It was a sense of “déjà vu” as Pakistanis watched Tehreek e Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) starting to march from Lahore to Islamabad. The resultant violence and chaos killed quite a few and resulted in the destruction of moveable and immovable properties. This is not the first time such a thing has happened. In fact, it’s becoming a recurring event now with almost all successive governments bearing the brunt of it. Without debating the right or wrongs of the movement we can search for any past phenomenon that had the same impact.
The street power and the capability of violence that Tehreek e Labbaik displays were somewhat similar to what Awami League showed in the then East Pakistan but that was a different situation altogether. The Awami League workers were deliberately armed to counter the state apparatus. Jamat e Islami, historically the most organized & tiered political entity, always had serious street power. That street power also translated into violence at times but compared to TLP they pale into insignificance.
What is Jamat e Islami?
Jamat e Islami had their sister student organization Islami Jamat e tulaba which was formed in December 1947 & was active in all aspects of student politics. Islami Jamat e tulaba competed with the Peoples student federation, Muhajir student federation, national student federation violently for control of the campus. The violence sometimes even spilled over to the streets with some fatal results as well but again not to the extent of what TLP can do now.
IJT ( Islami Jamat e tuba), despite being a violent student organization, took part in electoral politics in a very organized way and had given us quite a few national leaders. That includes Munawwar Hussain, Sirajul Haq, Liaqat Baloch and many more. It can be claimed that IJT was the first exponent of fighting or maybe we can say militant wing of a political party. PSF NSF and MSF started to counter the firepower of the Jamat student union, somewhat balancing out each other and becoming some deterrent for each other. However, all these student unions remained within the limit of totally militant activities as the political parties connected with them were participants in electoral politics thus to remain within that parameter they had to accept certain restrictions.
All religious parties, being faith-based, always carried street power. Jamat I Ulema Islam, especially the Fazalur Rahman section has already developed over the years a trained cadre of militants. They actually had gone to the extent of physical training, passing out, inspection and guard of honor, etc. It is a well-known secret that most of the madrassahs on one pretext or the other physically train their students, which adds to their street power.
Read more: Pakistan to release TTP & TLP prisoners
Is TLP taking the place of Jamaat e Islami?
This can be analyzed to reach a conclusion. Jamat e Islami despite being rigid in their religious stance, has always been a moderate party ( in comparison with the Taliban) and probably the most democratic party in Pakistan. They always had regular elections and a rotation of their head of the party. However, this claim is somewhat belied by the fact that Jamaat e Islami has always been considered and displayed the tendency of being a B team of any martial law regime. Maybe they realized the futility of depending on electoral politics to get them power so depended on getting power from the back door. Pakistan’s electoral evolution (except the MMA coming to power in KPK strangely) shows steady regression in the vote bank of the religious parties.
The strange equation of preach and practice differential in the case of religious parties became too unpalatable for the general masses. Jamat e Islami with their power base eroding slowly, the middle-class merchants joining rightist PMLN and the leftist penniless workers class going for PPP was being pushed back and back without any recourse to balance out things. Jamat E Islami did not have any central selling point. The Nadir reached the 2013 elections when JI just got 3 national seats. In 2018 MMA also had JI candidates and they hardly met with much success.
It must be a coincidence that the indications of the demise of religious political parties in Pakistan can be seen in 2013 and in 2015 Tehreek I Labbaik Pakistan was formed. It is claimed that TLP stands to oppose any change in the blasphemy laws and to defend it. Of course, there was no second opinion on that. All Pakistan and each and every Muslim stood for the defense of our last prophet Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) and to ensure that blasphemy laws are implemented. However, TLP got a lot of votes in the 2018 election (2.2 Million). TLP put further dents in JI votes as it is quite probable that its voter would have voted for a religious party if TLP was not there.
Just like JI, TLP has enough votes on each constituency to play the role of spoiler if not actually win a large number of seats. It’s interesting that while moderate JI was losing out its vote bank due to slow-moving away of hardcore religious voters and was unable to provide a “raisen de etaire” to the party but TLP with their blasphemy defense had provided a rallying point that no Muslim can deny or deviate from. TLP has been clashing with governments time and again for the last few years. Just like JI, its street power allows it to twist the arm of the government, but two stark differences emerge clearly. One is that TLP has much more firepower compared to JI and is not averse to challenging the writ of the government.
Two while JI usually depended on day-to-day matters of economic or politics or governance to hold up as an example to attack the government the TLP can and does bring out the faith-based matter on which no Muslim differs and use it to agitate. Thus, the violence can really get out of hand and can damage any sitting government. The TLP movement and its political moves sometimes defy all logic of political power play and raise the sneaking suspicion that the motivation is something else. While the prima facie look suggests TLP is the new JI but TLPs disdain of electoral politics & readiness to challenge the state almost as violently as TTP makes the entity extremely dangerous for Pakistan.
The author has worked for Unilever for 25 years. He is a professional translator/interpreter of five languages and is also a certified computer trainer. He is currently living in Virginia, USA. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.