The anarchy and bedlam let loose by the extremist right-wing party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in Lahore and other major cities of Pakistan is the reward deservingly offered to the politicians of Pakistan. It is a stunning example of Frankenstein monster.
The TLP came into existence in 2015. Its main agenda is to run down all religious denominations in Pakistan except the Sunni Wahhabi faction, which it considers the only truly Islamic. In particular, Ahmadiayas and Christians are their main targets, though other religious minorities do not fall outside the ambit of their long-range agenda.
What triggered the formation of TLP was the verdict of the Pakistan Supreme Court staying the hanging order of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman charged under the blasphemy law. Khadim Hussain, the founder of TLP vowed that he would see to it that the blasphemy law was implemented in letter and spirit in Pakistan and that it was his moral and religious duty to decimate all those who attempt to show disrespect to the Prophet of Islam.
Some hardliners of the TLP demanded that all the three judges of the Supreme Court who had ordered the stay of execution order should be killed. Someone from their guards, attendants or cooks should put an end to their lives was the public cry. Governor Taseer of Punjab was shot dead by his guard just because he had visited Asia Bibi in the jail and sympathized with her. His murderer Qadri was hailed a hero by the goons of the TLP and a basketful of flowers was showered on him for performing an act in service of Islam.
In 2017 Pakistan government changed some wording of the blasphemy law which the Tehreek-e-Labbaik fiercely resented. And now, during the last fortnight, the furious demonstrations going on in Pakistan by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik have almost paralyzed the administration. They demand that the French Ambassador in Pakistan is deported and a boycott of French goods announced. How does France come in, is the question?
Why is Tehreek-e-Labbaik against France?
In 2020, Samuel Paty, a French school teacher was decapitated by his 18-year old student of Chechen origin in a French school because Paty had shown a caricatured picture that offended the murderer’s sentiments. The French police, in trying to nab the murderer, met with resistance as a result of which the police shot him dead. This event caused a commotion in the circles of radical Islamists not only in France but in other Muslim countries in the West Asian region also.
However, Emmanuel Macron, the French President said in a statement that France gives priority to freedom of expression and that France would not curb that freedom in any way. He said that Islamists want to replace the legal system with sharia and France would never allow that to happen. Apart from announcing France’s policy of zero patience on radical violence, France had taken certain decisions to curb the nefarious and exclusivist tendencies among a section of the French Muslim population that comprises about 30 per cent of the total population of France.
France announced control on the funding of mosques; it forbade political propaganda carried out by the clergy in mosques; it disallowed the veil for the Muslim women. President Macron said that France respects all religions but she is not going to succumb to the intimidation of fanatical Islamists who want a different system for themselves.
The pan-Islamists took big offence to the frank and fearless statement of the French President. Though succinct, it conveyed to overbearing Islamists in France and elsewhere in the European states a message that they shall have to live within the limits and abide by the constitutions of the respective states and that freedom was not something absolute. The pan-Islamist leadership considered it a challenge and they reacted furiously to bring about the charge against President Macron that he is anti-Islam. Top leaders of two Islamic countries, namely Erdogan of Turkey and Imran Khan of Pakistan came out openly against President Macron and began issuing indirect threats and used insulting language. Erdogan said Macron’s mental state was doubtful. He said that since Macron was against Islam, therefore, he was against Turkey also. It meant that Turkey was considering France an enemy. Erdogan exhorted the Muslims all over the world to boycott French goods.
It has to be recalled that Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia want to create a pan-Islamic block with an aim to wrest the leadership of the Muslim world from the hands of Saudi monarch. It has caused a rupture in Muslim society between the Semitic and non-Semitic Muslims
Imran Khan went a step further. He said that President Macron was trying to divide the Muslims as colonizers used to do. He said that it was an attempt to spread Islamophobia and he wrote a letter to the CEO of Facebook asking him to ensure that it did not allow Islamophobia to be traded on mobiles. He strongly urged the Islamic countries to boycott French goods and this was in line with what Erdogan was preaching. Neither Turkey nor Pakistan said a word against Islamic Theo-fascists who were spreading hatred on a religious basis. The truth is that both of them were giving vent to their pent up emotions against France for imposing restrictions on Islamic extremism in that country.
France has nearly 30 per cent Muslim population mostly emigrants from North African countries and West Asia. These emigrants and asylum seekers are provided with all rights and privileges available to them under the UN Charter and perhaps much more than that. The French government never discriminates against them and gives them an equal opportunity for growth and development. It is an irony that these radicals should rise against the world’s most liberal and freedom-loving country.
Making the statement of French President the cause for agitation, TLP (Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan) took to streets and mass agitation and demanded deportation of the French Ambassador. Imran Khan government engaged the Labbaik leadership in dialogue and an agreement was arrived at giving the government 20 April as the deadline for the expulsion of the French Ambassador. And when that did not mature and the government said it wanted an extended date, the TLP gave a call for mass movement and the entire country saw millions of demonstrators defying law and order and even taking several policemen as hostages. Lahore became a battlefield between the security forces and protesting crowds. The government was unnerved. It took the leader Saad Rizvi into custody and said a ban would be imposed on Tehreek-e-Labbaik.
The question is who should be held responsible for the chaotic situation that Pakistan is in. All radical and extremist groups in Pakistan are the creation of Pakistan Army and ISI primarily to create the first line of offence (by proxy) and second line of defence against India. These legions had to be indoctrinated with hate India ideology and also with adherence to suicide (shahadat) ideology as specific to Islamic history. Over so many decades, the indoctrination in madrasas went on till the huge mujahedeen force was ready to execute the instructions of their mentors.
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is also a part of this series and it has been given the mandate of liquidating the Christians under the blasphemy law and also the Ahmadiyas. They targeted the Christians. But when some saner elements in Pakistan began questioning the rationale behind the blasphemy law the rulers found themselves in an embarrassing situation. The critics became new victims. French President’s statement became a pretext for them to pillory the government and show that they could flex the muscle. The statements given by leaders like Erdogan and Imran Khan in the context of the Samuel Paty murder case greatly fuelled the flames of communal hatred. They are the real culprits for inciting the public and the Tehreek-e-Labbaik lost no time in leading the unprecedented protests. Pakistani leaders and army echelons have to understand that their anti-India tirades have begun to boomerang on them. This is only the tip of the iceberg. The future is much more to unfold for a nation torn between the two diktats — that of the Pakistan Army and the clergy.
Mirza Ghalib has put it nicely:
Jata hun thori dur har ik rahrav ke sath
Pahchanta nahin hun abhi rahbar ko main