HAVING been encouraged by the state’s seemingly infinite patience with their inflammatory rhetoric and violent reactions, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan may have gone too far this time.
In the wake of yet another call by TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi for a rally, this time to observe ‘martyrs’ day’ in Islamabad, and the government’s unsuccessful attempts to dissuade him, the police took him into ‘protective custody’, as per the information minister.
That brought his supporters out on the streets, leading to a crackdown by law-enforcement authorities against the TLP in several cities in an effort to quell the rioting.
At last count, several of its leaders and over 300 workers had been arrested from various parts of Punjab and in Karachi.
More than 100 police officials were deployed at the Faizabad exchange to avoid a repeat of last year’s 20-day sit-in at the location which had ended with a craven and questionable surrender by the state.
Once again, the TLP has shown a predilection for flexing its muscles on the street.
Certainly, the right to protest is a part of democracy, but not when it constitutes spreading disorder, damaging property and assaulting people.
Such a protest has no place in a civilised society.
The violence on Thursday — including an incident in which police commandos had to rescue a senior police officer and his guards from the clutches of some TLP supporters — once again illustrates the group’s ability to disrupt the functioning of the state.
On more than one occasion, the TLP’s senior leaders, Mr Rizvi and Pir Afzal Qadri, have used incendiary language — with the latter unleashing yet another tirade on Thursday — that should attract some of the harshest provisions in the law.
These deal not only with hate-mongering to incite communal disturbances and encourage vigilante action, but also with fomenting rebellion against the state.
And yet, instead of taking the bull by the horns, filing the appropriate charges and following through, the government is engaged in firefighting, thereby virtually guaranteeing that such tactics will continue.
The TLP, which can mobilise its supporters within little time, unfortunately has good reason by now to believe that it can with impunity bring parts of the country to a standstill.
If the state does not use its authority to send a clear message to the leadership that their actions will have serious consequences, it will compound what was already a grave error of judgement in the way it chose to bring the Faizabad sit-in to an end.
Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2018