Pakistan is being battered by widespread Islamist protests. At least two people have been ‘officially’ killed in the protest-related violence, while hundreds have been injured. The large-scale protests were triggered by the arrest of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) leader Saad Rizvi in Lahore on unspecified charges. The TLP has been a vociferous proponent of Pakistan severing all ties with France, banning imports from the European country and expelling the French ambassador for his country’s fight against blasphemy. Effectively, Islamists of Pakistan are worked up against their Islamist government since Imran Khan and his cabinet do not appear to be as Islamist as they should.
Anti-France protests have gripped Pakistan owing to President Emmanuel Macron’s unsparing fight against the menace of Islamism. Islamist terrorists have repeatedly killed innocent French citizens on baseless charges of blasphemy. However, the killing of a French school teacher in the outskirts of Paris last year proved to be the final straw, after which Emmanuel Macron has waged a hard-hitting and unrelenting fight against Islamic extremists.
In Pakistan, this crackdown has soured relations between former allies. The Pakistani Army – which runs Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government is widely known to have funded the rise of TLP in the country in order to tame former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his rather rebellious daughter – Maryam Nawaz Sharif. The TLP, founded by Saad Rizvi’s father – Khadim Hussain Rizvi was used by the Pakistani army as a front organisation to radicalise ordinary Pakistanis, the effects of which are now clearly visible.
The TLP is known for initiating massive street protests in Pakistan in response to any change in the country’s blasphemy law. In November, the TLP called off a sit-in protest that had blocked a major highway into the capital Islamabad over the issue of remarks by President Macron that had been considered Islamophobic. Sensing the growing popularity of the TLP, the Imran Khan government had then signed a deal with it and promised to follow through on all the demands of the Islamist organisation. The deal was extended until April 20 only recently. However, sensing that France is not a country, which should be messed with for petty domestic reasons, Imran Khan has failed to oblige the TLP.
Therefore, the TLP feels betrayed. Needless to say, it has grown within Pakistan as a force to be reckoned with. As such, it has taken to show the Pakistani state its formidable might, while its former patron – the Pakistani military establishment, watches on meekly. To make matters worse for Imran Khan and his bosses in the Army, the Pakistani Taliban has extended support to TLP and urged Pakistanis to resort to an armed struggle against the Pakistani state.
Pakistan has now banned the TLP, although that is not really proving to be a move, which would somehow make the large scale protests vanish. Pakistan is currently at the cusp of a civil war, solely due to the Pakistani Army’s patronage to the TLP in the years gone by. The TLP has now become a noose around the military establishment’s neck.