Extremism wins again? 

The aftermath of the TLP protests

The past few years in Pakistan have been disputed and in a constant state of confusion as the extremist and vehement fundamentalists pull the strings, challenging the writ of the state. In the light of the recent Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) protests, there are trigger warnings for the government of Pakistan which gets ready to negotiate another agreement with the TLP. Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (an organization formed at the arrest of Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer) considers itself the guardians of blasphemy laws in Pakistan. The recent wave of violent protests has once again been based on a series of caricatures of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) published in the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and it demanded the expulsion of the French Ambassador and the release of their detained leader Saad Rizvi, who was arrested during the protests in April 2021.

The delay in fulfilling the demands of the TLP decides the fate of several police officers, Chinese officials and civilians whose lives are at stake. The government and the establishment remained unsure on negotiating with TLP as the former wanted to stay put and the latter wanted a stronger national security environment. Among the list of demands was also that the TLP be given the authorization to contest elections and the release of other detained persons who belong to the TLP, along with the leader himself. The word is out in the air that negotiations and agreements between TLP and the government have been signed for a ceasefire but so far, no insight has been released.

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The government called a combined parliamentary session with representatives of all parties, establishment, and leaders of Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir to be briefed about the current national security environment and the agreement signed. This move was a smart approach by the government as matters of national security should be unanimously decided by all representatives. Not much has been shared yet about the briefings in the session but the breathing space required by the government and given to the TLP may have severe implications for the Government itself.

Acts of negotiation and allowing political activities in Waziristan may provoke other banned fundamentalists to use methods of blackmailing to negotiate their terms as well. If the government agrees to the demands, it means it has already failed to help the country from falling into the hands of radicals. If it doesn’t agree to the terms, chaos and vicious protests will continue to take the lives of civilians, and which may result in worsening conditions for foreign investment.

Not a long time ago, under the tenure of Asif Ali Zardari, a similar session was called upon to discuss the matter of terrorism in Waziristan and Swat. Although the government itself was not in the favour of releasing the terrorist persons a unanimous decision was reached in the affirmative bringing consequences and threats to Pakistan which later had to be dealt with by wars and violence. A hanging and more predictable implication is history repeating itself especially with an observant eye of the international community which Pakistan cannot render to neglect.

Requiring authorization to contest elections and demanding a control over the region of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) should be viewed as non-negotiable as threats of extremism may take a leap forward. Suspicions remain that political parties may not be certain of making huge favors to the TLP but an establishment leaning in its favour wants to put an end to the protests.

The future of Pakistan seems to be more radicalized and rightist. Extremism is rising from every single stem of it. Nearly after 26 years, the establishment allows the  JUI to hold a strong and a huge Jalsa in Wana, Waziristan. It is obvious that the government and the establishment are not on the same page anymore, but it appears to be more evident that the establishment is rooting in favour of more radical and extreme Islamization in the country.

Acts of negotiation and allowing political activities in Waziristan may provoke other banned fundamentalists to use methods of blackmailing to negotiate their terms as well. If the government agrees to the demands, it means it has already failed to help the country from falling into the hands of radicals. If it doesn’t agree to the terms, chaos and vicious protests will continue to take the lives of civilians, and which may result in worsening conditions for foreign investment.

In a failing democratic state, the joint parliamentary session on the National security environment is a sign of a successful parliamentary system. However, a rising extremism, the absence of Prime Minister from the Parliamentary session, the stranglehold of the establishment, declining civil-military relations and an escalating movement towards Islamization are creating a menace in the country. While these issues prevail, the PDM has issued a new schedule of rallies which is going to be the cherry on top for the government. The questions which remains is how long will the government last and What’s left in it anymore for the people of Pakistan, and will extremism rise and win in Pakistan?

Damiya Saghir
Damiya Saghir
Damiya Saghir is a Political Science graduate from Kinnaird College for Women Lahore. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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