November Issue 2019

By | Interview | Published 1 week ago

In your video message, you said that you were retiring from politics and turning your focus towards academic work. Which projects are you working on in the near future?

I’m grateful that Allah has given me the opportunity to work on over a thousand books covering hundreds of subjects. This work is for the coming generations. Recently, a Quranic Encyclopedia spanning eight volumes and over 5,000 subjects has been compiled – first in Urdu and then translated into English. It was unveiled in Manchester, UK and will be translated into other languages as well.

The next project is a Hadith Encyclopedia comprising 40 volumes. It will be a comprehensive guide for students of hadiths and regular educated Muslims. No work of this scale has been done in the previous 1,000 years. The Hadith Encyclopedia will also be compiled in accordance with a subject list. Most of the work on it is already done.

Similarly, I’m writing a 10-volume Arabic tafseer of the Holy Quran and a 10 to 12 volume Arabic sharh of Bukhari Shareef. These will eventually be translated into Urdu and English.

Who will lead the Pakistan Awami Tehreek after your retirement?

As things stand today, the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) has elected representatives at all levels – from the centre to the provinces, districts and tehsils. Every official of the central body has been elected in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Election Commission. There is a higher level core committee as well, which has its central elected representatives.

I have given all my powers to this central core committee, which will have the autonomy to design the future political strategy and be responsible for its implementation. Our members adhere to a common ideology, one which recognises revolution and my reform agenda.

The majority of these representatives have been my allies for three decades. I haven’t named my successor because we’ve been fighting against dynastic politics from day one.

 

 

Is it a final goodbye to politics, or would you reconsider the retirement depending on future circumstances in the country?

The decision to retire is final, and the decision was taken after almost a year of deliberation within the party, including the constitutional forums. I just chose an opportune moment to announce the retirement. The decision is final.

Does your retirement from politics underline the fact that you are satisfied with the situation and the current regime in Pakistan?

I’m not satisfied at all. We still haven’t got justice for the Model Town tragedy. Initially the murderers themselves were ruling and we were agitating, but couldn’t get justice. Now they are in jail – so why aren’t we getting justice now?

The JIT [Joint Investigation Team] that had been formed following the Supreme Court’s order has been barred from working as well. It’s the same system, the same bureaucracy, the powerful are still powerful, the weak still weak – that’s how the political business keeps rolling. Until we get justice, we will remain skeptical.

As far as Pakistan’s situation is concerned, that’s evident for all to see. The PAT under my leadership played its due part in changing the system. We created awareness with regards to electoral reforms, accountability for all, eradication of corruption, empowerment of the marginalised sections of society, implementation of the 40 fundamental articles of the Constitution – especially Articles 62 and 63.

 

I laid the strong foundations of the reform agenda. My guidance will remain available for the nation and party leaders. This is my country, my people, I can’t detach myself from them. I’m only distancing myself from practical politics.

 

The change that the masses were expecting hasn’t been witnessed. We wholeheartedly wish that the current regime fulfils the vows that they made to the nation.

There are many issues in the country which have actually aggravated over the past year. For instance, the economy.

The ongoing financial crisis isn’t the result of the previous year alone. This horrific practice of taking loans was started 10 years ago, and over the past five years it reached its extreme. The previous governments didn’t take the steps needed to set straight the direction of the economy. Instead of improving national finances, their focus was on improving the family finances, which they were successful in achieving.

The financial aspects which have been ignored in the past include documenting the economy, increasing the tax net, enhancing exports to control inflation, enhancing agricultural and industrial production, fulfilling energy requirements, adopting simplicity, stopping the leakage of national resources and controlling corruption. These steps would help our economy become self-sufficient.

However, the previous rulers remained focused on money laundering and building luxurious properties overseas. The current rulers have no idea where to start the economic revamp from. In any case, a strong financial team can provide the guidelines to improve the economy.

Your critics accuse you of being a handy tool for the army to send the civilian leaders packing, or at the very least get them to compromise. Have you retired from politics because the current ruling party is believed to be in the good books of the military establishment?

Allah has given us a mind and wisdom. My revolutionary reform agenda is four decades old and my planning predates that. I have a vision for reform, which has also been passed on to my workers. No one can dictate to us, nor do I accept dictation. I do whatever my conscience tells me.

It is true that we don’t have access to the electoral system. We don’t have any goons to change election day results, or any political lobbying. Neither do we have resources from money laundering, nor can we bank on criminals who have been engaged in committing extreme crimes.

We joined hands with the poor masses to launch a movement of awakening, giving the nation a new rational direction. Alhamdulillah, no one has accused us of taking funds. Had that been the case, it would’ve been exploited. Hence, no one can dictate to us.

 

Canadian cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri (L top) waves to Pakistani supporters during an anti-government protest.

 

You say that it was your struggle that led to the accountability drive in Pakistan. What do you have to say to those who maintain that it’s actually a ‘selective accountability’ that is going on against the opposition parties?

We were the first to raise the slogan for the implementation of Articles 62 and 63, and called for accountability in that regard. The trials in courts and the punishments have been based on those articles. In all these references, the accused were given the chance to present their defence.

In fact, the chance that this elite class got for their defence is never given to the ordinary people. Their statements and arguments have gone on for months. In fact, when they were asked to show the money trail, they couldn’t do anything but present letters from various countries.

This is why there isn’t much truth to the claims of selective accountability. Everyone should be held accountable. No one should be above the law. We haven’t even been able to receive a neutral report on the Model Town tragedy yet.

US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called out ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ in their joint rally in Houston in September. Prime Minister Imran Khan responded to it by saying, ‘There is no such thing as radical and moderate Islam, there is only one Islam.’ Do you agree?

Islam is a religion of peace. Islam safeguards the rights of minorities, and does not discriminate in the right to life and property. Islam even forbids injudicious killing on the battlefield. Minhaj-ul-Quran International has presented the peaceful message of Islam in front of the entire world and will continue to do so.

Have you seen a decline in religious extremism in Pakistan recently? You’ve worked a lot on developing counter-terrorism curricula. Are there any further projects lined up?

To completely eradicate extremism, we have to review the educational system and curricula. The state should have complete control over religious and other schools. No one should be allowed to teach their own individual viewpoint as curriculum.

The foreign funding of madrassas is a major issue. Some work has been done in this regard, but a lot is pending. Recently, there has been talk of the government bringing the madrassas under state control and making the entire system foolproof. This is a good development, and should be thoroughly implemented. All educational institutions of Minhaj-ul-Quran have been following the Pakistani education system and laws from day one.

And finally, do you see the victims of the Model Town Tragedy ever getting justice? We don’t quite see the same intense agitation for justice for the victims ever since the PTI came to power? Why is that?

The legal fight to secure justice for the martyrs of Model Town is being fought with full force. In this regard, we haven’t wasted even a single day, because justice for Model Town isn’t about politics, it’s about our faith.

You mention the agitation – we demonstrated street power when we hadn’t gone to court. We stopped the agitation following the Supreme Court’s order. That order left us with no option but to take the legal route, and that’s the battle we are fighting now.

The struggle inside the courts is neither seen on the roads, nor the subject of media interest. The legal battle isn’t newsworthy for the media, which is why it doesn’t reach the masses. The reality is that our intensity has actually increased and the fact remains that the courtroom expenses are more than that of street protests.

It’s a shame that our judicial system takes generations to resolve cases, leaving the common man helpless in his quest for instant justice. Our struggle for justice will be long as well.