Home Lightbox Petty Politicking and the Blasphemy Nuke

Petty Politicking and the Blasphemy Nuke

by Ejaz Haider

Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Perish the thought that anyone will condemn this act by Abid Hussain

The initial police interrogation report on the assassination attempt on Pakistan’s interior minister, Ahsan Iqbal, affords an early peek into not only the accused, his background and his mindset, but also the people who influenced him and thereby forced his hand into taking that shot.


The accused, Abid Hussain, was born on May 13, 1995. He will be 23 in a few days. He studied to the 10th Grade from a local, government-run school. His mother has passed away while his father does odd labor jobs. The accused has two brothers, one of whom is in the Army and the other is a laborer. The accused is unemployed. He has one sister, who is married.

Two of his uncles have passed away while his father’s elder brother is still alive. There are other details about his family, immediate and extended, but this information is sufficient to establish a picture of his socioeconomic and educational background.

There’s nothing extraordinary about Abid Hussain and his family. In fact, this is one of millions of families across Pakistan.

Except, this: Abid Hussain, semi-educated and unemployed, joined Tehreek-e Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) and, at the time of his criminal act, was the President of TLYRA’s youth wing from UC Gorala and Kot Baaray Khan.

Let’s, once again, establish some facts from the police report: 23, semi-schooled, unemployed, TLYRA youth wing president.

Reason for joining TLYRA: influenced by the speeches of Asif Ashraf Jalali and Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

Another fact: he participated in the Faizabad dharna (sit-in) and, as the interrogation report reveals, he resolved to kill anyone who—according to him—insulted Islam’s Prophet. The stress on “according to him” is the crucial qualifier here. The role models he listed for the act of murdering any alleged blasphemer are Ilm Din, Mumtaz Qadri, Amir Cheema, and Tanveer Qadri.

Recap: 23, semi-schooled, unemployed, influenced by Jalali and Rizvi, participates in the Faizabad sit-in, resolves to kill anyone who he determines has insulted Islam’s Prophet.

From this point onwards, he began maintaining a diary of his thoughts. He wrote this diary for three to four months. He didn’t talk to anyone, he had no intellectual basis to think beyond and outside the emotions awakened in his person by the demagoguery of the Jalali-Rizvi duo.

One can also assume that he didn’t have much interaction with his father or his siblings. A typical millennial detritus in a country with a 64 percent youth bulge with almost no access to health and educational facilities and where community participation comes in the form of groups like TLYRA.

After writing his thoughts for a few months, he handed over the diary to a visually impaired teacher at a seminary, Jamia Madrassah Ghausia-Rizvia, run by Shahid Rafiq Madni. This he did, presumably, to get a “scholarly” view of his thoughts.

On April 18, Hussain participated in a program, Tajdar Khatme Nabbuwwat. He asked Madni if he had received his diary. Madni told him that he was indeed in possession of his diary. The interrogation report does not mention if Madni gave him an explicit nod but considering that the accused told the interrogators that after that conversation he was looking for an opportunity to make a kill, one can assume that Madni did nothing to stop or tell him that he should not carry on down this path.

On May 4, the accused got the information that Gulfaam Masih had invited minister Iqbal to a corner meeting with the Christian community of Kanjror. The message about the meeting was circulated through WhatsApp.

On May 6, the accused called Gulfaam to confirm if Ahsan Iqbal will indeed be addressing the meeting. After getting the confirmation, the accused got a haircut, bathed, wore fresh clothes and reached the venue with a friend, Azeem Ashraf, on a motorcycle. He waited until Iqbal had finished speaking and took the shot from close range when the minister got down from the makeshift stage and was preparing to leave. The bullet hit the minister’s right arm and penetrated his gut.

Iqbal’s security detail immediately overpowered the accused and arrested him.

Now to his weapon: he was carrying what the police report describes as a .30 bore pistol, a common reference to Russian Tula Tokarev (TT-30), a 7.62x25mm caliber handgun. TT-30 also has a Chinese variant (Type-51/55), manufactured by Norinco. The pistol has many knockoffs made in Pakistan. Its caliber has far more penetrating power than 9mm semi-autos.

It is safe to assume that the accused had a TT knockoff, which he purchased from one Kashif (also in police custody) for Rs. 15,000. He also bought 50 rounds from another person (also in police custody) at Rs. 36 per round.

Both purchases were illegal. This is the underbelly of the gun market where one goes to buy an unregistered weapon that can be used for a criminal act and then disposed of. The observation about Abid Hussain’s illegal purchases also forces one to look into the utterly absurd and nonsensical licensing policies adopted by the provincial and federal governments, but that is a topic unto itself.

The point here is simple: a young man, semi-schooled, indoctrinated, who can’t find employment but can become the president of the youth wing of TLYRA and can come up with Rs. 15,000 for a pistol and Rs. 1,800 for purchasing 50 rounds for his weapon.

Pakistan’s history, post-1979, is a testimony to the fact that ‘blasphemy’ is a nuclear option. Unfortunately, almost all major political parties have resorted to it for petty politicking. None seems to realize that starting this fire will engulf everyone. It has also been hyped by unscrupulous charlatans and televangelists. This has reached a point where any semi-schooled man looking for a place in Jannah can take it upon himself to kill whoever he deems to have presumably insulted Islam’s Prophet.

But more than that, it is, to quote Mencken, the grotesqueries, chicaneries and theological buffooneries practiced by unethical clerics and large segments of their cretinous followers that is the problem. Perish the thought that others will condemn this act by Abid Hussain. As I write this, there will be many who would be preparing themselves for performing what they think is a sacred task.

The accused told the police he was asked by Data Sahib to kill minister Iqbal. According to him he also saw other holy personages in his dream. There, we now have a good test case for psychologists and their Jungian mishmash. Incidentally, the accused also went to Dubai but returned after a month because he didn’t like the “mahol” (environment) there.

So, here we have some initial observations. Let’s hope we draw the right lessons from them.

Haider is the executive editor at Indus News. He was a Ford Scholar at the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. He tweets @ejazhaider 

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