The authorities did not report on the number of participants at the funeral, which takes place in Lahore (east), but according to local observers it reached hundreds of thousands of people, the majority without respecting the mandatory use of a mask to contain a second wave of the pandemic threatens Pakistan.
Khadim Hussain Rizvi, 54, who founded Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in 2015, an influential extremist movement, died on Thursday in a hospital in Lahore after breathing difficulties and a high fever.
The causes of death are not known and no covid-19 test or autopsy was performed.
“Have you seen any funeral so important for a political or religious figure?” Asked one participant. “Of course, the movement will survive,” added Farhad Abbasi.
Khadim Hussain Rizvi was behind the frequent protests against the French that have stirred Pakistan since September, after the republication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
The founder’s death came just days after the TLP movement mobilized several thousand people outside Islamabad in protest against the statements of French President Emmanuel Macron, who defended the right to ‘cartoon’ in the name of freedom of expression, during the homage to a dead teacher after showing his students cartoons of Muhammad.
The message from Khadim Hussain Rizvi may also have inspired Zaheer Hassan Mahmoud, the Pakistani man accused of seriously injuring two people with a bladed weapon, near Charlie Hebdo’s old premises in September in Paris. According to the French justice, this Pakistani will have “watched abundantly” videos of the TLP.
Several senior Pakistani government officials, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, offered their condolences to the religious’s family, testifying to his influence on Pakistani society.
“In a way, he was even more dangerous than the Taliban, his supporters are not limited to remote tribal areas, they are in large numbers in the country’s main centers,” notes Omar Waraich of Amnesty International.
Rizvi argued that “in Pakistan, real power can come from the streets, where you don’t have to have a majority of voters, but simply a large number of armed supporters.”
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