The cravenness with which the Pakistani state has given in to the protests by the TLP is shocking even by Pakistani standards. Not only were these Frankenstein’s monsters allowed to hold the country to ransom for three days but they openly preached mutiny against the army and every institution of state. And after all this, the response of the state has been to reward them with a committee that will host a Khatm e Nabuwwat Conference.
In a recent piece in Dawn, veteran journalist Irfan Hussain stated that “The fanaticism infecting the country is not limited to just a handful of zealots.” Hussain argues, “Apart from the losses to the economy and to innocent people caught up in the madness, state institutions have suffered a massive hit to their reputations. The army is no longer unassailable. The judiciary’s power to punish contempt is now seen as highly selective. And Imran Khan has been exposed as a paper tiger, who growls a mean growl but, when push comes to shove, caves in to extremists.”
Thus, “While the military still calls the shots, it seems to have run into a brick wall in the form of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), the ultra-extremist outfit that recently brought the country to a standstill for three days without let or hindrance from the state. For anybody to openly preach mutiny against the army chief without prompt action from Pakistan’s most powerful and respected institution is unprecedented. It is also a sign of weakness, and signals a shift in the country’s power dynamics.”
Further, the judiciary: “After all, it was the Supreme Court’s honourable decision to free the unfortunate Aasia Bibi from an absurd blasphemy accusation which has ruined her life that brought thousands of TLP supporters out on the streets. But when the leaders of the TLP announced that the three judges who had declared her innocent should be murdered, there wasn’t much noise from the Supreme Court. And mind you, this is the same institution that has repeatedly come down very hard on politicians for contempt of court.”
And finally, “As for politicians, we have the odd — but predictable — spectacle of Prime Minister Imran Khan promising to confront the rioters with the might of the state, only to beat a swift retreat and sign an ‘agreement’ that was more of an article of surrender by a subservient authority. This should surprise nobody who has followed the trajectory of Khan’s rise to power. He has never made a secret of his sympathy for religious extremists: not for nothing is his nickname Taliban Khan.”
Former editor of Dawn, Abbas Nasir asked if Pakistan has what it takes to stop these monsters: “THAT extremism is an existential crisis for Pakistan has been all too clear these past few days as has been the fact that the blowback of years of using and pandering to the obscurantists’ vision of our faith is upon us.”
Nasir lays down what many of us know: “Years of indoctrination have meant that intolerance and bigotry have taken root in society. So much so that those clamouring for action, myself included, are not even sure if the apparatus that is deployed for such exercises has the requisite institutional discipline and unity and belief in what is actually right to deliver. Yes, you will say if this is not possible we might as well call it a day and surrender to the hordes. Easier said than done. Are you and I prepared to hand over the future of our children and our children’s children to such insanity? The answer has to be no. If that is the case, we must understand that ground lost over the past decades can only be reclaimed one inch at a time. It will be a long-drawn fight but one that has to be fought with all that we have.”