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Monday January 30, 2023

TLP accord

By Editorial Board
November 02, 2021

Finally, the standoff is over – or at least it appears to be so. The government’s negotiating team has announced a positive outcome of its talks with the proscribed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). The accord has led to even more questions on whether reaching an agreement with an outfit that was ostensibly banned makes sense. Whatever the deal, it is the government’s responsibility to divulge full details of it; the citizens of Pakistan have a right to know what concessions the government has granted to those who have been creating problems for the people every now and then. Mufti Muneeb’s assertion that the specifics of the agreement will come to light at an appropriate time is even more puzzling. A two-week long standoff that brought misery to common citizens and resulted in numerous clashes on roads across many cities is not something the government can just brush aside. And the tragic deaths of at least seven policemen are a grim reminder that those who try to restore law and order have no protection from the state itself.

Though the group initially called for the expulsion of France’s ambassador, it gave up the demand to pave the way for the agreement. Such demands and a lax response by the government to such protests leave us with a severely damaged image in the world as a country that appears to be constantly at the mercy of extremist elements of various hues who can blackmail its governments at will. The situation in some cities was extremely tense till the last day before the signing of the agreement. Sunday’s announcement at a press conference saw Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser sitting with MNA Ali Mohammad Khan and Mufti Muneeb as well as TLP members Mufti Ghulam Abbas and Mufti Ameer. The composition of the government team was also intriguing since essentially it is the responsibility of the federal and provincial interior ministries to tackle such issues.

The fact is that the TLP holds extremist views and has shown willingness to use force. To make a deal with an organisation of this kind, in which the government gains only little while the organisation itself is given a free hand to essentially become a part in the mainstream politics is, in so many ways, dangerous to a country which faces the growing threat of terrorism, and which has already faced sanctions because of perceptions regarding militancy. The state needs to rethink its approach to the TLP. Does it really wish to empower groups that routinely indulge in hate speech, advocate violence against the state and stage protests that are themselves violent? Mainstream political parties have faced calls for bans for doing much less. Our experience with militancy should have taught us that accommodating extremist groups never works.

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