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Pakistan said to be using radical Islamist party to leash 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed

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Indian investigators say Pakistan is propping up the TLP, which represents the Barelvis, to keep in check the Wahhabi-inspired Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

New Delhi: Indian investigators suspect that the Pakistani state and the ISI are cultivating the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), the political party at the heart of the protests against Asia Bibi, to keep in check Hafiz Saeed and his Jamaat-ud-Dawa.      

Sources in the intelligence agencies told ThePrint that the ISI has been engaging the party in several operations.

The TLP, founded by Khadim Hussain Rizvi in 2016, represents followers of the Barelvi sect, a subcontinent version of Sunni Islam. It recently showed its presence by organising roadblocks and protests following the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman accused of blasphemy in June 2009.

 “The TLP fights for establishing Sharia law in Pakistan through political means. It opposes any change to the blasphemy laws in Pakistan and usually believes in organising sit-ins, protests and roadblocks,” said an officer. “But it is now being brought in for several operations.”

Sources said that this is part of the ISI’s attempt to keep Saeed in check. “To bring the Barelvis together and post them on the field is ISI’s strategy to counter Hafiz Saeed and his organisation,” a source said. “Though Saeed works closely with the ISI, he is certainly not their prop. So to counter his rise, the ISI needs to place another group in competition with him.”

Also read: Pakistan’s Asia Bibi episode shows injecting extremists into politics is a bad idea

The party of the Barelvis

The TLP first rose to prominence when it protested the hanging of Mumtaz Quadri, a commando of the elite police and a Barelvi himself.

Quadri had assassinated then Punjab governor Salman Taseer after he spoke in defence of Asia Bibi in 2011. Quadri was convicted for murder and hanged in 2016.

The Barelvis, whom the TLP represents, are generally considered to be the least violent of the four prominent Islam sects — the other three being the Deobandis, Wahhabis and the Salafis.

In Pakistan, the Deobandis occupy areas bordering Afghanistan, while the Wahhabis have their presence in Punjab. Those of the Barelvi sect are spread across the country.  

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