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Why is government going to ban TLP?

The government has decided to ban the far-right party Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). “A single political party cannot lay claim to the matter of Namoos-i-Risalat as it is an issue close to the hearts of all 200 million people of this country,” said the Interior Minister.

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The government has decided to ban the far-right party Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid on Wednesday announced the decision to ban the party on the Punjab government’s recommendation under anti-terrorism law but added that the summary would be sent to the federal cabinet for its approval.

On the other hand, talking to the media in Sargodha, Prime Minister Imran Khan said it was the responsibility of the state to ensure the protection of the public against riots and also establish the writ of the state. Therefore, he added, the government had decided to ban Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan in the larger interest of the public and state.

In Punjab, police fought running street battles with TLP protesters on Wednesday during which a police constable and a worker were killed and many others injured.

So far, nearly half a dozen people have been killed across the country while the protesters also set fire to two police mobile vans, two armoured personnel carriers and around five motorcycles in different areas.

While condemning the violence, vandalism and ransacking of public and private properties and attacks on policemen, the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) criticised the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for what it said abdicating its responsibility.

However, the interior minister defended his government, saying it intended to honour the previous agreement made with the TLP. “I have never supported this party nor had ever met Khadim Hussain Rizvi (former TLP chief),” he claimed, adding the ban was being imposed due to TLP’s “character” and not due to any political compulsion.

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“A single political party cannot lay claim to the matter of Namoos-i-Risalat as it is an issue close to the hearts of all 200 million people of this country,” he said, adding that as far as the matter of Khatm-i-Nubuwat was concerned, he was ready to sacrifice his life for that.

Mr Rashid said: “If there ever were any arrests warrants issued against me, or any other politician, we abide by them. We don’t ask our supporters to go on a rampage.”

Why is TLP protesting?

The TLP was protesting blasphemous caricatures published in France and demanding that the French ambassador be sent home and import of goods from that country banned. The government reached an agreement with the TLP on Nov 16 to involve the parliament to decide the matter in three months.

As the Feb 16 deadline neared, the government expressed its inability to implement the agreement and sought more time. The TLP agreed to delay its protest by two-and-a-half months to April 20.

On Sunday, Mr Rizvi, in a video message, asked the TLP workers to be ready to lunch the long march if the government failed to meet the deadline. It prompted the government to arrest the TLP chief.

Government to sign an agreement with TLP?

Whether the government will sign an agreement with the TLP or not is yet to be determined. However, the past record of the government shows that it signs agreement with the far-right movement despite the use of abusive language and incitement of violence.  Commenting on the agreement in 2018, journalist Salman Masood wrote: “The terms of the agreement with TLP leadership is capitulation. Hardly a victory for progressive forces. TLP continues to gain more ground.”

Prominent journalist Muhammad Ziauddin pointed out if the Fatwa against the judges had also been dropped? “The agreement between the government and the mob leaders. But they have not withdrawn the Fatwa calling for killing the three Supreme Court Judges and the call for revolt within the Army against the Army Chief. Not even regrets about these calls.”

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

Political commentators believe that the government is unlikely to take any stern action against the protesters. “The government will never offend the religious parties in any way,” said an analyst.

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