The TLP’s recent actions demonstrate the growing threat extremist groups pose in Pakistan.
It is well understood that for the last many years, the writ of the state of Pakistan has been challenged mainly by banned terrorist organizations like the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and the so-called Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), which are continuing to commit terrorist acts in Pakistan to achieve their political objectives/demands. Also, for the last few years, estranged groups of some religious/political parties, including the Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), have used violence while exercising their right to peaceful protest and challenged the power of the state.
There are some situations where a public authority can restrict the aforementioned rights of the citizens. Those are: to protect national security or public safety, prevent disorder or crime, protect health or morals, or protect the rights and freedom of other people in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security and defence of Pakistan, or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency, or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, or commission of or incitement to any offence. While exercising these restrictions, the Government’s action should be ‘proportionate’, which means appropriate and no more than necessary action should be taken to address the issue concerned.
Whereas the citizens of Pakistan enjoy the afore-mentioned rights, they also have some obligations. Loyalty to the State and obedience of the Constitution and the law are the inviolable and basic obligations of the citizens. While the State of Pakistan has to protect the rights of its citizens, it is also responsible to ensure their economic well-being by ensuring that economic activity continues unhindered and the black marketers/profiteers are deterred. To fight foreign aggression and ensure that the rule of law prevails in its area of jurisdiction, the state maintains police, armed forces and the judicial system.
Recently, in October 2021, the TLP launched a protest march to reach Islamabad with a major demand that their leader under arrest should be released. While the Government was taking measures to stop their march through road blocks and deployment of police, as per media reports, the protests became violent near Wazirabad and the protestors started assaulting the police. In a few days, about nine policemen were martyred and a few hundred injured.
After this, Rangers were deployed and the Government started a dialogue with the TLP. As a consequence, as per media reports, the TLP leader has been released from jail and arrested protestors have also been released but not much is known about the legal cases against those who killed the nine policemen. This lack of transparency has given rise to apprehensions that the Government has failed to establish its writ and the TLP has been given unwarranted concessions at the cost of undermining the dignity and respect of the police as a state organ, thus creating an impression of the state versus state.