest School , colleges and university network of more 700 institutions in whole Pakistan,… who is writer of this century who has written more than 1000 books , who is orator of more than 7000 topics ,..Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri is a man of word and mean , a man of character and wisdom , a symbol of peace , Love and Humanity …we Pakistani Nation must be proud that we have such brilliant talented and dynamic personalities to lead , guide and awake like Dr Qadeer and Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri..sorry to say that .it is injustice to keep him equal to Hafiz Saeed ,..who is pro-Al-Qaida and pro-Taliban , and who has so narrow-approach that is against democracy.


  • Asghar Ramzan
    Dec 29, 2012 - 12:06AM

    thank you Khalid Sahib for excellent and candid analysis. I have never thought of connection between Bralavi and Iran.


  • A4Activism
    Dec 29, 2012 - 12:10AM

    What has happened to journalistic standards??? This article is symbolic of the decaying ethics that once underpinned investigative journalism, namely impartiality and the expression of FACTS. An impressive charge sheet, but one that is based on fiction not facts. Perhaps the writer should stick to writing novels and fiction works, as journalism should hold itself to higher standards. By way of introduction you mention that Dr Tahir ul Qadri belongs to the ‘Berelvi’ sect. Well in reality he doesn’t. Dr Qadri is a Hanafi Muslim from Ahl-us-Sunnah wal-Jama’a. Needless to say the other charges are also unproven and thus not worth mentioning.


  • salman
    Dec 29, 2012 - 12:11AM

    Interesting that you talk about an under the table alliance between Zardari and nawaz… predicted by IK months ago…..


  • Mirza
    Dec 29, 2012 - 12:13AM

    This is a very insightful Op Ed. Thanks ET for this.
    Pakistan has had many last hopes. Dr. A. Q. Khan once was, the CJ of SC became one, then the Tsunami Khan, now Qadri. What Pakistan needs is more mullahs as if we don’t already have enough.
    We have been punishing our elected leaders to delegitimize their election for being dual citizens. All of a sudden we have an angel descending upon us from the West to save us as yet another last hope! What happened to IK as our last hope? The ISI has no faith in PPP and PML-N now and they have to find new last hope. Let us hope it fades like all previous hopes.


  • Dec 29, 2012 - 12:18AM

    wowwww, this intelligent writer also finds ISI behind everything. The only wisdom in this country which can be clinically challenged, is that of Nawaz Sharif. he has ensured the evil prevails in Pakistan for 5 yrs


  • Khurram Malik
    Dec 29, 2012 - 12:26AM

    So MQM is backing the Pious leader Tahir Ul Qadri and TQ is stating that he is against the government forces but Maulana Sahib from Canada failed to understand that MQM was in the government in Musharraf’s regime and still MQM is enjoying power and federal ministries too and TQ is so naive to understand that he is against PMLN but PMLN does not have a single federal ministry and the party with federal ministries that is MQM is backing TQ and that is enigma for me actually.


  • Dec 29, 2012 - 12:54AM

    A very informative article. In my humble view, political analysis rather than ideological analysis is your forte. However, I think the following comment in the article was misplaced…”Imran Khan has carefully decided not to take him on but the fact is he can’t get too close because TQ is not well liked by the Taliban”…PTI might be trying to distance itself from TQ because it wants to distance itself from the image of establishment backed party. Furthermore, Pakistan’s religious ideological landscape is so divided that people don’t care whether a person is good or bad for Pakistan, they care more about whether the person is supporting a rival religious group. And TQ is still perceived by majority as a religious leader rather than political leader. Lastly, TQ’s proximity with MQM scares many PTI workers at all levels.


  • Ejaaz
    Dec 29, 2012 - 1:04AM

    batool Mirza sahib: LOL!! And what is your rank in the ISI?


  • Thinker
    Dec 29, 2012 - 1:25AM

    WHy Khaled Ahmed so anti Iran. Anything happens in Pakistan, he sees hand of Iran in it. From Zia ul haq killing toTahir ul qadri, he sees Iran’s hand in all affairs.


  • Arifq
    Dec 29, 2012 - 1:38AM

    Has TQ been planted by agencies? Maybe yes, maybe not, that is purely speculative same can be said for any other political party, for that matter we have the recent Supreme court ruling in the Asgher Khan case which clearly implicates Nawaz Sharif on being ISI payroll. So lets not speculate and focus on the message, does it make sense, yes it does! Can the messenger be trusted? That needs to be tested! These are positive developments, more the merrier.


  • ASIM
    Dec 29, 2012 - 1:45AM

    Sound analysis


  • Malik
    Dec 29, 2012 - 2:16AM

    Dr. Qadri a RAY OF HOPE ?????? lol …. come on people tribune is not the right place to share jokes and this one is probably the joke of the century …. he will be flying back to Canada soon, dont worry …


  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Dec 29, 2012 - 2:21AM

    Whoever is spending money on Imran or TQ is infact wasting money. Suppose, TQ has gathered two hundred thousand people in Lahore jalsa. On average this number is less than 800 hundred people per consituency, whereas each constituency has 50 thousands to one hundred thousand un-employed people available and ready to go to any Jalsa. Bringing them to Jalsa is one thing but getting their support or vote is a completely different ball game. However there is one positive aspect to these useless and worthless activities. After a long undisputed rule of Riyal in religious affairs, US dollar has has also gained some ground, which is a welcome addition for the type of economy we have.


  • Dec 29, 2012 - 3:09AM

    Why Mr Qadri has been allowed to play politics in Pakistan.He is a Canadian citizen. He should be sent back to Canada. Please cancel his visa


  • M Asghar Chaudhry
    Dec 29, 2012 - 3:11AM

    Nice piece of fiction. Please do a bit of research and speak to to the members of Minhaj ul Quran to find out as to where the money comes from. Members of TMQ trust their leader and are ready to sacrifice their all on his call. You have yet seen nothing, speak to the participants of the December 23 Jalsa of Dr sb, listen to their personal stories, ask them of the level of their commitment, love and faith in their leadership. You will definitely come to know the secret behind Dr sb’s success. In sha Allah the success of our mission and fulfillment of our purpose is not far away now. 14 January will prove to be the beginning of new era in Pakistan. In sha Allah.


  • Imad Uddin
    Dec 29, 2012 - 3:38AM

    Iran’s backing? ISI behind IK and TQ? OMG tell me once and for all what is the criteria that makes a far-stretched conspiracy theory acceptable? Canada, TQs “home” country? This not-so-necessary comment suggested ur bias…


  • Hasan
    Dec 29, 2012 - 4:01AM


    I have to agree completely. This is the kind of ‘analysis’ that I myself would have put together at the age of maybe 17 or 18 – it’s naive, misinformed, and it gives false credence to the notion that politics in Pakistan is a very slick affair, with each political group moving as a bloc.

    The author reminds me of Pepe Escobar, who writes for Al Jazeera – you can tell that he watches a few too many political conspiracy thrillers, because he loves to talk of ‘A’ feeling the heat from ‘B’, and needing to do ‘C’ to alienate ‘D’, etc etc…unfortunately life, and certainly political dialogue, is never as clear cut as that. I’m just left frustrated and none the wiser after reading this.



  • What
    Dec 29, 2012 - 4:04AM

    ” More alarmingly, it is fielding the Defence of Pakistan Council, too, to prevent the Pakistani change of mind about India.” Never heard of this theory, I thought DPC was created by ISI to pressure US? both are equally baseless and laughable theories though and I can’t say I’m surprised to see such nonsense in your article, after all you suffer from ISI-phobia.


  • Logic. Europe m
    Dec 29, 2012 - 4:28AM

    As usual an armchair travelogue All immagination and same old theories
    The fact is there is a vacuumme in politics in pakistan and mr Qadrihas the abilityto fill it
    He is learned and moderate and that is what is needed
    Suport him or not but dont dismiss and ridicule him


  • Sharjeel
    Dec 29, 2012 - 4:39AM

    I believe it is the last chance for the people of Pakistan to wake-up and it is good sign that people did support him well on Dec 23. Now before his next move the corrupt politicians have pooled-up their resources and started major negative propaganda campaign against him. They are getting benefit from the nature of most of Pakistanis who love to rely on rumors and conspiracy theories and all sort of rumors have been spread. It is interesting that followers of Dr. Qadri are also very active and organized in responding to those social media rumors. Next two weeks are very important and hope this results in bringing a positive change in Pakistan politics.


  • Dec 29, 2012 - 4:45AM

    If TQ represents a progressive religious movement and subscribes to an Iran backed regional strategy. What is bad about it ?


  • ShahG
    Dec 29, 2012 - 4:49AM

    Why dont you just give the guy a chance.

    Everything you stated has no authentic proof or clear cut evidence. This article should be posted in


  • John the Baptist
    Dec 29, 2012 - 5:01AM

    Amazing. Canada is now involved in toppling governments!!! The chances of a Martian landing are higher than sleepy, neutral, and politically impotent Canada to do any such thing! We are truly in the grips of idiots par excellence!


  • A4Activism
    Dec 29, 2012 - 5:32AM

    If speculation is synonymous with insight, then Lord have mercy! Subjective journalism is bad enough let alone the obtuseness of the readership. The notion that speculation and conspiracy theories equal candid and insightful is laughable! As for ‘please cancel his visa’, hmm well how do you do that for somebody who has a Pakistani passport? At least understand what is meant by dual national, the giveaway was in the term ‘dual’.


  • Abid71
    Dec 29, 2012 - 5:50AM

    I respect that the Tribune is not a place for jokes. So I won’t make one. Pakistan is on the brink of destruction, the country is in a far worse position now them it was 4/5 years ago. Now is the time to change. If the elections go ahead without reforms, in another 4 years there will be nothing left to change.
    Dr Qadri, wether you like him or not, is right in what he says. Electoral reform is required and all stakeholders need to involved. Pakistan belongs to all of us and just Zardari and Shareef.


  • Asad
    Dec 29, 2012 - 5:55AM

    Bilawajha Bhutto has been launched by NASA…


  • A4Activism
    Dec 29, 2012 - 6:41AM

    “come on people tribune is not the right place to share jokes” well I think the article proves otherwise!


  • rizwan
    Dec 29, 2012 - 7:55AM

    enough for shiekh of islam… lets focus on PTI again…


  • observer
    Dec 29, 2012 - 8:08AM

    A.Certain signs point to his ambition despite his assertion that he and his party will not take part in elections.

    B.And he can give up his Canadian citizenship to become the ruler of Pakistan.

    In short Shaikhul Islam would love to rule Pakistan without having to go through elections.

    For that he needs to shed his whites and needs to don Khakis.


  • Awais
    Dec 29, 2012 - 9:35AM

    Dr Qadri has challenged the corrupt system and its beneficiary, so the the CORRUPT elements will made efforts to stop Dr Qadri’s Move. Moreover, he has no links with IRan as IRan supporting many Shia Orgs


  • Arsla Arshad
    Dec 29, 2012 - 9:40AM

    I totally condemn this stupid misconception, the people behind this propaganda actually either they don’t know about Mr. Qadri or they don’t want the change the political situation of Pakistan. Hell with every body just see his reforms agenda and discuss it with positive attire by presenting merits and demerits of his struggle.


  • Arslan Arshad
    Dec 29, 2012 - 10:41AM

    @Malik: Malik sahib please wait i think this time corrupt people will fly from Pakistan InshahAllah.. i would be happy please if you support us.


  • nadeem
    Dec 29, 2012 - 10:58AM

    First Imran Khan, now TQ, and DPC in the bandwagon too…….looks like Pakistan Army is getting desperate to prevent a future in which legitimately elected civilian representatives will start dominating the Army and God forbid take away power from the generals. I am happy that they are nervous……….better them than us civilians (for a change).


  • Khalid Pathan
    Dec 29, 2012 - 11:33AM

    It is always the institutions and not the individuals which guarantee the success of democracy ensuring a nation state in due course of time. However, we do not believe in rules regulations and institutions and always look toward certain individuals who will bail us out and steer us to progress, which is not possible. TQ, Imran Khan, Altaf Hussain, Nawax Shareef, Ifthikar Chaudary, Asif Xardari and now Bilawal Bhutto Xardari are all individuals.


  • sabi
    Dec 29, 2012 - 11:52AM

    In this dirty power struggle,behinds the doors,everybody is naked.Establishment,which has brought this man forward,knows exactly his weaknesses and duell face.The understanding-we raised you high and we can bring you down- is very much there in establishment’s mind.
    Today’s saint can very much be tomorrow’s fraudulent.King makers never tell the art of climbing tree.If Pakistan first is the mindeset,then everybody, including establishment, knows powerfull democracy with free hand is the only way forward.Since Pakistan first doesn’t seems to be the priority(,keeping in view establishment history,),five years are enough for ‘bloody civilions’ and that too un-intrupted.IT IS THEIR TURN NOW.But! there is another factor we can not rule out—Man proposes God disposes.Let us hope this time we see with our naked eyes every hypocrite geting fully exposed and for that we need a real SaladinAyubi.


    Dec 29, 2012 - 12:38PM

    dr sb is real leader of nation.


  • ismail samejo
    Dec 29, 2012 - 12:45PM

    Dr sb is real leader of Pakistani nation.


  • Dec 29, 2012 - 1:03PM

    The appearance of Dr. Tahirul Qadri just before the election indicates that he must have received feelers from Pakistan inviting / encouraging him to throw his hat in the field – Now who could be the possible force to send feelers ? Obviously some one who is against the existing major political parties like PPP & PML N. These two parties without any ambiguity knows that who is in the opposition . PML – N ought to be more worried about a division in their vote bank predominantly in Punjab by PTI an now Dr. Qadri and both have a right centrist face acceptable to some extent to liberals also and MQM is also a liberal party. . Establishment may not have directly involved themselves in Dr. TQ’s arrival but will support religious leaders to continue to have their say / hold in the governance and continuance of their India centric policy. Distancing from this India centric policy will ultimately reduce their importance and hold . Seasoned politicians no more want to be a democratic proxy only. so there can be a coalition among PML – N MQM and right wing forces or PPP, and right wing forces.( pre election or post election).


  • raza butt
    Dec 29, 2012 - 1:29PM

    well i feel really bad for those who see a ray of hope in form of T.Q.all those who argue that he managed to gather huge crowd so in pakistan its not a big deal. unlike imran khan qadri,s crowd wasnt motivated. i remember i was there in 27th i.k’s tsunami and each n every person around me over there looked optimistic and that was the only hope people believed. i hope that people of pakistan start following and support a true patriotic and sincere leader because we are the power and we must not be exploited this time InshAllah!!


  • Ar Muhammad Tariq
    Dec 29, 2012 - 6:31PM

    Allama is a courageous leader and need of time for real change. Urban economics growth plan I sent him for economics growth. It can help to acheive all targets. Warm Regards!


  • gujranwala789
    Dec 29, 2012 - 8:24PM

    Many problems of pakistan will be solved if the law of having Dual nationality in addition to pakistani nationality is abolished, this is a big loop hole in pakistani law. Most countries of the world do not let this BS to happen. For example I cannot have a dual nationality if I want to have a german nationality because german law does not permit to carry dual nationality. Pakistan should also make it mandatory for all pakistanis living abroad that if they want to apply for a foreign nationality, they must abandon their pakistani nationality. Pakistanis living in english speaking countries such as USA, UK or canada are exploiting the loop hole of pakistani nationality law by maintaining two nationalities at the same time. This is a gross discrimination against pakistanis living in many mainland countries of europe, where one must abandon his current nationality before applying for foreign nationality.


  • Dec 29, 2012 - 10:59PM

    Is this writer wanted to establish himself as liberal ?
    Why ISI comes to his mind behind every new entry in politics like PTI ?
    Why he want scrutiny of Madrasa’s ? Green turban “Dawat.e.islami” is a non-political madrasa why he want to scrutinize them ?
    Finallly, Is Writing in english give u the right to speak anything about Various religious organizations without full information ?


  • Adil Uddin
    Dec 29, 2012 - 11:53PM


    Tahirul Qadri and Dawat-e-Islami sound like Muslim,real life and Pakistani versions of Swami Leeladhar (played by Mithun Chakraborty) from the movie Oh My God.Plus they do sound like a perfect Pakistani counterpart to Benny Hinn,Baba Ramdev and Shri Sathya Sai Baba.

    In my opinion,there were/are only two exceptional scholars who chose rational understanding of Islam in Pakistan.One was Ghulam Ahmed Pervaiz and the other is Jawed Ahmed Ghamidi.


  • Triangle
    Dec 30, 2012 - 2:20AM

    For those who argue that we should continue with the political system, let me ask something… is it the right one for us? will they ever let normal middle class educated people come through this constituency based political system, I doubt it. It will be the same because the basics of our system suits the feudal, and I doubt it can be changed. In a country where Tribal system prevails until now and votes are bought, I doubt there will be improvement. Change has to be sudden and not gradual, we do not have time for a gradual change. And change will happen because change is the only thing which is constant, and those who think things will not change will be not equipped for the change.


  • Zahid
    Dec 30, 2012 - 5:34AM

    Nee naw nee naw nee naw…..conspiracy theorist alert…conspiracy theorist alert…

    ISI, Iran, PPP, PMLN??? How about we have a bit of MI5, Mossad and a sprinkling of KGB too…

    In fact, could it be the aliens from the planet Zong?

    Let’s not become the laughing stock of the world. The money quite simply is from members of MQI, I know because I was one of the the thousands who donated thousands. And I’m a tax payer too and the money was not from ill gotten gains. It’s a sincere effort to improve the ailing fortunes of the country. If Allah wills, it’ll work out. If not, at least we tried, which is more than I can say for most of the naysayers and armchair critics on these comments pages who need to get off their backsides and sort out their country – the current electoral system has clearly failed and needs reforming.

    The politicians in this sick democracy are taking you for a ride and it’s a one way journey, folks.


  • Ahmed
    Jan 16, 2013 - 1:55AM

    No mention of Musharaf and Dr Qadri connection in this article. MQM and Musharaf were and are in good terms and in the beginning MQM did support Dr Qadri. It is “Force Musharaf” behind Qadri. Now it is difficult to say the power behind Musharaf.


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