Fear is sown by the reemergence of Pakistan’s Islamist Group TLP

Shumaila Jaffery
BBC Lahore

Caption for the image

On the 25th anniversary of Khadim Hussain Rizvi’s death, this poster was posted by Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

Pakistan has lifted its ban on Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardline Islamist political party. TLP was the target of anti-France protests for reprinting cartoons of Prophet Muhammad. TLP’s leader and hundreds of supporters were freed. The party can now participate in mainstream politics. This could not only have implications for Pakistan’s political system, but for all of Asia.

Police officer Irfan Ahsan was deployed to Wazirabad, Pakistan’s Punjab Province. This is where TLP protestors have been camping for over a week. They wanted to march to Islamabad in an attempt to force the government expel the French diplomat who had reprinted caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a humorous magazine.

Protesters also demanded the release Saad Rizvi (terrorist leader) who was previously in prison.

According to Usman Ahsan, Ahsan was attempting to purchase medicine when the TLP mob took him hostage. The body of Ahsan was later found at a local hospital two days later.

According to Mr Ahsan, “We feel so deep hurt that those who murdered him called themselves custodians Islam,” but he wasn’t sure which kind of Islam they follow.” “They destroyed so many families and left a girl orphaned, in order to liberate one individual.”

The TLP was accused not once before of this brutality. The state police claim that TLP supporters killed 10 officers this year and wounded another 1,300.

Who is the TLP?

Khadim Hussain Rizavi, a fiery cleric, founded the group in 2015. This is an extremist Islamist group which supports controversial laws against blasphemy in the country. These laws carry the death penalty for offending Islam or the Prophet Muhammad.

In the year that the TLP was founded, the founder of TLP threatened to wipe the Netherlands from the map after Geert Wilders (a Dutch politician) announced a competition to create cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

Khadim Hussain Rizai died on November 20, 2020 after falling ill during an anti-France demonstration at the peak of the pandemic. After a teacher was accused of displaying the caricatures during a class, French President Emmanuel Macron made remarks that he was protesting.

His son Saad Rizvi succeeded Rizvi. He reiterated the demands of the group that Pakistan cut all ties to France. They also blocked roads to Islamabad’s capital during an April protest. Rizvi was detained by the government along with hundreds of supporters. They were also charged with terroristic acts.

Changing tides

The government reversed their position almost seven months later. This has resulted in the lifting of the ban against this group and Saad Rizvi, its leader, being released along with hundreds of TLP workers. While the government does not disclose the exact circumstances of the release, some media reports claim that Qamar Javed Baswa, military chief, played an important role.

To avoid conflict with people calling themselves Muslims lovers, the government has said that the ban on the use of force was removed. Some analysts think it worried that using force against someone who projects themselves as a custodian for the honor of the prophet would cost them their political future.

Fawad Chaudhry, Information Minister said that India isn’t the greatest threat but rather extremism in the country. He said this while speaking at a conference in Islamabad.

TLP’s narrative revolves around the highly emotional topic of honouring the Prophet Muhammad. This has gained support from many Muslim sects all over the world. This group is known for its popularity worldwide and its presence in Europe, the UK, and elsewhere.

Saddam Bukhari (TLP’s Media Coordinator) claimed that many European devotees traveled from around the world to pay their respects when Khadim Hussain Rizvi was killed last year.

Amir Rana from the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies was a security analyst who said that the Pakistani government’s handling of the TLP question had already disrupted Pakistan’s international policy balance with Europe and that the TLP’s entry into mainstream politics would have profound global consequences.

He said that although the outside world doesn’t seem to be interested in what happens in Pakistan, the TLP is influencing overseas communities and Pakistani diasporas in Europe and elsewhere in the West. They fear that the TLP may pose security risks over there.

TLP has played a successful role in the matter of honouring Prophet Muhammad. It is the core idea of Barelvi Islam. Pakistan is an important Barelvi country. However, they must explore other avenues in order to increase their power if they want to be a significant political force.

A few commentators feel that TLP’s success is driving other political parties toward a far right approach, which will push the country further towards extremism.

Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi thinks that Pakistan is tilted towards the right already and that the TLP, despite growing support in some areas, will not be able emerge as a dominant force in the election.

He stated that it was highly probable that the group would have to join a coalition. We will need to wait to see if they are able to change their positions or hold firm to their current position.

Many analysts believe that even though the TLP won’t be able secure a clear majority of votes, the party can obtain enough votes to become a political powerhouse. That may not be good news for Pakistan’s politics.

Source: BBC.com

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