April 21, 2021

By Rehan Piracha


The tabling of a resolution as part of a deal with TLP – a recently proscribed organization – is clearly reflective of the continued appeasement of militant organisations in the country, say senior analysts.

On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, opposition members from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam Fazl (JUI-F) caused an uproar in a hurriedly summoned National Assembly session: a resolution was presented by Amjad Ali Khan, MNA from the ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), to call a debate on the expulsion of the French ambassador. Both parties accused Asad Qaiser, the Speaker of the National Assembly, of bulldozing proceedings in order to rush the resolution.

In a fiery move, former Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, moved to the speaker’s rostrum and had a heated exchange of words with Qaiser. Reportedly, Abbasi threatened to hit the speaker with a shoe.

Perhaps the anger had been underlying as yet another ruckus had unfolded within the House when Noorul Haq Qadri, the Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, said that they had seen how the opposition parties had “bulldozed the sanctity of the Finality of the Holy Prophet in the Election Act, the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, (murderer of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer), and the killings of unarmed civilians in Model Town, under the tenure of the PML-N.

Responding to the minister’s not-so-subtle accusations, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said that Qadri’s narrative of hate was the same that had resulted in Ahsan Iqbal being shot at in 2017. He clarified that PTI’s Shafqat Mehmood was part of the parliamentary committee that had approved the changes in the affidavit of newly-elected members. He said the changes in the law were made unanimously by the House.

Ahsan Iqbal said the House reversed changes within 20 hours after objections were raised. However while referring to hateful narratives, and referencing the attack on his ownself, the PML-N legislator also ironically added that he was honoured to be the son of the late ‘Apa‘ Nisar Fatima, who was once a member of the Council of Islamic Ideology, and assembly – and who had tabled and helped to pass the law on blasphemy in the country.

Nisar Fatima, Iqbal’s mother, was elected MNA on a reserved seat in the 1985 general elections in the military tenure of Gen Zia-ul-Haq.

Speaking to Voicepk.net, senior analyst Zahid Hussain said that the tabling of a resolution as part of a deal with a proscribed organization in the National Assembly is the first instance of a formal parliamentary proceeding in this regard. However, the ensuing debate was not about the character and role of a militant organisation, instead, it was now turning into an exchange of accusations between the government and the opposition members.

“Political parties are prone to playing the religious card,” said Hussain, referring to the agitation launched by the PTI in the tenure of the PML-N about changes in the Election Act. He said the Pakistan Peoples Party took the right decision in boycotting the session as the government had continuously sidestepped the parliament in its dealing with the TLP. In his opinion, the PML-N and the JUI-F chose to participate in the proceedings because of fear of alienating a certain portion of their vote bank.

According to Zahid Hussain, appeasement of extremists organisations has become a norm in Pakistan, adding that the previous bans on extremist organisations had also not been effective. “Most organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad resurfaced and operated under new names,“ he said, adding that handling of extremist organisations has become a complicated matter for the government.

But Hussain also pointed out that the vote bank of the TLP reflected the share of the religious vote in the country, not the rise in the party’s popularity.

“The TLP has gained a vote bank from the Jamaat-e-Islami and other religious parties in Punjab,” he said, adding that the cumulative vote bank of religious parties hovers around seven to eight per cent of the total electorate.

Mubasher Bokhari, a senior analyst, says that the TLP actually sprung out of the movement following the assassination of Salman Taseer – now the party had become an asset for the deep state in the last 10 years.

According to Bokhari, the government succumbed to the pressure of the extremist organisation despite public claims of the contrary, by ministers and aides. He said the TLP poses a threat to national security as it could take the government hostage at any moment.

Bokhari said the passage of the Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-Islam Bill in the Punjab Assembly had also been related to extremist organisations pulling their weight in parliament, adding that the bill was denied by the governor’s assent after certain MPAs and media highlighted its extremist agenda.

Bokhari said that the successive governments in the country have frequently resorted to making deals with extremist organisations and their leaders.

“The government had a deal with Nek Muhammad, and Abdullah Mehsud of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as well as Sufi Muhammad of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat Movement,” he added.

Both analysts were of the view that the government has to ensure strict implementation of the ban on extremist organisations in order to foster peace and security in the country.