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Domestic Terrorists

Pakistan’s problem with the TLP must be seen in a more serious light.

By Meriam Sabih | December 2021

In recent weeks at least seven policemen were killed and over 500 injured in violent clashes with Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) as they blocked roads making their way to Islamabad. Speaking to Reuters, a Punjab police spokesman said, “TLP activists used SMG, AK 47 and pistols to target police officials as the result of which several officials were martyred.” The result? The government of Pakistan entered into yet another deal with the group, acquiesced to some of their demands of releasing prisoners and allowed TLP members to be able to contest elections.

Furthermore, the Government took TLP leader Saad Rizvi, son of late Khadim Rizvi, off its terrorism watch list and released him from prison. In return, TLP agreed to end their demand for the expulsion of the French Ambassador over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and forgo politics of violence.

These oft-repeated violent clashes serve several lessons. The government must be better prepared. Such a crowd requires advance deployment of a heavily armed national guard, or army, to keep crowds under control and protect infrastructure. They, alongside law enforcement, must be equipped with riot gear, tear gas, water cannons and all forms of protection to safeguard their own lives while they keep the streets and cities safe. Whereas protestors have a right to peacefully protest within the confines of the law, laws must be obeyed. Protestors do not have the right to terrorize others, kill police officers, or block roads they are not authorized to protest on. Perpetrators of violence must be brought to justice. The police officers who sacrificed their lives should be given the highest of honours and celebrated for their heroism for the country to set a clear narrative and appreciate their ultimate sacrifice for the nation.

What message does it serve for the government to be negotiating with those who advocate violence and use violence against the police force and politicians? The TLP group was founded by a campaign to free Mumtaz Qadri, Governor Salman Taseer’s assassin. On February 29, 2017, Pakistan hung Qadri during the tenure of the PML-N government. Qadri was hanged for assassinating Taseer, a politician from the Pakistan’s People’s Party and the governor of Punjab. Qadri had assassinated Taseer as what he called a religious duty to defend the honour of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Carrying out the sentence, despite protests by TLP, showed a willingness on behalf of Pakistan’s courts, institutions, and government to curb extremism and vigilantism. The Supreme Court of Pakistan also later acquitted Asia Bibi on the basis of insufficient evidence. In 2017 TLP demonstrators used violence again and attacked the law minister’s home and yet again their demands were met.

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The author is a columnist and former contributor to Al-Jazeera America. She has a Masters degree in Political Science and can be reached at or twitter @meriamsabih

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