Is TLP here to stay?
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.