Tehrik-e-Labbaik Protests: Pakistan’s Establishment Held to Ransom by it Islamist Proteges


Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa may claim that Pakistan has moved away from Geopolitics to Geoeconomics, but it will be impossible to convince the world if the reality does not change. And the reality is that Pakistan, a country of 210 million with nuclear weapons and a large military, is once again being held ransom by supporters of the banned radical Islamist outfit, Tehreek e Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

For the last week supporters of the TLP have created havoc for residents of the federal capital region, Rawalpindi and Islamabad. As a story in Tribune notes “Commuters and residents of Rawalpindi had another day of suffering on Friday as public transport stayed off the roads and major arteries were put under virtual closure by the administration to stop the supporters of the banned Tahreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) from entering Faizabad. Owing to the closure of roads and the public transport and the suspension of the metro bus service, people had to face a lot of hardships to reach workplaces, educational institutions and hospitals.”

This is not the first time that TLP’s supporters are creating havoc. This is a repeat occurrence every few months and the establishment allows them to do what they are doing each time. It is well known that no civilian political party will be allowed to march on the streets in the same manner that Islamist groups are allowed to create havoc, lead to loss of lives, and then instead of arresting them, normally they are paid money and asked to return to their homes.

To deal with the situation, Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting of the National Security Committee earlier this week “to hone a policy on the TLP challenge.” As Fahd Hussain noted in Dawn, “the highest security forum of the nation” was not deliberating on foreign policy but “was embroiled in dealing with a threat that should, in fact, have not been a threat had it not been made into one for reasons that had little to do with national security.”

As Hussain points out, just a few years ago, Khan and others had supported TLP (in its earlier incarnation as TLYP) against the PML-N government and had “milked the situation back then for partisan brinkmanship knowing full well the damage it would do to — yes, irony galore — the writ of the state. Unless this writ has mutated into something alien in the last few years, it was the same one then that they were willing to barter for, that today they are dying to uphold.”

The government may threaten to act but the last few times when TLP has created havoc, the government has normally given in. As Hussain notes, every time “The TLP took its pound of flesh, and returned triumphantly. Oh, of course they also got cash for their return fare from members of the state whose writ they had successfully violated.”

In a message to Pakistan’s establishment and its leaders, Hussain warns: “You manufacture an entity, boost its stature, weaponise its rhetoric, politicise its ideology, turbo-charge its appeal, enhance its electoral muscle and then use it like a cleaver against your political opponent. Mission accomplished. Except not really. The chickens decide to come home to roost. The chicken aren’t really so chicken when they brandish weapons, and the roost isn’t really the roost when it’s the federal capital.”


Author: Adam Ahmad