The story of the beginning of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan is closely linked to post-9/11 politics in Pakistan, as many analysts have written about. But as this story is traced, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Pakistan’s electoral landscape is tied up with events in Afghanistan.

If the Soviet invasion led to the state’s close relationship with Deobandi groups, and their eventual impact on internal politics, the rise of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan is due to the deterioration in this very relationship.

The state’s efforts to promote Barelvi Islam in the aftermath of 9/11 has been written about extensively. For instance, Amir Rana has detailed it on these pages, more than once. These efforts included the creation of the National Council for the Promotion of Sufism and the Sufi Advisory Council.

But perhaps what was more important were the happenings behind the scenes as Pakistan was confronted militancy and cracked down on the various groups, mostly Deobandi, using violence. This led to fractures and more in the trusted, long-lasting relationship between the state and Deobandi groups, which had always been viewed with resentment by Barelvi groups. This provided room for Barelvi ulema to reach out to the state in a bid to fill the space….

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