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PR Short Notes


Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 688, 27 October 2023

Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan: Religious extremist or militants?



The rising “Right” of Pakistan

Femy Francis

On 26 October, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued that the right-leaning Barelvi group, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) was not part of any “anti-state activities/ terrorism.” The Supreme Court begins the hearing by appeals against the foreign funding received by the party, headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Qazi Fae Isa. The probe against the party was due to the 20-day protest in 2017 that brought cities to a stand-still, this was investigated by the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) and the reports examined by the ECP found that: “the commission was of the view that the respondent party, the TLP, was not involved in any anti-state activity or terrorism. Hence the commission disposed of its inquiry.” The scrutiny regarding the funding was found moot based on the fact that such a small amount cannot be accused of being acquired through prohibited funding.

Roots of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan
TLP belongs to the Sufi Barelvi thought that proclaims itself as the defender of Prophet Muhammad and often resorts to extremist violent punitive action against those who violate the sanctity. In 2021, TLP was accused of lynching Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana for the alleged sacrilegious act of violating posters of Prophet Muhammad. TLP was linked to the incident owing to its slogan: “Man Sabba Nabbiyan Faq Tulu,” kill blasphemers of the Prophet. The party officially was formed after the 2011 assassination of Salman Taseer by his police guard Qadri for defending Asia Bibi, a Christian accused of blasphemy. The guard was then detained and issued a death sentence, the Barelvi group staged a mass protest in his support. He was finally hanged in 2016 under Nawaz Sharif’s regime, after his death he was considered as a “martyr” were thousands turned in for his funeral.
His death instigated the already emerging movement of Barelvi groups collaborating under their leader Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Rizvi an outstanding orator and was able to appeal to and consolidate the groups and soon was able to establish a solid support base with funds coming in from wealthy clerics and businessmen from the community.

TLP and Nawaz Sharif
In 2017, a massive protest erupted led by the TLP against the changes in oath-taking for Prophethood. This protest has Islamabad halted for 21 days. The establishment was not interested in dealing with it and suggested that the federal government have a sit-in negotiation. At last, peace was brokered by the army with the law minister removed. During this, a controversial video went viral where a military official was found giving money to disperse the crowd.  This was a huge blow to the credibility of the party, with news leaked that the government urged the military to act against the militant groups. It is widely questioned if the army urged TLP to weaken PML-N to form a government again owing to the growing differences.

Radical extremism of TLP 
TLP has used its extremist ideologies, radical sentiments and growing Islamophobic nature of the West furthered the party to the political sphere of Pakistan. In 2023, TLP was found responsible for vandalizing through a Christian colony and five churches after accusing a Christian house help of disrespecting the Quran. This led to the displacement of 500 Christian families. In 2020, the party staged an anti-France protest after a magazine was found publishing a caricature image of Prophet Muhammad. Soon after the rally, their founder and dear leader Rizvi passed away creating a huge vacuum in the leadership filled by his son Saad Rizvi.

TLP in the General Election of 2024
TLP is a political force in Pakistan politics and has had a detrimental influence in the ousting of Nawaz Sharif’s regime. In 2018, the party was the fifth-largest party with 2.3 million votes. The numbers were impressive considering this was the first campaign by the party. With the retracting of militant claims against the party, it has revived the TLP to resume its activities with stronger claims. While it's questionable that the party would be able to topple top layers in the elections. But with the growing group's ideology and the instalment of recruits and followers, TLP will be a vital player in splitting votes and spoiling aspirations for the contested seats. TLP can be seen to leverage its political clout and support to further its agenda create a systemic alliance and influence the outcome of the General elections in 2023. The mainstream nature of TLP in Pakistan’s politics shows a trend towards a rise of radicalized parties, in politics.

References
Nasir Iqbal, “TLP not involved in ‘terrorism’, SC told,” Dawn, 27 October 2023
Roohan Ahmed, “Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan: An emerging right-wing threat to Pakistan’s democracy,” Atlantic Council¸ 15 January 2022
Dr Muhammad Abrar Zahoor, “The rise of the Right?” TNS, 17 September 2023

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