Restraining TLP – now or never

First time in the history of Pakistan a religious party Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) attacked police in most organised manner and beat them up resulting in the death of four policeman and injuring over 800 besides burning public property and blocking major road network of the country causing colossal loss to businesses. TLP came to limelight on 8 November 2017 when they set up camp at Faizabad Interchange contesting changes in the Election Bill of 2017 in which word oath was changed to declaration . TLP was formed on 1 August 2015 by Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi (late) and was registered with the ECP in May 2016. In 2017 they participated in by elections on provincial as well as national assembly seats but could not win a single seat. But continued growing and the day came when the party displayed its might in 2017 when it locked down Faizabad Interchange demanding the resignation of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid. They said a sworn oath affirming a politicians belief in the finality of Prophethood(Khatam-i-Nabuwaat) was deliberately modified as part of a larger conspiracy during the passage of Elections Act 2017. This sit in lasted 20 days and was called off on the intervention of the army by accepting their several demands thus setting a bad example of surrender against a religious party without realising its long term consequences.But the objectionable part was that army also played role of a guarantor that was the reason for the Supreme Court to take suo motto due to controversy that emerged due to alleged army going ahead of its constitutional role. This was a new method introduced in politics where a group of people belonging to a religious party paralysed the government that brought the government on negotiating table to sign accord thus opening a new way of communication with the state. The government failed to realise that they were setting a bad example to deal a small group of religious political party that had challenged the writ of the state. They have proved to be more assertive than any other party. Right from day one they were taking government very lightly and the government allowed them to strengthen their street power. Let us briefly go over the events that followed and turned into deadly situation. A big rally was staged on November 7, 2020 on Shah-ra-Faisal in Karachi demanding expulsion of French ambassador. The government took it lightly and did not bother to take opposition on board. On such national vital and sensitive issues a united stand was need of the hour. Such matters require detailed deliberations and cannot be taken in isolation. No government can enter in to any such agreements from any pressure group all alone by itself that has far reaching consequences, it was their blunder and the country paid heavy price.
Let us see how TLP moved and tried to trap the government. They had gained importance after Faizabad Interchange Dharna that was overlooked by the government while dealing fresh threats. On Novemer 7, 2020 TLP arranged a big rally against France on Shah-ra-Faisal demanding cutting off diplomatic relations with France and boycott French products otherwise they will be free to take any extreme step. After successful march in Karachi they announced “Tahfuz Namoos Risalat” march on 15 November, 2020 from Liaqat Bagh Rawalpindi .This led to talks between administration and TLP on 12 November but ended without any result. On 14 November some arrests were made and security was beefed up to counter TLP move. However clashes took place between police and TLP workers around Liaqat Bagh area on 15 Novemer but workers managed to reach Faizabad Interchange and staged sit in. Talks were held and government accepted all their demands agreed to take the issue in the parliament for the expulsion of French Ambassdor with in 3 months and Pakistan shall not appoint its ambassador to France. All TLP workers were released and cases withdrawn. On November 19 Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi died and his son Allama Saad Rizvi was named his successor.
On 3 Jan 2021 new leader issues fresh warning to government to relaunch their protest if the French ambassador is not expelled by 17 Feb. However a new agreement was signed on 11 Feb and matter will be presented in the Parliament before April 20. Sensing preparations by TLP and intelligence reports government arrested Saad Rizvi on 12 April, that aggravated the situation and after bloody clashes TLP was banned on 15 April. What was the wisdom on the part of the government to agree that the issue will be taken in the parliament before 20 April.Having agreed what was the justification of arresting Chief of TLP before the dead line can only be answered by the government.Back door negotiations failed the TLP reaction was quick and sharp they launched their protest country wide and blocked all important routes throughout Pakistan thus paralysing the administration. TLP workers did not attack the police and the institution but it was an attack on state and state had no answer to this ugly situation. State did react quickly and arrested hundreds of workers not before they killed 6 police officers besides wounding over 800 police man . Leaving only option with the government to hurriedly ban the TLP but it had no effect. By now other forces including political parties had joined them and started supporting their cause. Now this was the time for the government to get united with the opposition and obtain consensus on the issue but once again arrogance prevailed. Series of talks were held with the banned TLP and government and finally TLP agreed to call off protest subject to bringing the issue in the parliament on 20 April as agreed earlier for the expulsion of French Ambassador and demanded release of all workers arrested.PM also addressed the nation looked little shaken and promised that no Muslim would ever compromise on the finality of Prophethood.
Now question arises what the government should do to ensure that no religious or political party resort to such extreme measures that results in deaths destruction and damage to public and private properties. All religious parties and political parties have their own independent agendas and exercise different options when staging protests. To protest is their basic right and is well covered under the constitution but constitution is silent in case protest gets out of control. When the arm of law is applied it is termed against the spirit of democratic rights. Can anyone quote clause of any constitution where protesters are allowed to disturb businesses and privacy of other citizens. That means there is no end to this academic discussion therefore it boils down to frame a proper code of conduct between government and all the parties irrespective of their doctrine. We have to look for a permanent solution for all times to come. For that the government must arrange grand assembly of all the leaders of all the parties small or big and discuss each and every issue keeping in view principle “APNA MUSLUK CHOORO MUT-DOOSRAY KA MUSLAK CHERRO MUT”
Prepare guide lines from A to Z with one common factor that no one will ever come out and protest on roads, streets, motorways, highways including all public places. In all the cities of Pakistan a place will be earmarked where each party on first come first basis holds its functions protests and demonstrations or any event they feel like. This code of conduct should be announced jointly in a press conference, let us tell the world Pakistan now stands united.
The whole exercise cam be seen in the hindsight to be lacking strategic thinking.The government has induced a concept ” achievement through blackmailing “in our political system which will have worst consequence for our political system

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