AS saner elements within the country are calling upon the Government to go for dialogue option to sort out issues with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), the Government has, surprisingly, attached preconditions to the possibility of talks with the proscribed organization.
There were reports on Thursday that the leader of the organization Saad Rizvi has been brought to Islamabad and he participated in a dialogue with the relevant officials but Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, in a tweet, categorically stated that there would be no talks between the government and the banned group till they clear the roads and hand over those responsible for the death of police officials.
The situation might take an ugly turn if no flexibility was shown by the two sides as confrontation, violence and use of force would not benefit anyone.
The sudden hardening of stance by the Government is not understandable and some political analysts believe it has something to do with the desire of the authorities concerned to divert attention of the people, media and political parties from the monster of inflation that has sparked country-wide resentment.
Otherwise, TLP has launched protests to press for acceptance of demands that the Government previously committed to accommodate.
It is unlikely to give up the protest first and then hold talks while the condition of handing over alleged killers of police personnel might be considered by the group as more offensive.
It is regrettable that the standoff is affecting the normal life in many parts of Punjab and the Federal Capital, the Government is depending on a strategy that is likely to prolong the crisis making things worse for the people, who are fed up with the unending vicious circle of blockades caused by protestors as well as the Government in power in the name of beefing security.
The country cannot afford disruption of business activities, transport, closure of offices and educational institutions and suspension of telephone and Internet services as the national economy and people have already suffered due to restrictions emanating from the spread of Covid-19.
The window for dialogue is squeezing as almost all those who matter in the Government are now issuing provocative statements.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, who previously held talks with the group, has threatened that enough is enough and that the Government can no longer be held hostage.
He has also warned that things would spin out of his control if the protestors did not wind up their protests.
Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar said that “murdering Muslim representatives of the state, destroying public property in your own country and creating chaos all in the name of religion is no service to religion”.
Linking activities of the organization to ‘terrorism’ and allegations of receiving aid from India could further complicate the issue.
In a related development, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar gave a free hand to law enforcement agencies (LEAs) on Thursday to counter the ongoing violent protests by TLP, saying it is the responsibility of the Government to protect life and property of the citizens and it would fulfil this responsibility in all circumstances.
Rangers have also been deployed in the province for two months and the situation is ripe for confrontation if the two sides did not exercise restraint.
While we urge the Government not to close the doors of dialogue and discussions, it is also the responsibility of the TLP to review its policy and strategy as repeated protests, marches and sit-ins and the accompanying violence send negative signals to the outside world about the state of affairs in Pakistan.
No one would differ from the main cause of the organization (Namoos-e-Resalat) but the modus operandi of the protests and the hardline adopted by the TLP is misinterpreted by the outside world building pressure on the government to do more against religious groups and parties.
It is also intriguing why the Government is shy of taking the issue to Parliament when, luckily, other political parties especially main parties like PML(N) and PPP are not trying to exploit the situation to their own advantage and have clearly stated they would cooperate in finding an amicable solution.
There are apprehensions that this goodwill gesture from the opposition might not remain relevant if the situation takes an ugly turn due to any mishandling.