After granting bail to Tehrik Labaik Pakistan (TLP) Amir Saad Rizvi, the LHC had put the Punjab government in a tough spot, forcing them to approach the Supreme Court (SC), which in turn has reverted the matter back to the LHC. This clearly shows that the apex court does not want to get involved. The Punjab government has failed to build a good case against Rizvi and is now on the verge of losing as the LHC review board’s rejection of the extension of his detention order will most likely be upheld by the new two-member bench formed on the instructions of the apex court. Perhaps the government was unwilling to pursue the case with too much zeal, because it did want to offend the TLP too much, mainly because the issue of Finality of the Prophet (PBUH) it espouses, is a sensitive one. Considering the TLP’s support base, Mr Rizvi, having spent close to six months in jail and getting released without being formally charged, will become a symbol of defiance to and absence of the state’s writ, further emboldening his followers and thereby increasing the likelihood of fresh violent protests to take place. Widespread protests over the government’s refusal to expel the French Ambassador as demanded by the TLP led to a countrywide shutdown, and to violent protests in which several protesters were killed, as well as two policemen, besides scores more injured. The TLP was supposedly banned after this, but the participation of TLP ticket-holders in the recent Cantt Board election has created confusion about whether the ban had been imposed or not.
That the TLP came to prominence on the back of support from private individuals and state institutions is a matter of record defined in the Faizabad Dharna judgement penned by Justice Qazi Faez Isa. The TLP is just another addition to a list of extremist outfits that are unfortunately nurtured and propped up to challenge an existing political setup only to grow too big and independent and eventually bite the hand that feeds them. It is up to the government to control the TLP once its leader is released and it will not be an easy task. There needs to be a strategy in place before that happens, so as not to be playing catch-up when the situation gets too volatile. The government cannot expel the French Ambassador due to diplomatic reasons while the TLP cannot abandon the issue as it makes up the foundation of the cause upon which the party was built. Some common ground must therefore be reached to avoid another violent face-off.