After Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan staged a successful show and managed to sign an agreement of its choice with the government, it seems the party added more feathers to its political standing in the country.
Even the educated middle class, which remained isolated spectators to the TLP show that brought national life to a standstill for three days, thinks the party has become a force to reckon with. Whatever happened in the aftermath of the Aasia Bibi verdict, it only disparaged the sanctity of the highest legal body in the land.
Most of the participants of the protest seemed to have an acute sense of deprivation. It is but natural for them to carry a grouse for getting neither their due share in the existing job market nor recognition in society. Poverty, anger and illiteracy imbued with blind religiosity produce a dangerous mix. Pliable as these crowds are, deft hands exploit them to promote their own agenda.
The TLP leadership was emboldened after its 21-day dharna in November last year at Faizabad, held against PML-N beleaguered government. The TLP had demanded the resignation of the then law minister, which was handed in to satisfy the dharna leaders. Thereafter, there was no looking back for the TLP and, with time, the party gained more confidence and developed political power. It also dented the vote-bank of the Right during the last election.
However, there is a marked difference between the dharna staged in November last year at Faizabad chowk and the one staged recently. The Faizabad dharna was a continuation of the dharna season pioneered by Allama Tahirul Qadri and the PTI leadership. Recall the fiery speeches and name-calling of political opponents by the dharna leaders at the time. According to wide public perception, the Faizabad dharna enjoyed powerful support. But the recent dharna was a different story. In this, TLP leaders employed indecent language against the heads of institutions.
Religious minorities in our society are persecuted in every conceivable manner. They are marginalised, socially ostracised, and forced to live on the fringes. Many, especially among the Christian community, earn their living by doing menial jobs. As if suffering from abject poverty was not enough for them to live with, we add more miseries to their lives.
While ruminating about the Aasia Bibi case and the lockdown of the country that followed, one wonders: why would any member of a downtrodden community, whose daily occupation is to keep body and soul together, pass blasphemous remarks?.
Even though the prime minister made a daring speech on October 31, it resulted in naught, as it wasn’t followed up by action. Even his former spouse Jemima Goldsmith berated him for succumbing to protesters’ pressure. “Not the Naya Pakistan we’d hoped for. 3 days after a defiant & brave speech defending the judiciary, Pakistan’s gov caves in to extremist demands to bar #AsiaBibi from leaving Pak, after she was acquitted of blasphemy- effectively signing her death warrant”, she tweeted.
Weren’t we promised Naya Pakistan would be more vibrant, open-minded and tolerant? Why should the large silent majority that goes about its daily routine suffer at the hands of a few in Naya Pakistan?
The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.