October Issue 2003
Interview: Qari Shafiqur Rehman
“Party workers are raring to take revenge”
– Qari Shafiqur Rehman
Qari Shafiqur Rehman is Information Secretary, Sindh, of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). In this interview with Newsline, Qari Shafiq speculates about the possible assassins of Maulana Azam Tariq, and says that party workers are emotionally charged and raring to take revenge.
Q: What is the SSP’s response to Maulana Azam Tariq’s assassination?
A: We condemn the terrorist attack that deprived us of our beloved leader. Maulana Azam Tariq was our guide, ideologue and a torchbearer for the Sunnis. He always countereded the Shia conspiracies aimed at converting Pakistan into a Shia state.
Our party workers are furious and extremely charged about avenging his murder. Their immediate reaction was to try and set everything on fire but we held them in check. However, if the government fails to arrest the culprits, it will be difficult for us to control them. We demand that the government take immediate action.
Q:Who do you hold responsible for the murder?
A: The enemies of Islam! It was the Shias who attacked Maulana Azam Tariq in the past-who else could it be [but them]? Our party’s stance of supporting the Taliban might have angered our enemies. We think Allama Sajid Naqvi, the head of the rival banned Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan, and his followers could be behind the killing.
That apart, how can the government be exonerated from its responsibility? It failed to provide security to a leader who was known to be under threat. The government arrests only our leaders and workers in the name of sectarianism. In fact, hundreds of them have been languishing in prisons for several years. However, when it comes to the Shias, the government is afraid of arresting them.
Q: Nonetheless, your party is commonly viewed as being militant, and is accused of carrying out several sectarian attacks in the country.
A: Our ideology is based on the principles of Islam. We are not a terrorist party. We want Pakistan to be a Sunni state, just as Iran is a Shia state. We have always disowned the terrorist acts of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (a splinter group that is involved in terrorism). We don’t believe in terrorism, but we do believe in the party’s ideology.
Q: What will the future of the party be now, without Maulana Azam Tariq?
A: Maulana Azam Tariq held the fort and did not let the party break up, despite the crackdown by General Musharraf’s government. After the party was banned by the government under US pressure, for supporting the Taliban, Azam Tariq announced the launch of a new political party, the Millat-e-Islamia. This organisation brought the old guard and new workers into the fold. We are still in the process of reorganising, but the Maulana’s death has dealt the party a severe blow. Filling the vacuum will not be easy and it will take some time before the party gains its strength. The death of Maulana Azam has infused rage — and a passion in all the workers, that will help the party move forward with new zeal.