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What goes around comes around: Incumbent rulers’ approach to 2017 TLP protest different from their present policy

October 25, 2021
What goes around comes around: Incumbent rulers’ approach to 2017 TLP protest different from their present policy

ISLAMABAD: Those engaged today in efforts to handle the long march of the proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) had a different approach towards a similar protest by the same religious outfit for their political objectives four years ago. Instead of pacifying the dangerous situation and trying to douse the fire, they had tried to exacerbate it only because of their antipathy to the then Nawaz Sharif government. Now the current scenario is precisely a case of what goes around comes around.

Leaving the potentially dangrous protest behind for others to tackle, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid had flown to the UAE to watch the T20 cricket match between Pakistan and India. He was summoned back to Pakistan by Prime Minister Imran Khan to take in hand the TLP agitation. He immediately returned to Pakistan and is now a part of the government team that is endeavouring to negotiate with the TLP to persuade it to wrap up the agitation.

While Sheikh Rashid took no time to rush back, the prime minister left for Saudi Arabia on a three-day visit to attend the launch ceremony of the Middle East Green Initiative (MGI) Summit at a time when the TLP protest was at its peak and turned violent, claiming lives.

It will be instructive to have a look at what Imran Khan, who was then in the opposition, had stated at the time. “This [TLP] sit-in is here [Faizabad interchange] for the last 20 days. When the chaos was spreading, nobody was worried about it. Instead of providing leadership, the corrupt, incompetent prime minister [Nawaz Sharif] went to Raiwind and stayed put there. From everywhere, our workers have started putting pressure on us as they want to join this protest not because they are saying that it was a political thing but due to their faith as the entire nation stands for the reverence of the Holy Prophet (PBUH),” he said while flanked by Aamir Mahmood Kayani and Aun Chaudhry on Nov 29, 2017.

In an interview to a TV channel on Nov 18, 2017, Imran Khan had said: When there is a protest, which in a democracy is a right of the people, it is the job of the government to ask [protesters] why they are protesting. The reason behind the [TLP] protest was a conspiracy through which an attempt was made to surreptitiously change a legal clause by removing it and the government had accepted it. Shehbaz Sharif [the then Punjab chief minister] called for catching those responsible for this. When you yourself had said so, then you should have proceeded further. But nothing happened subsequently. Now, they [TLP] have reached here. They should have been told the real problem. Now, this [protest] has become such a big issue that people are inconvenienced.”

Shafqat Mahmood, now the federal education minister, had then said in a TV current affairs programme that the TLP march could have been prevented but it was not done [by the government]. “We want this issue to be resolved without any violence. We don’t want any assault, beating or bloodshed. We are absolutely not in favour of it.”

The most incendiary statement had then come from Sheikh Rashid. He had said: “I want to give the last warning to the government that the country will be hit by a massive Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah movement. They [government] should show sanity otherwise your looted wealth would also not be helpful to you. This worn-out system will also be shown the torch and it will become difficult for all those having such thinking to live in Pakistan. We will sacrifice our lives [for the respect and dignity of the Prophet (PBUH)].”

The change and reversal of roles show the hypocritical policies and line of action of politicians. While in opposition, they do not hesitate in taking extremely irresponsible actions, even if these are highly damaging for Pakistan and the unity of the nation. But such inanities haunt them when they are in government. The present case is a classic example to illustrate this point.

However, the then ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) and its partners in the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), have not so far done anything to aggravate the situation caused by the TLP protest, in a tit-for-tat to avenge what the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had done to it.

The violent 2017 sit-in at Faizabad interchange had continued for 20 days and had been wound up after a deal. The then federal law minister, Zahid Hamid, had to resign due to the pressure of the protesters.

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