Khadim Hussain Rizvi was a Pakistani far-right radical preacher who was the founder of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardline religious political organization founded in 2015 which is known to protest against any change to Pakistan’s blasphemy law.
Fluent in Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic and Persian, he was known for his speeches in the defence of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and apart from the Qur’an and hadith, for heavily quoting the poetry of Imam Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi and Allama Muhammad Iqbal, whom he considered to be his main influences.
Khadim Hussain Rizvi was born in 1966 in the Pindigheb area of Attock District, Punjab Pakistan. He started hafiz class in Jhelum in 1971. Further, he took admission in Jamia Nizamia, Lahore.
A Hafiz-e-Quran and Sheikh-ul-Hadith, Rizvi used to deliver Friday sermons at Lahore’s Pir Makki Masjid, located near Daata Darbar, during his time in the Punjab Auqaf Department.
Rizvi had been confined to a wheelchair since 2006 ever since an accident near Gujranwala. Contrary to rumors, Rizvi was injured because the driver of his vehicle fell asleep while driving from Rawalpindi to Lahore.
In 2015, he founded a political party called Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a political front for Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYP).
TLP came into existence after the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, who assassinated Salmaan Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, for differing the blasphemy laws and subsequently rose to fame. During the assassination of the Governor, the TLP chief was serving as an awqaf official in the Punjab government. Khadim Hussain had justified the assassination on the pretext that Taseer had termed the blasphemy law as a black law.
Favour of blasphemy laws
Rizvi was served warning notices to cease and desist from spreading his views in favour of blasphemy laws but his refusal to do so led to his removal from public service.
After his removal, Rizvi had more chance to preach his views. He traveled across the country to build support for Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which deals with blasphemy committed against Muhammad (PBUH).
He also spoke out for the release of Mumtaz Qadri; his persistent advocacy earned him the nickname of “blasphemy activist” in religious circles.
Aasia Bibi protests
The TLP chief was among the most well-known leaders to have led the violent three-day protests across the country against the acquittal of a Christian woman Aasia Bibi, whose blasphemy conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2018.
Weeks later, he was apprehended from his residence in Lahore on November 23, 2018, after refusing to call off a protest sit-in that threatened to close down the capital.
The TLP chief was booked on sedition and terrorism charges for incendiary speeches against the state and for inciting violence in the country during the protests. Rizvi was finally freed on bail six months later in May 2019, against surety bonds worth Rs 0.5 million.
Murder of professors
In 2019, a third year-student at Bahawalpur’s Government Sadiq Egerton College, Khateeb Hussain, stabbed a professor Khalid Hameed in a fatal encounter.
Khateeb Hussain was in contact with Zafar Gillani, a lawyer and senior member of the TLP prior to the murder, and obtained approval for the act over Whatsapp. The supposed motive for the killing was blasphemous and insulting rhetoric towards Islam.
In 2018, Sareer Ahmed, the principal of Islamia College in Charsadda, was killed by an 18-year old student who he had reprimanded for missing a number of classes.
The student accused the professor of engaging in blasphemy for warning him for skipping class to attend rallies held by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan. Both students stated that they were inspired by Rizvi.
2020 Zindagi Tamasha controversy
In 2020, Rizvi organized protests on the release of the Pakistani film Zindagi Tamasha. He accused movie -maker Sarmad Khoosat of blasphemy. The reasons the TLP chief alleged to be blasphemous includes criticism of religious scholars and an alleged reference to ‘Bacha Bazi’.
However, Pakistani author Mohammed Hanif, who had seen both the censored and uncensored versions of the film, denied that any criticism of religious scholars was contained in the film.
Several were opinioned; it targeted the majority community of Pakistan, having the potential to lead to enormous and possibly destructive protests for which it was banned by the state.
The activists of TLP were quick to point out that suggesting criticism of religious scholars is blasphemous, may in itself constitute blasphemy as it implies religious scholars hold a sacred or holy rank.
Rizvi was also criticized for using charges of blasphemy to prevent criticism of religious fundamentalism. However, the authorities deemed such a film be rather banned because it has the probable potential to lead to massive anti-state drives and almost dysfunction of the state.
Dies at the age of 54
The TLP chief has died in Lahore at the age of 54, on Thursday night November 19. According to the TLP spokesman, the party’s chief had been experiencing difficulty in breathing and was running a fever since yesterday.
The spokesman said that Rizvi was at his seminary on Multan Road when his condition deteriorated. He was subsequently rushed to the Farooq Hospital in Iqbal Town, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.