Banned TLP actively taking part in cantonment board polls

Published September 11, 2021
In this file photo, supporters of the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party shout slogans as they block a street during a protest on April 19. — AFP/File
In this file photo, supporters of the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party shout slogans as they block a street during a protest on April 19. — AFP/File

• Party fields 57 candidates in Punjab, 24 in Sindh and three in KP
• Fawad hopes Punjab govt will soon move SC to delist TLP

ISLAMABAD: Nearly five months after being banned by the government, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has surprised many by fielding 84 candidates in 17 of the 41 cantonments where polling will be held on Sunday (tomorrow) to elect general members of the cantonment boards, Dawn has learnt.

A careful analysis of the list of candidates of all the 219 wards shows that the ultra rightwing TLP has fielded largest number of 57 candidates in nine cantonments of the Punjab, followed by 24 in six cantonments of Sindh and three candidates in two cantonments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The party, however, has not fielded any candidate in any of the nine wards of the three cantonments in Balochistan.

The TLP is in the fifth position as far as number of contesting candidates are concerned as the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has fielded the highest number of 178 candidates, followed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) whose 140 candidates are in the run, whereas Pakistan Peoples Party (112 candidates) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) 105 candidates.

The data shows that the TLP has fielded in all the 10 wards of Lahore cantonment, the city where the party’s headquarters is situated. It has awarded tickets to nine candidates in as many wards of Walton, Rawalpindi, Chaklala and Wah cantonments. There are six TLP candidates in Gujranwala, three in Taxila and one each in Kharian and Sialkot cantonments.

In Sindh, the proscribed TLP has fielded 18 candidates in five cantonments located in Karachi and six candidates in Hyderabad cantonment. The party has given tickets to four candidates each in cantonment of Faisal, Karachi and Malir and three each in the cantonments of Clifton and Korangi Creek.

In KP, the party is going into the elections with only three candidates – two in Havelian and one in Abbottabad cantonment.

When contacted, federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said only the Supreme Court had the authority to disqualify a political party from contesting the elections. He was of the opinion that the ban placed on the TLP was an administrative step. “There are two phases — one is administrative and the other is judicial. Until the judicial phase is not complete, the party cannot be stopped from participating in the elections,” he explained.

The minister said the Punjab government had not yet moved the case to the apex court though the provincial cabinet had also banned the party under Anti-terrorism Act. He believed the Buzdar government being a mover of the motion in this regard would soon move the court.

However, Mr Chaudhry criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for not holding any investigations to find TLP’s source of funding when the commission was swift enough to check the accounts of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the two major opposition parties.

The PTI government slapped the ban on the TLP under the Anti-Terrorism Act on April 15 after three days of countrywide violent protests by its activists after the arrest of their leader Saad Rizvi in Lahore. The protest call had been given by the TLP leadership over what it claimed government’s failure to implement an agreement with the party, which had demanded that the matter of French ambassador’s expulsion from Pakistan over the blasphemy issue be referred to the parliament.

The announcement for placing the TLP on the list of banned organisations was made by Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed at a joint press conference with Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri.

The interior minister also declared that the government would take measures for the TLP’s dissolution. Asked about the possibility of the TLP re-surfacing under a different name after the ban, the minister said it was a valid concern but they were trying to find out a solution to this as well.

On July 13, the federal cabinet decided to keep the ban on the TLP intact. An interior ministry notification declaring the TLP a proscribed organisation stated: “The federal government has reasonable grounds to believe that the TLP is engaged in terrorism, [has] acted in a manner prejudicial to the peace and security of the country, [was] involved in creating anarchy in the country by intimidating the public, caused grievous bodily harm, hurt and death to the personnel of Law Enforcement Agencies and innocent by-standers, attacked civilians and officials, created wide-scale hurdles, threatened, abused and promoted hatred, vandalised and ransacked public and government properties, including vehicles and caused arson, blocked essential health supplies to hospitals, and has threatened, coerced, intimidated, and overawed the government [and] the public and created sense of fear and insecurity in the society and the public at large.

“Therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 11B(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, the Federal Government is pleased to list TLP in the First Schedule to the said Act as a proscribed organisation.”

Copies of the notification were also sent to relevant authorities including the ECP secretary.

Polls pending since 2019

The September 12 cantonment board elections will be the first grassroots level electoral contest between the country’s arch rival political parties after the 2018 general elections. The elections have been pending since 2019 due to Covid-19 pandemic and re-demarcation of wards in the cantonments.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2021

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