The Pakistani state has a long history of ceding space to non-state actors but repressing genuine civilian political parties. Activists belonging to the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan of fiery preacher Khadim Hussain Rizvi activists who were protesting in Faizabad against the blasphemous caricatures by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo had refused to end their sit-in until the government met their demands. These included “boycotting French products, expelling the French ambassador, not appointing an ambassador to France and releasing all arrested TLP activists.” Instead of taking action against groups violating law and order the government has given in.
The TLP “tasted blood when it first clashed with the authorities in 2017, and like other such entities, it will continue to use its bully pulpit to pressure governments into wholly untenable compromises that an economically weak country cannot afford. Blocking coverage of the protests on television or suspending mobile phone services, as the PTI government has done this time, are redundant and short-term tactics. Matters have come to a point where it is imperative to stop mollycoddling groups of TLP’s ilk, let alone using them for dubious political objectives. They can only lead Pakistan to ruin.”
As an editorial in Dawn noted: “Many a reactionary outfit has been allowed to thrive on Pakistani soil. Each one of them has ill served the global image of this country. Indeed, their incendiary rhetoric and violent actions have reinforced the enemy’s narrative and weakened our principled positions on regional human rights issues. And in its efforts to ‘manage’ the violence these ultra right-wing outfits wreak, the government cedes more and more space to them — a vicious cycle that appears to have no end in sight.”