Handle with care

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BARELY two days after Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad dropped hints at meeting demands of the protesting Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), the Federal Cabinet, in an apparent U-turn, decided to treat it as ‘militant’ outfit and crush it like other militant organizations.

Briefing newsmen after the cabinet meeting, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry went to the extent of claiming that the Government has the evidence of TLP being funded by some groups in India which also maligned Pakistan through social media.

The meeting resolved that Army, Rangers and Police would stop participants of its long march from entering the federal capital.

There is no doubt that the country has suffered a lot due to violent politics and, therefore, the Government has legitimate authority to establish its writ and ensure rule of law.

It is also a fact that the TLP or for that matter any party, group or individuals have the democratic right to air their grievances and register protest while remaining strictly within the bounds of the law and the Constitution.

It seems that the Government is using some incidents of violence during the TLP protest as justification for launching a crackdown against the organization.

There were casualties on both sides (the Government and the TLP) when the march began from Lahore while, according to Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, bullets were sprayed on the police force with Kalashnikov near Sadhoke on Wednesday resulting in the death of four policemen and injuries to about 250 others.

It is, therefore, the responsibility of the leadership of the TLP to ensure that neither its workers indulge in any sort of violence nor are others provided an opportunity to exploit the situation in a bid to creating misunderstanding between the law-enforcing agencies and the protestors.

The Government might have its own argument in making a final decision to treat TLP as a militant organization but its stance is in sharp contrast to the previous stand of the ruling party when it was in the opposition and also the acts and statements of its ministers.

It is a universal truth that the Government itself entered into an agreement with the TLP during its earlier march and sit-in under which it was obliged to expel the French Ambassador besides officially boycotting made-in France products.

No saner element would endorse acceptance of such demands as these amount to compromising the writ of the Government and also because it is none of the business of the pressure groups to dictate their terms on matters that impact upon the foreign relations of the country.

However, once you have entered into an agreement, you are duty bound to implement the agreed clauses and in this case the Government should have, at least, taken the matter to Parliament which was the right forum to decide upon this.

Though the Government is taking refuge behind the plea that it cannot expel the French Ambassador at the instance of the TLP but a prominent personality who is said to be guarantor of agreement with the organization, publicly claimed that the TLP is not demanding expulsion but just wanted Parliament to debate the issue and decide accordingly.

The Government not only reneged its commitment but intriguingly, the Interior Minister once again on Monday, gave a green signal for unfreezing TLP’s accounts, hinted at releasing its chief, and announced reconsidering the earlier decision of declaring the TLP a “proscribed organization”, saying it is the third-largest political party of Punjab.

Interior Minister is on record having said, “We should accept that it (TLP) is the third largest political party of Punjab and it has to do politics.”

One, therefore, fails to understand what happened in-between that forced the Government to change its stance entirely and absolve itself of the agreement giving lame excuse that it was wrongly concluded by two federal ministers including former Interior Minister Ejaz Shah.

The issue of ‘Namoos-e-Risalat’ that the TLP claims to champion is very very sensitive as it is close to the heart of every Pakistani and, therefore, the Government should have handled the situation with utmost care but regrettably its statements and actions represent a classic example of flip-flop.

The use of force has never proved to be an effective solution of any problem and, therefore, the Government should, instead, use the good offices of Brelvi leaders to sort out differences amicably.

 

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