It is very uncommon to find a country where a few hundred or even a few thousand religious extremists can besiege the capital for two days and paralyze life there. However, it is a common thing in Pakistan, at least for the extremist religious cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who heads Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), an Islamist political party.
Rizvi, who hails from the Barelvi sect of Islam, announced a protest against the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad that were published in France. On Sunday, his followers from across the country gathered at a well-known park called Liaquat Bagh Rawalpindi and then reached the boundary between the federal capital Islamabad and the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
For almost two days Rizvi and his followers virtually besieged the twin cities, and the closure of Internet and cellular services created a panic among the public. It was a repeat of the 2017 TLP sit-in, where Rizvi not only besieged the twin cities but politically damaged the ruling party at the time, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
The only difference was that in 2017 mainstream media and the now-ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), supported the sit-in, whereas this time mainstream media almost blacked out the event and no major opposition party endorsed Rizvi’s act.
However, the question is how is it possible that Rizvi, who does not enjoy massive street power like the religious party of Fazal-ur-Rehman, always manages to reach the strategic Faizabad Interchange without difficulty.