A Possible Alliance
The chief of the Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party, Allama Saad Rizvi, was released on 18th November 2021 from Kot Lakhpat Jail after spending more than 7 months in preventive detention – his release follows agreement between the government and TLP.
TLP rose on the national media for the first time in November 2017 when it staged a 21-day sit-in at Faizabad. After a successful sit-in, the party staged many other sit-ins, but they always claimed that they had only one agenda and that was to impose an Islamic system in the country and to protect the sanctity of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).
Although TLP has a huge vote bank inside the country, many people from different classes still have some confusion about the party due to the lack of media coverage of their seminars and protests. Unfortunately, this is because most of the articles available on the internet on different well-known forums are ill-researched or are depicting only one side of the picture.
Recently, the statement of Senator Ijaz Chaudhry sparked a new debate in the country about a possible alliance between PTI and TLP. The author personally contacted a senior Member of Shura (Advisory Committee) of TLP regarding the question of alliance in the coming election and many other questions which many Pakistanis would want to know.
A Glance at TLP’s History and Rise
TLP was formed after the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, whom many Sunnis regard as their hero and a martyr while many others disagree with the sentiment. It appeared on the national canvas for the first time in November 2017 when they staged a sit-in at Faizabad which resulted in an agreement that led to the resignation of a Law Minister of the country, Zahid Hamid.
The second time the TLP decided to protest was in the aftermath of the announcement of a blasphemous competition by a Dutch lawmaker. The government of Pakistan protested against the Dutch government and the latter cancelled the contest on which the TLP workers and leaders returned home from Rawalpindi in August 2018.
TLP obtained more than 2.2 million votes in the 2018 elections despite being a new political party in electoral politics and working only for a few months before the elections due to impassioned speeches of its leader, Allama Khadim Rizvi. Their strict stance on the issue of Namoos-e-Risalat (sanctity of Prophethood) which resonated with many Muslims in Pakistan, gave them a lot of momentum.
Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi also claimed in his interview with Sohail Warraich that people and ulema from other sects have also supported the elections due to the objectives of his party. The party staged a sit-in for the third time on Mall Road Lahore against the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Asia Bibi on 1st November 2018.
The protest ended with an agreement with the Punjab government and the Federal government. A massive crackdown was carried out by the government a few days after the agreement with TLP and its leaders and the majority of the active workers were incarcerated. Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi was released after spending almost 6 months in jail on May 2019.
The TLP party once again staged a protest against the French government on the publication of blasphemous caricatures. TLP then demanded the government to cut ties with the French government and ban all French products inside the country on the governmental level as France had committed blasphemy on a governmental level.
TLP reached Faizabad after facing strong resistance from the police, and Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi reached Faizabad a day after the workers of his party, which was a failure of police and other agencies as they could not stop him or his workers.
This sit-in concluded again with an agreement between the government and TLP. This protest proved to be the last sit-in by Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi and he delivered his last sermon in Faizabad which the TLP workers often refer to as his “Akhri Khutba-e-Faizabad” (Last Sermon at Faizabad). He breathed his last on 19th November 2020 due to cardiac arrest.
Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi’s Last Sermon and Funeral
Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who is known as Ameer ul Mujahideen and the “Reviver of the century” by the TLP workers, warned the government against their crackdown and shelling on the TLP workers. He stated that the TLP workers never imagined attacking the French embassy, calling the reports of the intelligence agencies to be based on lies. He maintained that it was due to these lies that the Pakistani passport and products have lost their value internationally.
He also held that killing anyone, and destroying or burning anything could not even be imagined in their hearts. He maintained that if the government protects the sanctity of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), it would not have any bad impact on the country. He also lamented the government’s Kashmir policy saying that Kashmir’s independence could not be secured by protesting for 30 minutes.
He also said that if any hard time came, the workers of TLP will be in the front row to defend the country. He also advised the workers to follow the Shoora members in his last sermon. Many people hold that his funeral was one of the largest ever in the world but if it was not, it was indeed one of the largest in Asia. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered at the Greater Iqbal Park Lahore – he was buried in Jamia Masjid Rehmat Alilalameen, Multan Road, Lahore.
The Journey of Allama Saad Rizvi
After the death of his father, the advisory committee of TLP decided to make Allama Saad Rizvi the new chief of TLP. Many people took that move as a part of dynastic politics and thought that after the death of their leader, the party would lose its momentum, but his leadership skills proved these assumptions wrong. The first challenge for the new chief of TLP was the fulfillment of the agreement that had been signed between the TLP and the government.
The deadline of that agreement was in February 2021 but the government succeeded in seeking the extension of the deadline till 20th April which was announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan. On 12th April, the government arrested Allama Saad Rizvi on preventive detention and the government proscribed the TLP.
This sparked outrage all over the country and people blamed the government for breaching the agreement. This arrest resulted in country-wide protests which were dealt with strongly by the government. The operation was conducted all around the country which resulted in the deaths of many TLP workers as per their sources.
The most violent operation was conducted at Yateem Khana Chowk, the center of TLP, which the party remembers as the Yateem Khana incident but due to the media blackout, it was never reported. It also resulted in an agreement between the two. The government presented a bill in the parliament as per the will of TLP but after a few days of the agreement, some of the most active TLP leaders were arrested by the government which again went unreported.
All this situation led to the long march of TLP towards Islamabad. The TLP protested peacefully for almost 10 to 15 days alongside the Multan Road asking the government to fulfill its pledges and to release their leader as per the orders of courts, but neither the media reported nor the government paid any heed until it was too late.
The TLP organized a long march towards Faizabad after giving a deadline of two days on Eid Milad un Nabi (PBUH). Since TLP’s latest long march was turning out to be similar to their earlier protests, it posed a threat to the government. Given the history, the government tried its best to stop the party from reaching Islamabad. The ensuing conflicts resulted in the deaths of many individuals on both sides. The government resisted at its best to refrain them from reaching Islamabad. The violent conflicts resulted in the deaths of many from both sides.
The TLP party holds that the government is responsible for the deaths of the people from both sides since if it had not breached the agreement in the first place nothing would have happened. Indeed, the state must realize that if an agreement is the only solution every time, why conduct operations that provide a chance to miscreants to take advantage of the situation and kill innocent Pakistanis.
Some pseudo-liberals wanted a serious and sanguinary conflict between the state and the TLP but the agreement between the two has shed water over their dreams and ambitions. Fawad Chaudhry, Minister of Information and Broadcasting, had stated that the TLP would be treated as a militant group and not a political one. He also added an Indian link to support the ban on TLP.
The practice of accusing the political opponents of working on the agenda of foes is old. The former Prime Ministers of Pakistan Hussain Suhrawardi and Fatima Jinnah were the first two Pakistanis to be labeled as traitors. PTI itself has been accused many times of being funded by external groups and/or countries. This practice of accusing the opponents of being traitors needs to stop.
The blackout of the TLP party on the national media channels by PEMRA is also one of the reasons behind the increased violence and misunderstanding in the recent long march. The official YouTube channel of TLP is still banned in Pakistan despite the removal of proscription on the party which itself is a violation of Article 19 and 19A of the constitution Pakistan which grants freedom of expression and right to information respectively.
Inspector General of Punjab Police stated that the TLP workers were armed with automatic weapons. If this was the case, the government should have allowed the media to cover their long march so that they could have been exposed. The ban on the TV channels resulted in turning the people towards social media which provided non-state actors to take advantage of the situation.
The proscription of TLP also gave a message to the people that governments could exploit the constitution at their own will. Many in Pakistan hold that the proscription must be a judicial process rather than an executive one. The government must also realize that proscribing such organizations which have strong emotional and religious support could result in opening the way for extremism as it leaves their followers with no other option to express their opinion.
Thus, such parties must be given all constitutional rights. On the whole, the government must revive its policies and treat all the parties alike. For dealing with the protests and sit-ins, a national consensus must be signed between all the political parties to refrain from disrupting the life of common citizens and some parks or grounds must be provided for these protests where the government could be made incumbent by the constitution to negotiate with the protesters.
Media anchors should also stick to the professional ethos and present the reality instead of imposing governmental agenda. A journalist on national tv held that TLP could also be treated like the Khalistan movement in India, but such people ignore the fact that Sikhs are only one percent of the Indian population, while the Barelvi sect makes up a huge chunk of the Pakistani population and the country has already paid a heavy price of Lal Masjid Operation.
So, such pseudo-liberal war-mongers must be ignored by the policymakers as they are the people who coerced the state to conduct the Lal Masjid operation, and the very next day, they were criticizing the state. Attributing the protests of the TLP workers to their poverty as done by Moeed Pirzada and Imran Riaz Khan is misleading.
Will TLP Ally with PTI, PML-N, or Other Parties ?
The recent statement by PTI senator Ejaz Chaudhry about a possible alliance between the TLP and PTI as well as his meeting with the TLP chief sparked a new debate in the country. I consulted Engineer Hafiz Ullah Alvi, an Aeronautical Engineer by profession and a member of TLP’s Shura, about the possibility of an alliance with any political party in the coming elections. He stated that TLP is ready to ally with any party only when that party aligns itself with TLP’s ideology and is ready to follow its agenda.
His statement and the events mentioned above show that the TLP would not readily ally with any of the major political parties since the top three parties in the country (PTI, PML-N, and PPP) have had some serious conflicts with TLP in the past. Since one of the main reasons for TLP’s huge following is its policy of non-alignment, if the TLP allies with any of the top three political parties, it may lose its following, which may shake its foundation as a political party.
It is highly unlikely that TLP will form ties with PML-N because they believe that PML-N was largely involved in the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri.
It is even more unlikely that TLP will associate itself with PPP, since Salman Taseer had been a member of the PPP since the 1980s.
While an alliance with PTI is not impossible, it may prove to be tricky. This is mainly because the party leaders i.e. Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, and his son Allama Saad Rizvi were arrested during the PTI government’s tenure. Even though Allama Saad Rizvi was recently released, the party workers are not the biggest fans of PTI at this point. However, as previously mentioned, it is interesting to note that Senator Ejaz Chaudhry not only met Allama Saad Rizvi after his release, he also presented a bouquet, and openly discussed PTI’s desire to possibly form a coalition in the future elections on national TV.
TLP About Women and Minority Rights
When asked about women rights and the jobs of the women as per the ideology of TLP, he stated that the TLP would create new jobs for women as women would deal with the women-only so we would need more women in police, judiciary, health, and all other departments and TLP will ensure their safety at workplace and everywhere else and there would be no sexual harassment. He also stated that minorities would be free to live in Pakistan and will enjoy all rights. He added that they would have to pay Jizya (Tax) to live in Pakistan which is imposed by Islam.
Western Countries, Capitalism, and TLP
On the question of TLP’s foreign policy towards Western countries, he stated that the relations under the TLP rule with them would be much better than that of the incumbent and all the previous governments. He also stated that TLP would not follow capitalism and would impose a real Islamic system. He maintained that the TLP has completed its homework and would provide jobs to the degree holders in their fields by utilizing the opportunities available within the country like the minerals in Baluchistan, and Pink Gold (Himalayan Salt), and many others.
As per his views, the TLP is not unprepared to tackle the intricacies of governance like the incumbent government. He also stated that drawing a parallel between TLP and the Taliban is fallacious as Pakistan is a much stable country and the TLP is well-prepared to deal with all issues. Indeed, there is no resemblance between the two as TLP is not even a militant group involved in any sort of mass killings and bombing and has never used anti-Pakistan rhetoric like PTM or TTP.
In his address to the URS of Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, he criticized the appointment of Raza Baqir and Abdul Hafiz Sheikh in Pakistan. He also lamented the induction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) stating that country’s economic plight and literacy rate are not feasible for EVMs.
Meanwhile, Allama Saad Hussain Rizvi, while addressing the URS, paid tribute to the mothers of their martyred workers and the mother of Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, and said to the workers that now their struggle is to ensure that boxes would not remain empty. Indeed, his imprisonment has elevated his political stature much more than before.
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