Pakistan government under pressure as Islamists march towards capital

Thousands of members and supporters of the Tahreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a banned radical Islamist party, sat just outside the entry points of Islamabad, the country’s capital, in an attempt to force the government to accept a range of its demands, including the expulsion of the French ambassado

Oct 24, 2021
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Islamists march towards capital

Thousands of members and supporters of the Tahreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a banned radical Islamist party, sat just outside the entry points of Islamabad, the country’s capital, in an attempt to force the government to accept a range of its demands, including the expulsion of the French ambassador. 

The protests, which entered the third day on Sunday, has already claimed the lives of six people, including two policemen while throwing life out of gear in many parts of Pakistan's Punjab province. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, who returned from Dubai, remained hopeful of solving the situation through negotiations. 

The group was banned by the government earlier this year after it staged violent protests, including killing and abducting members of security forces. The group’s leader remained in detention since then.   

"We will resolve their issues in a day or two," Sheikh Rashid was quoted as saying by Dawn. A delegation from the TLP is scheduled to meet the minister in Islamabad for talks. The Long March, announced by the group on Friday, slowed down after the government invited them for talks.

In November last year the government had signed an agreement with the TLP and renewed the same in February this year. The expulsion of the French ambassador was one of the promises made by the government, despite knowing the move would be extremely hard to implement.  

Now, when the group pressed the government with renewed protests, the government opts for negotiations again. 

However, not many people are pleased with the government’s approach towards the group, earlier branded as a terrorist entity. The dual approach adopted by the government also exposed its inability in controlling these ever-growing strengths of radical Islamist groups, many of whom are now challenging the state’s authority on the streets. 

“(The) government’s knee-jerk responses vacillating from one extreme of allowing TLP to contest elections to banning under the anti-terror laws are problematic,” said Abdul Basit, an expert, and fellow at Singapore-based think tank, RSIS. He further added, “both actions only strengthened the TLP’s narrative, increased its popularity and its narrative.” 

The government’s decision to sign an agreement, that vindicated and emboldened the TLP’s narrative, that it knew since the beginning it can’t implement isn’t the group’s fault. However, if the government uses force against the group now--one witnessed in the last protest - it would only add to the group’s radical reputation and strength, Basit argued in a Twitter thread. 


“As a disruptive political group that thrives in vandalism, mobocracy, and agitation, the stage is set for the TLP to increase its footprint,” he said.  

(SAM)