Thursday June 13, 2024

All’s well that ends well: Ban on TLP imposed, lifted under compulsions

By Tariq Butt
November 08, 2021
All’s well that ends well: Ban on TLP imposed, lifted under compulsions

ISLAMABAD: The imposition of ban on the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) by the federal government and its rescission by it after six months came about because of the severe street pressure exerted by the religious outfit.

In April this year, the TLP had been proscribed under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) because of the embarrassment and pressure of bloody mayhem caused by the religious party mainly in Lahore resulting in the death of a couple of policemen.

The ban on the TLP has now been lifted due to the fear and pressure generated by the blockade of the main highway, GT Road, by the militant organization.

Both times the government has to act due to the compulsions triggered by the TLP protest. Although the situation has been calmed down, the TLP has a win-win situation as it has got all of its demands except the expulsion of the French ambassador from Pakistan accepted owing to the agreement with the government. The only assurance, if it can be so called, is that the TLP’s future protests would be peaceful within the bounds of law. It is better not to discuss the weak writ of the state in the instant case. All’s well that ends well.

When the TLP had been outlawed, its chief Saad Rizvi had been placed under arrest. Now when the accord has been signed, he is being set free and the multiple cases registered against him and hundreds of other TLP activists are being withdrawn or have already been taken back. Both times, the TLP proved that it is a group that needs to be dreaded by all and sundry.

While banning the TLP the federal government had apparently decided to be tough against it and had even announced that a reference, required under the Constitution, would be sent to the Supreme Court. That was not done for unexplained reasons.

In the meantime, the TLP continued to be a registered political party with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Being listed with the ECP, it remained qualified to contest the elections, and it did fight all the by-polls and the elections in Azad Kashmir. It mostly stood on number three in terms of number of votes. These gains further buoyed up the TLP.

After the recent TLP violence, some federal cabinet members blamed the ECP for not disallowing the outfit from sponsoring its candidates in the elections. However, it is clear that unless the ECP receives a positive decision from the apex court on the reference under Article 17, it can’t deregister a political party. The article says the law will provide that where the federal government declares that any political party has been formed or is operating in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, it will, within 15 days of such declaration, refer the matter to the Supreme Court whose decision on it will be final.

The decision not to file the reference and let the TLP take part in the elections gave the impression as if the federal government has a feeling to dispense with the proscription at some point of time and permit it to be in the electoral arena to damage its political rivals and benefit it in the polls. This expectation, however, has dashed to the ground. But some ruling party leaders like Senator Ejaz Chaudhry still hope for an electoral alliance with the TLP in the future.

All the opposition parties played a positive role during this chaotic interlude and refrained from inciting or siding with the TLP. This was in a sharp conflict with what the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had done when the TLP had undertaken similar protests during the tenure of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) government.

The main man, religious scholar Mufti Muneebur Rehman, who played an exceptional role in brokering the agreement between the government and the TLP, was once severely maligned and slurred by a federal minister, who had rested only after ousting him as the chairman of the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee. Muneebur Rehman was heading the body for decades.

Had the federal government approached him for disentangling it from the crisis, Muneebur Rehman, who was offended due to its previous attitude and treatment, might have flatly refused to offer his good offices. But he did not decline others, who invited him to break the deadlock. And he successfully accomplished the mission and produced an agreement. Whatever TLP-related developments have taken place since the accord was inked or will be happening in the days to come are perfectly in accordance with the unanimous settlement.

The initiation of the summaries by the Punjab government for forbidding the TLP and lifting the embargo on it have proved to be mere rituals, which were performed as directed and desired by the federal authorities. It quietly went along with what it was ordained to do.