Creating national consensus

How the government handles the TLP will be its real test

The Tehrik-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has only acted within its legal rights to appeal against its being banned, which means that it has been declared by the Interior Ministry to be a terrorist organization, and been included in the First Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act as a proscribed organisation. The TLP is thereby criminalised, and membership, fund-raising and contributing can be prosecuted.  It is not just fundraising that bothers the TLP, but the placing of its chief, Hafiz Saad Rizvi, on the ATA Fourth Schedule as a proscribed individual, and the TLP’s registration as a political party.

The Interior Ministry is not really an appellate forum, and it is perhaps not going to find the decision on taking off the TLP that simple. The TLP convulsed the country, causing a breakdown of ordinary life and that too at a time when the country was still suffering from the covid-19 pandemic. Apart from the inconvenience to millions, policemen lost their lives and many more were injured. The TLP was banned for some reasons. Have those reasons been removed? As the movement ended with an acceptance of its demands, the TLP might be forgiven the optimism shown by this request. The possibility of the TLP trying to get its backers from exerting their own pressure cannot be ruled out.

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The government should avoid setting an unfortunate example by caving in to pressure. The TLP cannot be accustomed to getting its demands accepted by threatening a shutdown. The government must bring the reasons for the ban, and whether or not to continue it, to Parliament, which must decide a comprehensive policy to decide such matters, and when to ban and when to lift the ban. Another issue the Interior Ministry needs to keep in view is that it might be creating an unfortunate precedent. If the TLP succeeds, what is to stop other banned organisations (those which have not set up shop under a new name) from asking for similar treatment?

Editorial
The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]

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