Maulana Azam Tariq’s profile
LAHORE: Maulana Muhammad Azam Tariq, assassinated on Monday, was the son of Hajji Fateh Muhammad. He was born in March 1962 at Chak No111/7R, Chichawatni, and obtained MA Arabic and MA Islamyat degrees from a Karachi seminary, the Jamia-Islamia.
He went on to teach there, and joined the Karachi wing of the Sipah-e-Sahaba (Warriors of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)’s companions) in 1987. He was instrumental in organising the jihadi outfit’s offices in the city. Maulana Jhangvi invited him to Jhang to run the SSP seminary Jamia Muhammadia, and later he was elected deputy-patron-in-chief of the SSP. He was elected SSP president in 1997 after the previous chief Maulana Ziaur Rehman Farooqi was killed in 1997. The founder of the SSP, Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, and his successor Maulana Isarul Haq Qasmi were also assassinated.
Maulana Tariq was elected a parliamentarian four times. He was elected to the National Assembly in 1990 and 1993 and to the Punjab Assembly in 1997. The 1990 election was a particularly big success, Maulana Tariq defeating government-backed candidate Sheikh Yousaf by a big margin in Jhang. He was again elected to the National Assembly in 2002 while he was in jail, the second time he won elections from behind bars.
Even before he became chief of the party, Maulana Tariq wielded considerable influence as an MNA. Seeking a greater political role for his party, he declared that law and order were a priority of the SSP. His party succeeded in getting two members in the Punjab cabinet of Sardar Arif Nakai in 1995. However, Maulan Tariq’s accession to the party presidency came the year the militant Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an SSP splinter group, was at its most active in Pakistan. Though he declared his SSP had no links with terrorist organisations, law enforcement agencies were convinced the SSP and LJ remained in touch and were working together.
In October 2000, he unveiled his vision of an Islamic Pakistan at an international Difah-e-Sahaba conference in Karachi. The plan was to convert Pakistan’s 28 biggest cities into ‘model Islamic cities’ where television, cinemas and music would be banned.
Maulana Tariq had close relations with the Taliban government in Afghanistan and was an important part of the Pak-Afghan Defence Council that was against the American war in Afghanistan and the Pakistan government’s decision to stop supporting the Taliban after 9/11.
He was also a supporter of the jihad in Kashmir. When Maulana Masood Azhar formed the Jaish-e-Muhammad to fight in Kashmir, he pledged to send 500,000 jihadis to the disputed valley to fight Indian soldiers.
Maulana Tariq spent a total six years in jail and 65 cases were registered against him, including 28 cases were under terrorist acts. His worst time came in 2001 when General Pervez Musharraf banned seven ‘terrorist organisations’ in Pakistan including the SSP. He was sent to jail again and there spent his longest unbroken spell behind bars, around one year.
He was released in November 2002 after he won his Jhang seat in the October elections and decided to join the pro-Musharraf government coalition. He was considered a natural ally of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), but said he would never support the MMA as long as Allama Sajid Naqvi, a Shia leader, and his party were a part of the alliance.
Reportedly, part of his agreement with the government was that SSP prisoners would be released. The MMA alleged that it was these released prisoners who were responsible for an attack on a Quetta mosque in July that killed 53 people.
On May 25 this year, he announced he had formed a new party by the name of Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan, and he was on a countrywide tour to organise the party when he was gunned down on Monday. Law enforcement agencies were concerned by his recent sectarian public meetings.
The Monday assassination of Maulana Azam Tariq was at least the fourth attempt on his life since the controversial figure rose to prominence in the Sipah-e-Sahaba. He was first attacked in 1988 when part of Sipah-e-Sahaba Karachi. This was followed by an attack with rocket launchers at Shapur in 1993 that left him badly injured.
The third attack on January 22, 1997, left him head of the SSP. Maulana Ziaul Rehman Farooqi, then chief of the SSP, was among 19 people killed when a powerful bomb exploded inside the heavily guarded Lahore Sessions Court building. A photojournalist and 13 policemen were also killed in the attack.
Maulana Tariq was one of the last major figures in the SSP; Maulana Ali Sheer Hadri is the last remaining popular figure. Millat-e-Islamia spokesman Maulana Mujeebur Rehman Inqilabi told Daily Times he is likely to be the new MIP chief. An announcement will be made after Maulana Tariq’s funeral. —Amir Rana