Home News Analysis Was PML-N secretly supporting TLP?

Was PML-N secretly supporting TLP?

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News Analysis |

Shahbaz Sharif, president of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and leader of opposition in the National Assembly, said in a hard tone that the opposition was in a position to take advantage of the situation during recent protests but they decided to rather act with dignity.

Mr. Shahbaz who is in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was presiding a meeting of the PML-N parliamentary committee at the parliament house. The PML-N president was also quoted as saying that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government had gained nothing from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China this week.

Even during the recent protests, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, daughter of the ousted PMLN PM Nawaz Sharif, was seen liking Khadim Rizvi’s social media post; on being criticized, she however undid that.

Mr. Shahbaz was alluding to the recent wave of protests in the urban centers of Pakistan after the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, by the Supreme Court of Pakistan… According to the details, on 31st October the SC reversed the orders of the lower courts and acquitted her.

After the Supreme Court of Pakistan announced its decision, supporters of the TLP took to the street in Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi and sealed off the cities. The leaders of the TLP and other religious parties reportedly demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister, Judges who were part of a three-member bench, and suspension of the verdict of the top court.

Read more: TLP to end blasphemy protests after deal with govt

Opposition parties apparently supported the PTI government and off and on assured it of their full cooperation. But analysts in Pakistan viewed the narratives of opposition with skepticism. Dr. Mooed Pirzada, a prominent TV anchor, said that “Opposition (PPP/PMLN) appears to be thinking how to benefit from the situation created by clerics on streets after Supreme Court Acquittal of Asia Bibi, but is unable to openly support the clerics, hence the double talk. Watch their words, statements & actions carefully.”

He also highlighted the unmentioned ‘hypocrisy’ of the PML-N and PPP. “Shafqat Mehmood at his best, in parliament, now. Didn’t expect him to come up with this powerful but restrained expression of inner rage on sheer hypocrisy of PPP/PMLN on Asiya Bibi case; don’t encourage the fundos!” he tweeted.

Religious parties stood against the party and demanded the resignation of the then-law minister. Some religious clerics also issued a fatwa against the party that ‘it was haram to vote the PML-N’.

As a matter of fact, religious parties are used by the mainstream political parties to seek maximum political support in conservative segments of the society. The former ruling party is notorious for having an alliance with a banned organization. In February 2013 it was reported that “the federal government wants the Punjab government to launch a massive crackdown on the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) and defunct Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), but the Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is unlikely to oblige.”

The main reason was a seat-to-seat adjustment deal between the PML-N and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) for the upcoming elections. In the by-election of 2010, the campaign of Azam Chaila of PML-N was run by former Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and Moulana Ludhianvi. The PML-N candidate managed to win the election.

Read more: Will government use force against the TLP protesters?

PML-N has seen a major setback after the efforts were made to amend the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat clause. Religious parties stood against the party and demanded the resignation of the then-law minister. Some religious clerics also issued a fatwa against the party that ‘it was haram to vote the PML-N’.

Later on, the party made all efforts to restore its image and gain the confidence of religious parties, some of them are banned, in Pakistan. Even during the recent protests, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, daughter of the ousted PMLN PM Nawaz Sharif, was seen liking Khadim Rizvi’s social media post; on being criticized, she however undid that.

PMLN, a center right party, has always backed religious fanatic segments as major vote bank of PMLN is Punjab and majority of rural Punjab is conservative. So the idea that the opposition was secretly behind the recent protests holds some interesting grounds and is not completely a fallacy.


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