Hardline parties threaten Pakistan.
By Sami Moubayed, Special to Gulf News,Thinker
Pakistani security forces have been engaged in a series of confrontations on Saturday and Sunday with activists from a new hardline party intent on imposing their thinking on the government. Members from the Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party are accusing the law minister of blasphemy against Islam, are demanding his dismissal and arrest, and have blocked the main road from Rawalpindi to Islamabad.
The protests began on November 8 following allegations that Law Minister Zahid Hamid played a role in the amendment of the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath (finality of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)) in the Elections Act 2017. At least six deaths and injuries to more than 125 were reported on Saturday alone, while 80 police officers had been among those hurt in the clashes. The emergence of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party over the past several years, along with other hardline parties, represents a dangerous shift in Pakistan's political paradigm whereby Islamist theologies are added to a heady mix of street appeal and radical political thinking. The results mean that parties such as Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party bring a dangerous new element to that nation's political stage - one that is difficult for party organisers to control, results in such violent demonstrations as witnessed in these past two days and makes politicking and maintaining law and order difficult. Indeed, the last thing Pakistan needs right now is any element of destabilisation that challenges the operating capacity of its security forces.
Indeed, Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party itself was born out of a popular protest movement that lionised the criminal actions of Mumtaz Qadri, a bodyguard of the governor of Punjab province who gunned down his boss in 2011 over his attempt to reform Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Since the movement started, it has only become more volatile - a dangerous dimension given that they will likely play a vociferous role in national elections that must be held by next summer. Given the events of these two days, the difficulty in maintaining control, and the malleability and ductility of the fervent and fired-up membership of Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party, there now seems an even greater likelihood that more clashes are inevitable in the lead up to the polls.
The challenge facing the mainstream political leadership is to engage in a mature and sophisticated debate over the nature and governance of the nation and removing, as far as possible, the hardline and popular elements that are debasing its politics. That is a difficult task given that support for the Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party is growing.
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