Islamabad [Pakistan], May 24 (ANI): Although religion has yet to play a dominant role in Pakistani politics, observers note that the country's current political structure may be changing with the rapid rise of the proscribed radical group - Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
In April, anti-France protests broke out in Pakistan where the supporters of now banned TLP took to the streets to protests against France over caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. The protests soon turned violent and exposed the grim security situation in Pakistan.
During the violent protests, hundreds of protesters and police personnel were injured and thousands of TLP activists and supporters were arrested and booked for attacking law enforcement personnel and blocking main roads and highways.
Several police vehicles were torched, buildings were attacked and policemen were kidnapped and tortured by the activists of the TLP across the Punjab province, with at least six policemen killed and over 800 injured.
The banned party, led by cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi gained popularity over the issue of blasphemy among the masses, specifically concerning Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer over blasphemy accusations, writes Sulman Ali in an opinion piece for Pakistan Daily.
"They have presented themselves as the sole flag bearers of the blasphemy issue... Violence is a currency which sells in today's times. They have proven that they can also kill and be killed for their cause," said columnist Khurshid Nadeem.
Surprisingly emerging as the fifth largest party of the 2018 general elections, the party even defeated the ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the recently held National Assembly elections in Karachi, thus showing its immense popularity in Pakistan.
According to Pakistan Daily, the TLP is weaponised the Barelvi sect, which was presented as an example to the world as the face of Islam, a sect that believes in love, tolerance, and peace. Khadim Rizvi, has since changed that whole out look and now the sect has emerged as radical, as it has blocked roads, halted daily life, broken citizens' cars, destroyed property and causing the loss of millions of rupees.
The party successfully disrupted life in twin cities in 2016, then again in 2017, protesting against a change in Election Act in 2017.
Experts note that the recent anti-France protests led by the TLP are not a good sign for Pakistan, which is already on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey-list over terror financing.
The international body has kept Pakistan on the grey list, and with the incidents and violent protests by TLP, experts say it will be again hard for Islamabad to fight its case, wrote Sulman Ali.
"There is still an absence of authenticity in Pakistan wanting to make a clean break with religious extremism. The action, somehow, feels insufficient to shut down the massive jihadi infrastructure and to limit the radical Islamist sentiment that backs it," noted Pakistan's former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani.
Pakistan government's mishandling of the anti-France protests, as well as the initial tacit support of Prime Minister Imran Khan and other members of his cabinet to the blasphemy charges levelled by the TLP against French President Emmanuel Macron, has not gone down well in Paris, said Roland Jacquard, Chairman of Roland Jacquard Global Security Consulting (RJGSC) in an opinion piece last month.
With anti-French sentiments running high, Jacquard said that french diplomats should not expect the Pakistan government to take a rational stand on the issue. (ANI)