Is TLP here to stay?

The Miracle - - Opinion - By: Arifa Noor (jour­nal­ist.)

W ( are reel­ing from an­other sur­ren­der’ of the state. The hy­per­bole sur­round­ing the sur­ren­der’ was as e - treme as was the praise that fol­lowed the prime min­is­ter’s speech ear­lier. )rom the with­drawal of a tweet to these re­cent two dhar­nas, sur­ren­ders’ come thick and fast in Pak­istan. And none of them are of the or­di­nary kind each is a sur­ren­der’ wor­thy of a com­par­i­son to 19 1. It’s a won­der we have any ter­ri­tory left. But the last two sur­ren­ders’ — to the T/P — by the P0/-1 and the PTI have once again high­lighted the state’s re­la­tion­ship with re­li­giopo­lit­i­cal par­ties, which since the start of the Afghan war has al­ways fo­cused on the Deobandi groups. How­ever, the rise of .hadim Rizvi and the T/P may change this. Un­til re­cently, our angst was re­served for the state’s flir­ta­tion with and nur­tur­ing of Deobandi groups. )rom the Afghan war to the .ash­mir is­sue in the ’9 s, these groups were used in the neigh­bour­hood as a cost-ef­fec­tive mea­sure to fur­ther pol­icy goals. And if in the process we had to pay a price do­mes­ti­cally — sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence be­ing a case in point — it was deemed not too high.

(There were a few un­usual voices such as 9ali 1asr who fo­cused on elec­toral pol­i­tics and how the state’s ap­pro­pri­a­tion of Is­lam meant that Pak­istan was one of the few 0us­lim coun­tries where re­li­gio-po­lit­i­cal par­ties re­mained rather mar­ginal in elec­toral pol­i­tics. This was Tuite un­like most of the 0us­lim world where the op­po­si­tion to the state in- evitably took the shape of a re­li­giopo­lit­i­cal party such as the 0us­lim Broth­er­hood or the clergy in Iran. But the more pub­li­cised ar­gu­ment al­ways was about the ad­verse ef­fects of the pa­tron­age of the mil­i­tant groups. The change change post-9/11 of in think­ing pol­icy world was on fi­nally forced the state. forced not The by a in­ter­na­tional con­sid­er­a­tions but by do­mes­tic com­pul­sions. The spread of mil­i­tancy from )ata to Swat to beyond and the spate of ter­ror­ist at­tacks in ur­ban cen­tres and the lives it cost forced the state to move against the use of vi­o­lence. The re­la­tion­ship sta­tus be­came com­pli­cated’. Some groups were aban­doned im­me­di­ately, some over time, with some a love-hate re­la­tion­ship con­tin­ued while with oth­ers, the flir­ta­tion con­tin­ued but more se­cretly than be­fore. But the trou­ble­some for ev­ery­one, chil­dren, the Deoban­dis, were the fo­cus of at­ten­tion. The Barelvis, on the other hand, were the peaceniks no one wor­ried about. In fact, in the post 9/11 world, the lat­ter were even given donor sup­port in or­der to nur­ture the more peace­ful Is­lam’ as if the prob­lem were of in­ter­pre­ta­tion rather than pol­i­tics. But 1 brought a change in this bi­fur­ca­tion. The as­sas­si­na­tion of Sal­maan Taseer and the chain of events it set off has cul­mi­nated in the rise of the T/P which seems to com­bine a threat of vi­o­lence with an elec­toral chal­lenge. How­ever, the threat of vi­o­lence — so far — seems to be of a dif­fer­ent kind than the Deobandi groups present. If the lat­ter were feared for - vi­o­lent mili­tias and the chal­lenge they posed to state au­thor­ity by con­trol­ling pock­ets of ter­ri­tory (as the TTP did , Barelvi vi­o­lence has rat­tled so­ci­ety by mob vi­o­lence. Since there have the as­sas­si­na­tion not been any more of Taseer, such high-pro­file killings by be­liev­ers of this school of thought — whether this is be­cause the for­mer gov­er­nor’s death put an abrupt end to the de­bate he pro­voked or for other rea­sons is un­clear. The death sina­tion ping rest (from was of to linked the Taseer’s Shah­baz vi­o­lence to the Bhatti’s son’s TTP. around kid­nap- as­sas- There his is the a Barelvis level of and con­ver­gence Deoban­dis be­tween on the emo­tive is­sue of blas­phemy, but gen­er­ally the par­ties within the elec­toral sys­tem tend to stand up for the blas­phemy law. This doesn’t ap­pear to be an is­sue where the mil­i­tant groups and T/P are stand­ing to­gether. Other for elec­toral than that, pol­i­tics the T/P where has opted some an­a­lysts ar­gue that more than the vote bank of the P0/-1, the party has eaten into the votes of the more main­stream re­li­gio-po­lit­i­cal par­ties such as the -amaat-i-Is­lami and -UI-). But de­spite its more main­stream choice, its re­la­tion­ship with the state is not as sim­plis­tic as the one por­trayed. Its street protests and the re­lated vi­o­lence seems to rat­tle the state enough to think that there is no op­tion but ne­go­ti­a­tions. Dur­ing the pre­vi­ous dharna, it was as­sumed that the pro­test­ers were en­cour­aged to some e tent by the civil-mil­i­tary dis­con­nect, but this time round, it’s hard for any­one other than con­spir­acy the­o­rists to ac­cept this ar­gu­ment wholly. And yet, the end of the protest dif­fered only in how Tuickly it came. An­other way to look at it would be to con­sider the lan­guage Rizvi and oth­ers around him used for state in­sti­tu­tions and for those head­ing them. Such abu­sive lan­guage would not be ut­tered by the lead­ers of Deobandi groups, es­pe­cially not those who take part in elec­toral pol­i­tics. Take the case of the ac­cu­sa­tions against a se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cial which Rizvi and his cronies men­tioned in his speeches. This ac­cu­sa­tion was first brought up by a Deobandi fig­ure (who has also been part of par­lia­ment and within days he re­canted — un­doubt­edly be­cause of the dis­plea­sure e pressed by those in power. How­ever, no one seems to be in a po­si­tion to wield a sim­i­lar in­flu­ence over Rizvi. 1ei­ther is the T/P mob vi­o­lence or street protests as con­trol­lable as, say, the protests by the Difa-iPak­istan &oun­cil, which has both Barelvi and Deobandi par­ties un­der its um­brella how­ever, the stronger ones are from the lat­ter school of thought. D)&’s protests are turned on and off, with lit­tle fear of the sit­u­a­tion spi­ralling out of con­trol. It is too soon to as­sess the im­pact the T/P will have on the coun­try’s elec­toral scene (usu­ally par­ties with a one-point agenda do not man­age to last long in the elec­tion cy­cle or the re­li­gio-po­lit­i­cal scene in gen­eral. How­ever, its ef­fi­cacy in mo­bil­is­ing peo­ple — for votes or protests — do not in­di­cate a short po­lit­i­cal life or im­pact. But a more re­al­is­tic eval­u­a­tion will reTuire time.

Un­til re­cently, our angst was re­served for the state’s flir­ta­tion with Deobandi groups.

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