Fundamentalism: A Growing Political Ideology

Image source: Getty

What is Tehreek-e- Labbaik Pakistan (TLP)?

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan or commonly known as TLP is a radical Islamist group in Pakistan. Earlier this Pakistani radical group was a religious party that startedTehreek Rihai Mumtaz Movement to Free Mumtaz Qadri on 1st August 2015. Mumtaz Qadri was a police bodyguard of Salim Taseer, the then governor of Punjab. Mumtaz Qadri assassinated Salim Taseer in 2011  for his support of Asia Bibi over a blasphemy case. Later on, Tehreek Rihai Mumtaz Movement was modified to Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah  (TLYRA) by its former leader Khadim Husain Rizwi. Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool or TLYRA was a religious radical group whose whole purpose was to protect Islam, Prophet Muhammad, and the barbaric law of blasphemy. TLYRA represents the politics of religious rights that aimed to set foot in politics in 2015. Due to its hardline religious belief and party name, they changed it to Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan or commonly known as TLP to enter the field of politics under the leadership of Khadim Husain Rizwi in 2015.

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan largely represents the radical Sunni sect of Pakistan that intent to protect the Honour of the Prophet; their ideology revolves around the finality of Prophet Muhammad and protect the ruthless Blasphemy laws of Pakistan. This alludes that any insult to Islam or Prophet Muhammad will ultimately lead to the death penalty. TLP has been somewhat successful in attracting substantial constituencies and large masses for its support. 

Image source: Change org

Since its establishment, TLP has been protesting against all the blasphemy occurrences to preserve Islam and Pakistan’s fundamentalist Political Structure in Pakistan.

What is happening in Pakistan?

The prevailing situation in Pakistan has been daunting since April. It is a big question as to what has been happening in Pakistan and why? 

The violent unrest in Pakistan is not happening for the first time involving TLP. It has been going on since October 2020 when the President of France defended the right of Charlie Hebdo Magazine to republish the caricature of Prophet Muhammad as freedom of expression and secularism. The caricature of Prophet Muhammad has led to extensive unrest and agitation in Arab countries especially in Pakistan over the case of blasphemy where the caricature made fun of Prophet Muhammad and disrespected Islam according to radical groups. In November 2020, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan came forward and condemned the act of France as an insult to Prophet Muhammad. The republishing of the caricature of Prophet Muhammad provoked protest and unrest in Pakistan in October. TLP and its former leader Khadim Rizwi demanded to boycott products from France and expel the Ambassador of France to Pakistan. The protest ended in November 2020 when Pakistan’s government and TLP agreed to meet TLP’s demand within three months by February 2021. As the time came closer, the government bought more time to stall the agreement with TLP till April 2021. Given because the governments’ inability to reach an agreement and cease the radical activities in the country resulted in a more violent and destructive protest in Pakistan led by TLP and its enormous base of followers under the leadership of Saad Hussain Rizwi, son of former leader Late Khadim Hussain Rizwi who passed away in November 2020 due to COVID-19 complications. April protests by TLP turned violent causing bloodshed and many police and civilian casualties. This event prompted the Pakistan government to impose a ban on TLP on 15th April 2021 under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, and the detention of its leader Saad Rizwi and other radical followers.

Pakistan anti-France protests. Image source: Bangkok post

Thenceforward, TLP’s demand escalated to the release of its leader Saad Rizwi, lift the ban on TLP, quash cases against TLP, expel the French Ambassador, and cut all ties with France. During the widespread protest in Pakistan many civilians, TLP workers, and police personnel succumbed and 11 special rangers and police officials were held hostage by supporters of the radical Islamist party. To set the police officials and special rangers free, the government agreed with TLP to release their leader Saad Rizwi and other TLP workers in exchange for liberating police officials.

To cease the violent protest in Islamabad, on Tuesday, 20th April 2021 Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad announced the proposal of the resolution moved by Imran Khan’s government in the National Assembly, the lower house of the Parliament to discuss the expulsion of the French Diplomats and vote for the same. This indicated how TLP staged violent rallies and protests to influence the government to consider the expulsion of the French envoy. This move was highly criticized by the international community and Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The government has not concluded yet but the TLP is awaiting their response to favor TLPs demands.

Economic implications on Pakistan

With TLPs rising protest against France, Prime Minister responded by explaining Pakistan’s crucial relation with France especially in the arena of trade and commerce, and how freezing bilateral ties could affect Pakistan’s export and the overall economy. Pakistan’s consideration of expelling the French Envoy could prove malignant for Pakistan and its crippling economy as Pakistan including 76 countries are among the latest countries that are getting debt relief from the Paris Club. Paris Club is a forum of major creditor countries that provide a sustainable and systematic solution to countries who are in heavy debt (mostly developing countries). The forum was established gradually from 1956 in Paris and French Treasury supervised the club’s Presidency. Hence, France has a major ascendancy over the Paric Club. The forum consists of 22 permanent members, 11 ad hoc members, and other countries and organizations participate as observer countries by representing international institutions, permanent members, and non-permanent members. The Secretariat of the forum plays the most pivotal role by safeguarding creditos interest, analyzing debtors paying capacity, and proposing an effective negotiation by facilitation and reaching a consensus. Consequently, since 1956, the forum has negotiated 433 agreements with 90 countries around the world.

File photo: Imran Khan/Dawn

In April 2020, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan appealed to wealthy nations as a Global Initiative on Debt Relief to relieve debts of developing countries who are combating hunger, crippling the economy accompanied by pandemic to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Taking Imran Khan’s appeal into consideration, a group of 20 major economies and the Paris Club coordinated by the French Ministry of Finance agreen in April to freeze the debt payments of 77 developing countries where Pakistan was also a part of it. Following with the latest agreement that provides debt relief to 12 countries including Pakistan by deferring US$1.1 billion of debt in order to combat virus strategically. Presently, Pakistan’s total debt of the Paris Club is US$11,543 billion out of which the loan of France is the second highest after Japan with US$1,748 billion. Scrutinizing Pakistan’s current state of affairs with France, it is essential to normalize their ties with France before it collapses. France is Pakistan’s one of the topmost importer of textiles, and the consideration of expelling the French Envoy will impoverish its textile industry. Moreover, Pakistan’s export operation has increased in the last 5 to 6 years from $11,960 million to $14,158 million, and ravaging its relation with France will influence its relations with the EU as well. Expelling the French Envoy will have a catastrophic effect on Pakistan’s economy, as it will have repercussions on Pakistan’s debt crisis and textile industry that keeps its economy uphold.  Besides, Pakistan is in no economical condition to curtail its relationship with France if it needs to persevere in the international domain of interdependence and interconnectedness.

What does the current situation indicate about Pakistan’s Administration?

Pakistani government’s move to introduce a resolution on the expulsion of the French envoy speaks volumes on its Foreign as well as National policy. This decision raises the question of the fundamentalist approach of the government and whether it has surrendered in front of the Radical Islamist group by considering expelling the French Envoy. It also exhibits the Pakistani government’s incompetent leadership and substandard administration. The move indicates the international communities as to how the government and the administration are embedded with radical and fundamentalist approaches in their Foreign Policy. It’s immensely unethical on the States part to supervise and administer radical activities that are impeding their international as well as national policies and administration. As a consequence of this, France has asked their citizens to leave Pakistan as a precautionary step to protect French nationals.

Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan accuses French President Macron of ‘attacking Islam’. Image source: The Times Of India

Pakistan has an extremely complicated relationship with the Radical Ismalist Groups like TLP, for these groups’ blasphemy is above and beyond the State of Pakistan. Activities of these radical groups have been a consistent thwart for the Pakistan government’s administration and management. The current Imran khan’s government needs to cease the activities of such groups rather than banning them apathetically. Banning these parties might recoil instead of bestowing a solution resulting in the formation of more such radical groups around the country. The government needs to carry out an extensive analysis of the problem by tracking down their funding source and stopping their funding, carefully reviewing their leadership, and dismantling their support base through stern law and order. The state needs to take firm steps to cease radical and fundamentalist activities in the country. 

Lessons for India

The prevailing situation in Pakistan should be a great lesson for India’s national administration and management. India has seen a relative increase in religious fundamentalism in the last 4-5 years. The rise of ‘Hindutva’ political ideologue ascertains the Indian identity and nationhood by local groups, individuals, etc. who believe that Hindu culture and religion is the national culture of India. Activities of fundamentalism in the name of nation-building in India and been increasing resulting in mob lynching, forcing people to say ‘religious slogans and patriotic chants’ targeting especially non-Hindu religious groups in the country. However, Hindutva fundamentalist activities are not as severe as Pakistans but it has provoked national and international communities to condemn the Modi-led government. 

Image source: Patrika

Nevertheless, the Indian government should start taking decisive steps before this clement fundamentalism takes a violent and radical turn. These activities can be administered through meticulous national and regional policies and their implementation that goes along with righteous law and order.

SOURCES

  1. https://indianexpress.com/article/world/pakistan-parliament-vote-expelling-french-ambassador-7282814/ 
  2. https://www.firstpost.com/world/pakistan-anti-france-protests-at-least-7-police-officers-and-rangers-taken-hostage-by-islamist-party-supporters-9542541.html
  3. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/pakistan-tlp-protest-france-7274978/
  4. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/tehreek-e-labbaik-pakistan-the-rally-of-the-radical-clerics/article34345842.ece
  5. https://www.idsa.in/issuebrief/tehrik-labaik-pakistan-sspattanaik-040521
  6. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/pakistan-parliament-to-consider-french-envoys-expulsion/article34366854.ece
  7. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/tehreek-e-labbaik-pakistan-saad-hussain-rizvi-protests-imran-khan-7281260/
  8. https://www.reuters.com/article/parisclub-debt-idUSL8N2DN1EX
  9. https://www.dawn.com/news/1562611
  10. https://tribune.com.pk/story/2239641/3-pakistan-among-latest-countries-get-paris-club-debt-relief
  11. https://www.thenews.com.pk/amp/823721-pakistan-owes-11-547b-debt-of-paris-club

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Katyayani Raghuvanshi

Katyayani Raghuvanshi is a Research Intern at The Kootneeti

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