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Can PTI afford a deal with Khadim Rizvi after SC judgment?


News Analysis |

Some reports in local media are suggesting that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has finally reached an agreement with the leadership of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). Maulana Khadim Hussain Rizvi and Pir Afzal Qadri will soon be released, Pakistan Today reported.

According to the reports, the TLP leadership will no longer protest against the decision of the Supreme Court whereby Ms. Asia Bibi, a Christian woman falsely accused of blasphemy, has been acquitted by the apex court. In return, the religio-political party will have a right to peaceful protests. Moreover, the cases against them will stand until court orders otherwise.

The TLP Chairman Khadim Hussain Rizvi not only condemned it but also organized a sit-in in Faizabad to demand the resignation of the law minister Zahid Hamid.

It is pertinent to mention that the government had taken the TLP chief and others into “protective custody” on November 23 from Lahore. However, later, they were handed over to police for investigation and then were sent on judicial remand.  Mr. Rizvi, Mr. Qadri as well as Allama Farooqui Hassan and Allama Aijaz Ashrafi are facing charges of fueling the protests, inciting followers to damage property and making hate speeches targeting state institutions.

Analysts believe that any deal with the TLP leadership soon after the judgment of the apex court may hurt the political legitimacy of the incumbent government. The SC judgment says that the “leaders of [the] dharna intimidated, hurled threats, abused, provoked and promoted hatred. The media provided unabated coverage to TLP. Anyone having a grouse against the government joined in… Inflammatory speeches were delivered by irresponsible politicians. Some unscrupulous talk-show hosts incited and provoked citizens.”

Read more: “Strict Action”: Polls show a majority of people against TLP Actions

It is worth noting here that in 2017 the government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was accused of having drafted some objectionable changes to Khatam-e-Nabuwat in the Election Act 2017. The TLP Chairman Khadim Hussain Rizvi not only condemned it but also organized a sit-in in Faizabad to demand the resignation of the law minister Zahid Hamid. The government initially ignored the protest but later on, it had to deal with it since the protestors paralyzed daily activities in the federal capital.

As the government launched an operation against the TLP members nationwide protests just erupted. Roads in all major cities of Pakistan were immediately blocked, residences of politicians were attacked, and anti-government slogans were raised by the protestors.  Finally, the Pakistan Army played the role of mediator and as a result, an agreement was signed between the government and TLP.

During the Lahore protests, after the acquittal of Ms. Asia Bibi, the TLP leaders issued fatwas against the judges and the army chief. Mr. Qadari even went on encouraging the army to revolt against their generals.

The court further records that “parliament had resolved the misgivings with regard to the language of the declaration (on 19th October 2017), however, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a recently formed political party, continued to protest.” For many analysts, such observation raises an eyebrow regarding the intentions of the TLP protest. It is important to recall here that the ISI has already submitted a report before the same bench and termed the protest as ‘politically motivated’.

Moreover, the apex court also noted reasons behind the rise of the TLP and said “Intelligence agencies reported that politicians visited TLP’s leadership camped on the Faizabad Interchange. TLP received prime-time free media coverage and publicity, transforming it overnight into a household name.

Read more: Pakistan fights back: TLP’s Khadim Rizvi detained in crackdown

Two of its candidates got elected as members of the Sindh Assembly and TLP got a sizeable number of votes in the 25th July general elections.” Many talk shows discussed the demands of the TLP and took its leaders on-air. As a matter of fact, many politicians also came up to support the party and expressed support for the dharna. It irked the court which has given a strong worded observation about them.

The court has issued directions to the relevant authorities to initiate criminal proceedings against anyone issuing fatwas or damaging the public property. Justice Qazi Faez Isa also wrote that peaceful protest is a right of every individual but a right to protest does not mean a right to disruption.

Many people on social media demanded swift action against religious fanatics and Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to give exemplary punishment to everyone involved in anti-state activities.

Many analysts termed the judgment as ‘mere political commentary’ and ‘over-legalistic approach’ but a major chunk of youth and analyst on social media welcomed the judgment.

Observers opine that any deal between the PTI and TLP at this moment will give a negative message to SC and other institutions. Since the cases registered against the TLP leadership were well-thought and based upon documentary evidence. During the Lahore protests, after the acquittal of Ms. Asia Bibi, the TLP leaders issued fatwas against the judges and the army chief. Mr. Qadari even went on encouraging the army to revolt against their generals.

Read more: Crackdown on TLP continues: Is the end near?

Many people on social media demanded swift action against religious fanatics and Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to give exemplary punishment to everyone involved in anti-state activities. Analysts maintain that the PTI does not afford any deal with the TLP at the moment since opposition will get another reason to grill the government.

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