TLP demands: What next ?
VIOLENT anti-French protests paralyzed Pakistan for many days. The architect of these demonstrations was Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), subsequently banned by the PTI government.
The TLP opposes the publication of cartoons depicting the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in France, and also the French response reaffirming the right to blasphemy after school teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded near Paris after showing caricatures of the Holy Prophet of Islam to his class.
The TLP demanded that the government expel the French ambassador and endorse a boycott of French products.
The TLP protests have wreaked havoc in the Muslim-majority country, with Islamist supporters and police clashing in major cities.
On 18 April, TLP and law enforcement authorities showed muscles to each other killing and injuring Muslims from either side.
Imran Khan’s government is being heavily criticized for mishandling the protests and not behaving wisely with protesters.
On the other hand due to serious threats to French interests in Pakistan the French Embassy has advised all French nationals and companies to temporarily leave the country, following the anti-French protests.
Imran Khan believes the TLP is playing politics over the cartoons of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Premier Imran Khan uttered in his speech that France is a major financial donor to Pakistan and the demand to expel its ambassador over alleged blasphemy is just a gimmick.
If Pakistan starts expelling ambassadors of all countries where someone commits what these hard-liners see as blasphemy then Pakistan will have diplomatic relations with very few countries.
TLP is a largely Barelvi party, founded in 2015 by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a firebrand cleric who died in November 2020.
The core ideology of this party revolves around the protection of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
The party represents a powerful Sunni sect and its mission is to protect honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Blasphemy is a contentious issue in Pakistan, where anyone deemed to have dishonoured Islam or the Holy Prophet (PBUH) can face the death penalty under the country’s blasphemy laws.
The laws are often employed in cases that have little to do with blasphemy and are used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas.
In November 2018, the TLP called off nation-crippling protests after striking a deal with the government on the legal future of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy.
The TLP supporters held three days of sit-ins and demonstrations after the Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned Bibi’s blasphemy conviction, ending her eight years on death row.
The TLP’s main motivation revolves around aggressively defending Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. That has long been its bread and butter.
Linked to this focus on the blasphemy laws is the group’s bigoted views toward religious minorities, the very groups that suffer the most from these laws.
Unfortunately, given that the blasphemy laws are fiercely defended by critical masses of Pakistan, the TLP has been able to attract substantial constituencies of support.
This is not only through street power, but also through respectable performances in elections, which is unusual for a party in Pakistan.
In the 2018 election, the party bagged 2.2 million votes, mostly from the Punjab province, and won two provincial seats in the Sindh Assembly.
The TLP emerged as the third-largest party in Punjab, behind Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party and Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).
Currently rising unemployment, growing inflation and illiteracy are also some of the factors behind a surge in TLP’s popularity.
With many people unhappy with Khan’s economic performance and with mainstream political parties in general an increasing number of voters are now looking towards Islamist parties for a probable remedy.
The brutality, bloodshed and inhumane actions taking place throughout the country, especially in Lahore are condemnable. The law & order situation is messed up and something to worry about.
Violence should never win due to the foreign agendas to destroy Pakistan’s political scenario by the pressure groups.
Where have we forgotten the original message of our beloved Prophet (PBUH) about peace, love and gratitude? May Allah guide us and show us the right path and end ignorance and brutality. The TLP’s popularity is linked to wealth and income disparities in the country.
Its supporters are not only madrassa students but even common youngsters who have gained nothing from the country’s political and economic system.
The PTI government needs to create economic opportunities for the youth to sway them away from hard-line religious groups and parties.
Many Islamist groups that has become a threat to Pakistan’s stability. Who has created these groups and parties?
There have been fears that the TLP could siphon off votes from other parties, on a level of scale that it could impact the electoral performance of the major parties in a big way.
The electoral performance of the TLP shouldn’t be shrugged off. It has done significantly better than most of the other religious political parties.
Under the leadership of Khadim Hussain Rizvi the TLP has gained significant public support in a very short period of time.
After the departure of Khadim Rizvi if young Saad Rizvi continues to mobilize masses, TLP would certainly gain more ground.
It is an admitted fact that the TLP has given impact oriented very strong slogan of “Tajdar-i-Khatam-i-Nobuwwat”.
If the TLP is banned till election 2023 and not allowed to participate in the election, PTI will be main loser because of vote of hatred. This situation will help PPP, PMLQ and PMLN politically.
—The writer is book ambassador, columnist, political analyst and author of several books based in Islamabad.