Pakistan revokes ban on hardliner Islamist group TLP involved in violent protests

Pakistan has revoked the ban on the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardliner Islamist group involved in a series of violent protests, citing “larger national interests”, days after the government reached “a secret agreement” with the former on 31 October

Nov 08, 2021
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Islamist group TLP involved in violent protests

Pakistan has revoked the ban on the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardliner Islamist group involved in a series of violent protests, citing “larger national interests”, days after the government reached “a secret agreement” with the former on 31 October. "The group, which was banned in April this year, will now be able to fight elections."  

The Ministry of Interior late on Sunday issued a notification, delisting the group from the list of proscribed organizations, a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan approved the cabinet note on delisting. 

“In exercise of the powers conferred under sub-section (I) of Section 11U of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 (as amended), the federal government is pleased to remove the name of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan from the First Schedule of the said Act as a proscribed organization for the purpose of the said Act,” the notification as quoted by Dawn said. 

Despite the government’s hardened stance towards the group, the government was forced to come to an agreement with the TLP, which was involved in violent protests that killed over half a dozen policemen.  

In October 2020, the TLP started demanding the expulsion of the French envoy after controversial comments by French President Emmanuel Macron what many considered was blasphemous. Macron tried to defend caricatures of Prophet Muhammad as freedom of expression.

Founded in 2015 by hardliner cleric Khadim Rizvi, the TLP rose to prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 elections, campaigning on the single issue of defending the country’s blasphemy law, which calls for the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam. 

Khadim, known for his fiery speeches and ability to rally his supporters on the street of Punjab, the country’s most populous and politically important province, died in 2020. His son, Saad Husain Rizvi, took over the reins of the party, which has its significant support base among the urban middle class, mostly from the business background in Punjab, something that makes the TLP different from other religious parties enjoying their bases mostly in rural and tribal areas in the northwestern region. 

Since April this year, junior Rizvi remained in detention, following the violent protests by the group that month.  

Despite warnings by many experts against entering into any agreement with the group, the government seems to have capitulated to the street power of the group and signed yet another deal that, many fear, would ultimately further legitimize them and empower Islamists. 

The two sides have already made conflicting statements about the deal--whose details have not been made public. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid alleged the group had demanded the expulsion of the French envoy during the talks--a claim denied of the TLP. 

The group, described as a terrorist entity by senior ministers in the government until recently, would now be allowed to contest elections. 

With the latest deal, which shows that the government succumbed under the pressure of the TLP, the Islamist group is destined to grow in its stature and influence in the country. It also exposed the Imran Khan government's weakness, showing its limitation in containing these radical groups that are becoming increasingly powerful. 

(SAM)

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