Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan’s (TLP) prominent leaders have been charged with sedition and terrorism in a latest bid by the Pakistan state. The government, in doing so, sends a clear message that no contra-state pressures or actions will be tolerated in Pakistan and that no one can threaten or halt major state apparatus or position holders and get away with it.
The welcome act
The arrests of Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Pir Afzal Qadri and Hafiz Farooq ul Hassan have been welcomed by a majority of Pakistanis who suffered at the hands of the mass obstructive protests with destructive objectives. In his press briefing Fawad Chaudhry, Minister of Information, stated that the politically inspired lockdown of major cities in Pakistan cost the national kitty Rs. 50 million. Financial pundits approximate the figures to be many times higher—closing down of public and private businesses, damage to property, and the stock exchange’s spiraling nosedive attest to their claim.
The ground reality
Kahdim Hussain Rizvi, the founder of TLP, a Barelvi movement, through his activism gained the notoriety of Blasphemy law advocate in Pakistan and mobalised scores of activists and sympathisers across Pakistan. In its naissance, TLP was able to secure more votes than the traditional religious party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), securing two seats in Sindh and acquiring over 2 million votes in the 2018 national elections.
The firebrand Rizvi is notorious for his fiery no holds barred style trailblazing in TLP politics. He consciously and passionately provoked the PML-N government in 2017 for amending the Khatam-e-Nabuwat clause, halted life in the state capital, and other major cities, for several weeks. In 2018 protest, he incited the religiously inclined masses against the release of the Asia Bibi’s acquittal, after 8 year’s interminable detention on charges of blasphemy.
On both occasions, the TLP made the governments of the time cower before pressure, much to the anxiety of the general masses, who resented this anarchical destabalising attempt against the sitting governments. Some accused the deep-state apparatus for having a soft corner for the extremist right-wing party and the government for posing like a sitting ducks. During the November unrest by TLP, all eyes were set on the PTI government. The PM gave a clear message of zero-tolerance against instigators but the government had to make yet another agreement with TLP, agreeing to most of their demands, to resolve the matter.
What lies ahead?
The government did the right thing.
The fact that Khadim Rizvi openly threatened judges, government leaders, and the armed forces with consequences was an unpardonable aggression. While retracing their steps, the government decided to go after the leading instigators and offered conditional pardon for the over 3000 detained protestors who had caused damage to public and private property. Such an action should appease these activists who were only following orders or their hearts.
The TLP leaders may face up to a lifetime in prison. It is up to the courts to provide justice to the accused. In this backdrop it is important that the government’s improved National Action Plan is followed closely to not only look at cybercrimes and financial transactions but also the seminaries that encourage creation of ideological faultlines within the country.