In April the Interior Ministry banned the TLP for engaging in terrorism, with the Information Minister claiming that the militant network had links with India. Those in power however took little interest in preparing a strong legal case against the TLP or its chief Saad Rizvi.
This encouraged the TLP to initiate fresh protests for the release of Saad Rizvi last month. At least four police officials reportedly died while trying to stop the march from proceeding to Islamabad. Talks were then re-initiated with the TLP.
It appears from media reports that there were differences between the Army and Prime Minister Imran Khan over use of force against the TLP. Mr Khan had reportedly authorised the use of force against the TLP marchers. The Army calculated what it would entail to applying force against the marchers, with many casualties taking place if the law enforcers were to open fire on those refusing to disperse. Also factored into this calculation was the probable blowback of casualties and its impact on public opinion. The establishment opted for talks therefore.
It is highly discouraging to hear from the Information Minister that “neither the government nor the state is completely ready to fight extremism.” Had the TLP been dealt with by an iron hand in 2017, instead of being mollycoddled by those who matter, the situation would have been different today. The lesson that needs to be learnt by all is that protecting or mainstreaming extremist organisations for political manoeuvring makes them strong, enabling them to take on their benefactors even. If the state becomes weak and violent groups become strong, the problem starts,” says the Information Minister, adding that soft change in society came only when the state established its writ and enforced laws. “If you want soft change, you must be hard.” Contrarily Imran Khan treated the TLP as soulmates for three years maintaining that he and the TLP have the same objective but different approaches.