THE government’s contradictions and confusion appear to have no end when it comes to dealing with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid this weekend made a baffling statement, in which he revealed that the TLP is “not banned but proscribed”.

As if to clarify his point, Mr Rashid said though the party is “neither here nor there”, it is not banned as its members can still contest elections by virtue of being registered with the ECP. When asked why the party is widely believed to be proscribed, the minister said it was because it was declared as such by the government.

Read more: Government yields to TLP, frees 350 activists

This is an absurd statement that defies logic. Perhaps the minister has forgotten that in April this year, his own ministry issued a notification declaring the TLP a proscribed organisation after the federal cabinet approved a summary to ban the party. The step was taken after TLP supporters staged violent protests across the country in the wake of their leader’s arrest. The notification said the federal government had grounds to believe that the “TLP is engaged in terrorism” and that it threatened security, caused harm and promoted hatred.

At that time, Mr Rashid himself had said the government would move to dissolve the group, and that a separate summary would be moved to this effect in the cabinet. If approved, he had said, a reference would be filed in the Supreme Court for the party’s dissolution.

Editorial: The state only has itself to blame for its convoluted and opaque dealings with the TLP

Six months later, Mr Rashid is telling the public that the government never approached the apex court for this dissolution, and indicating that the party’s ban is merely a verbal one. By talking in this way, Mr Rashid is making a mockery of his own government, and implying that its actions are not just poorly thought out but also simply token steps to create the illusion of action. Though an outright ban of a political party not proven to have terrorism links is against democratic norms, this hypocrisy has exposed the government’s tendency to sleepwalk into disasters at its own expense.

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2021

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