An Ignominious Surrender

The government has set a bad precedent by succumbing to the pressure of a violent extremist group, writes Abdul Sattar

An Ignominious Surrender
The ignominious surrender of the government to an extremist group has exposed its hypocrisy. The deal that was struck between the government and the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan speaks volume about the double standards of the prime minister and his tedious acolytes. The prime minister, who heaped scorn on the unarmed and peaceful Hazara protests, declaring them blackmailers, appeared on national TV, showering eulogies on a fanatical group that had paralyzed several urban centers of Pakistan, besides challenging the writ of the state. The chief executive of the country more or less declared the violent zealots as his ideological brothers. His address to the nation will go down in the history of Pakistan as a shameful surrender to the dark forces of obscurantism and regressive elements.

It is a great shame that certain elected parliamentarians are being punished for raising their voice against the brutalities of this unjust system. These parliamentarians never picked up any arms nor did they ever abduct any law enforcement personnel. Yet, those who tortured uniformed policemen to death, abducted officers, rampaging through the streets of Pakistani cities and even preventing health staff from performing their crucial duties amidst a devastating contagion were being garlanded and honored by government ministers.

What would be the response of the state if workers of PTM had abducted uniformed police officers or if a Baloch nationalist party had paralyzed urban centers of the country? Would the reaction of the state have been the same if a Sindhi nationalist group had stormed a police station, abducting its DSP and several crops? These are important questions that need to be answered. The state should act like a mother that treats all her sons and daughters fairly. She tends to shower more love on the ones that are more vulnerable but here those who are at the helm of affairs want to make it clear that you are more likely to gain if you use your muscles.
This surrender will encourage other violent groups to take to streets, lay siege of ministers’ houses and coerce public representatives into coming up with the policy of their choice

Government officials were talking about the withdrawal of terrorism cases against the extremist group at a time when some other radical religious groups were lodging petitions in courts seeking cases against the peaceful participants of a women’s march. It is a great irony that those who believe in the constitution and law of this country are being dragged in courts on frivolous charges while a band of fanatical groups are trampling upon the law of the country, openly violating the constitution and challenging the writ of the state and in return, are being rewarded with an unprecedented impunity.

A number of peasants’ leaders have been booked in the past on concocted terror charges, remaining incarcerated for years. The leader of toiling masses Baba Jan spent 10 precious years of his life behind bars for speaking up against the atrocities of the state and sledgehammer tactics of the local administration. He was booked under anti-terror laws and deprived of his freedom. But in the case of TLP, the government reportedly agreed that all the cases registered against the members of the fanatical group would be withdrawn. What else can it be called except the mockery of justice?

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is not tired of repeating the mantra of equality before the law, is reluctant to speak against this travesty of justice that is taking place right under his nose. He unabashedly congratulated the interior minister for the shameful surrender that has badly dented the reputation of the country internationally. The chief executive of the state, who always bemoans the financial losses of the country caused by the corruption of opposition leaders, is silent over colossal damages triggered by violent demonstrations of the extremist group.

Constitutionally it is the government of the day or the elected chamber of the people that is empowered to formulate foreign policy of the country but this surrender will encourage other violent groups to take to streets, lay siege of ministers’ houses and coerce public representatives into coming up with the policy of their choice. The country is brimming with a number of sectarian outfits. And if the government tries to take an independent line, especially over the issue of the Middle East, there is a strong possibility that sectarian groups serving the interests of foreign countries will take to the street, forcing the government to tilt the policy in a way that could serve the country of their patrons.

The government has set a bad precedent by succumbing to the pressure of a violent extremist group. This amounts to mainstreaming hate-spewing outfits bent on tearing apart the social fabric of society. This attitude on the part of the government and the state has made it clear that people should not pin hopes on the incumbent ruling elite for the elimination of extremism. It is time that political parties with progressive ideas, intellectuals, writers, academia and trade unions got united to challenge this menace of religious bigotry. If they are left challenged, the country would plunge into the situation of the Mediaeval Europe where fanatical bands of religious groups were slaughtering one another.

Our intellectuals and academics have a special duty to inform the new generation against this rising trend of hate mongering. They should come hard on the double standard of the state, exposing the sanctimoniousness of the current government. If the mainstream political parties do not raise voice against this monster, they would also fall prey to the rising wave of religious intolerance which will not only incinerate their enemy but obliterate their existence as well.