Following the unanimous decision of the federal cabinet to tackle the proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) as a “militant” organisation, the government seems determined to put an end to the frequent blackmailing by the outfit and prevent it from turning it into a terrorist organisation.
The cabinet members who deliberated on the repeated calls for long marches on to Islamabad, grinding to a halt the entire country by setting up road blockades every few months, expressed the belief that the writ of the State must not be challenged.
The cabinet members pointed that the protest was being carried out on the pretext of Namoos-e-Risalat (Peace Be Upon Him); whereas Prime Minister Imran Khan took up the issue of respect for the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) at the world’s highest forums and recently announced the setting up of the Rehmatullil Aalamin Authority that would portray a true image of Islam besides carrying out research on Seeratun Nabi (PBUH).
The Prime Minister also announced an unprecedented ten-day Ashra-e-Rehmatullil-Aalamin (PBUH) celebrations, at the State-level, as a mark of respect for the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Apart from his address at the international fora, the Prime Minister in a message on Twitter in April urged the Western governments to outlaw blasphemy of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) under the guise of freedom of speech on the lines of Holocaust.
Voicing his concern over rising Islamophobia in the West, Imran Khan, in a series of tweets, said: “I call on Western governments who have outlawed any negative comment on the holocaust to use the same standards to penalize those deliberately spreading their message of hate against Muslims by abusing our Prophet (PBUH).”
“Those in the West, including extreme right politicians, who deliberately indulge in such abuse & hate under the guise of freedom of speech clearly lack moral sense & courage to apologize to the 1.3 bn Muslims for causing this hurt,” Khan went on to say.
“We demand an apology from these extremists,” the Prime Minister had said.
My message to extremists abroad who indulge in Islamophobia & racist slurs to hurt & cause pain to 1.3 bn Muslims across the globe: We Muslims have the greatest love & respect for our Prophet PBUH who lives in our hearts. We cannot tolerate any such disrespect & abuse.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 17, 2021
A high-level meeting on Tuesday, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by the Chief of Army Staff, Director General Inter-Services Intelligence, Director General of Military Operations, Chief Secretaries and Inspector Generals of Police of provinces also expressed concern over the radicalisation and militant tendencies of the TLP.
There has also been a strong reaction from the public who have borne the brunt of the lawlessness created by the TLP by blocking roads, disrupting businesses and damaging private and public properties, and that too on the pretext of Islam.
Briefing the media about the decisions taken at the cabinet Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said TLP would not be allowed to challenge the “writ of the state” and will be treated as a “militant” group.
“A clear policy decision was taken in a meeting, which was held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by the Pakistan Army, Intelligence Agencies and all the concerned authorities, that the proscribed Tehreek-e-Labaik will be treated as a militant group,” Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said while addressing a post-cabinet briefing.
Fawad said Pakistan had defeated terrorist organizations like Al-Qaida in the past.
“Therefore, make no mistake in considering Pakistan a weak state. Whosoever has committed the mistake of perceiving Pakistan as a weak state, they regretted,” he said.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed earlier at a press conference again urged the group to end their protest said that Rangers were being called in for 60 days in Punjab to maintain law and order.
His remarks came after reports of violent clashes between the protesters and the police near Sadhoke in Gujranwala district in which at least four policemen were martyred and over 250 injured. The number of police personnel killed by the violent mob has risen to five in the past week.
Earlier, two police constables were killed when they were attacked in Lahore. In the last protest of the TLP, six policemen were killed and over 700 injured, while public and private properties worth millions of rupees were destroyed.
National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf in a categorical statement said “there will be no armed militias of any sort in our country.”
In a tweet, he warned all individuals and groups who think they can challenge the writ of the Pakistani state, “do not test the proposition.”
For all individuals and groups who think they can challenge the writ of the Pakistani state, do not test the proposition. As the basic principle of national security, the state will never shy away from protecting each and every citizen from any form of violence. TLP has crossed
— Moeed W. Yusuf (@YusufMoeed) October 28, 2021
He said the “TLP has crossed the red line and exhausted the state’s patience. They have martyred policemen, destroyed public property, and continue to cause massive public disruption. Law will take its course for each one of them and terrorists will be treated like terrorists with no leniency.”
A video clip shared on the internet showed several police vehicles smashed by the TLP protesters. The marchers martyred three police personnel and injured 741 others in clashes in Lahore as they moved towards Islamabad.
— FJ (@Natsecjeff) October 27, 2021
The TLP in its sixth protest has been demanding the release of its leader Saad Rizvi, the expulsion of the French ambassador from Pakistan over the publication of blasphemous caricatures in the country. It also demanded cutting off all ties with the country. However, the government has made it clear that Pakistan cannot remain in isolation.
Of the almost two billion Muslim population in 57 countries, none had severed ties nor any such violent protests, where the marchers killed or destroyed the property of fellow Muslims have been witnessed.
Images on social media showed scores of badly beaten and injured police constables lying on the ground. Police said the TLP activists were armed with automatic weapons, including AK-47 rifles and opened fire on security forces who were trying to control the protest march towards Islamabad.
Inspector General of Punjab Police (IGP) Rao Sardar Ali in a press conference in Lahore said it was a matter of serious concern that violent protesters of the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan were armed with weapons and fire on police.
“The TLP is a proscribed organisation and its armed men fired straight shots at police besides carrying out violent attacks.”
He said four police personnel were martyred and 263 injured.
According to security sources, the ongoing TLP protest was pursuing a political agenda but was exploiting religious sentiments of the people to provoke and use them to create chaos. The issue of funding for the proscribed organisation is also being probed and linkages with foreign elements were being looked into.
They also pointed that it was also for the first time that an Eid Milad un Nabi (PBUH) procession was turned into a protest, a sit-in and finally into a violent long march.
The security experts believed that under the given economic and security challenges the country was facing, any such lawlessness could have serious consequences and under no circumstances the State should allow such uncalled for protests.
They also pointed that all the policemen brutally attacked, killed and seriously injured by the TLP mobs were all Muslims and cited from Surah Maida; “whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one3 – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.”