It was a historic moment for Pakistan when Nawaz Sharif became Pakistan’s Prime Minister for a record third term after staging a triumphant comeback in parliamentary elections in 2013 as it was the first transition from one democratically elected government to another since independence in 1947.[i] It was amid optimism about the economic reforms and good relations with India that Sharif was elected as the Prime Minister. But disaster unfolded itself when the Panama Papers leak unleashed shock waves of allegations and corruption charges on Nawaj Sharif and his family members, resulting in his expulsion from power in July, 2017.[ii] The way Sharif was ousted from power has raised questions about Pakistan’s ability to survive as a democracy.
Since then, Pakistan seems to be slipping into an even deeper state of hard-line radical politics. Sharif’s expulsion resulted in a by-election of National Assembly seat 120 (NA120), which fell vacant after his disqualification by the Supreme Court. Although, the by-election results were in favor of Nawaz’s party, the two new Islamic extremist parties namely Milli Muslim League (party loyal to Hafiz Saeed, a UN designated terrorist [iii]and the head of Lashker-e-Taiba) and Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah’s (TLY) – a religious group evolving into a militant outfit based on reverence for Mumtaz Qadri (responsible for the murder of Punjab’s governor, Salman Taseer) have made their way into mainstream politics. This is very well reflected by the number of votes which they succeeded in gaining. MML secured 5,822 votes (even after being declared illegal for polling by the election commission of Pakistan[iv]) over four times that of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), which had formed the federal government before the PML-N – in little over four weeks of existence[v], and Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah’s (TLY) also winning 7,130 votes.[vi]
It is pertinent to mention that Hafiz Saeed and his organization Lashker-e-Taiba were the masterminds behind the 26/11 Mumbai attacks which killed 166 people. More shocking is the fact that former President of Pakistan Gen Pervez Musharaff has shown his interest in joining hands with Hafiz Saeed in contesting elections, scheduled to be held in 2018 in Pakistan.[vii]Musharraf in an interview to Pakistan based Aaj News channel said, “so far, there has been no talks with them but if they want to be part of the alliance, I would welcome them,”.[viii] He even went on to say that “I am the greatest supporter of LeT and I know they [LeT and JuD] are fond of me”.[ix] Secondly, the statement given by the current Pak Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa on Hafiz Saeed in which he states that “he can play an ‘active role’ to resolve the Kashmir conflict, as every other citizen of Pakistan”[x] is absolutely bizarre and a blatant endorsement of a terrorist and his acts. By giving such statements, Pakistan and its Military leadership have exposed their tacit support for terrorist as proxies against India.
The other party Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah’s (TLY), founded by Maulana Khadim Hussian Rizvi, comes from Barelvi sect of Islam [xi] and believes in the implementation of taqleedi Islam, which is also supported by other Sunni groups, including the Deobandi revival movement, born as a reaction to colonialism, aimed at gradually transforming Pakistani laws into Sharia with the support of Sunnis.[xii] TYL succeeded in securing 7,130 votes leaving Pakistan People’s Party and Jamaat-e-Islami, way behind in the race for power in the by-election of NA120. TYL also contested another by- election in NA-4, Peshawar seat securing 9,935 votes outscoring Jamaat-e-Islami which was earlier in power.[xiii]
The recent protests in Pakistan was organised by TYL under the fire brand leadership of Khadim Hussian Rizvi, brought Pakistan to a standstill and forced the Pakistani state to unconditional capitulation. The protesters demanded Law Minister’s resignation and were protesting against the change in blasphemy laws i.e. Khatam-e-Nabbuwat.[xiv] This Barelvi group not only forced the civilian government to kneel on their legs by resorting to violence but also succeeded in gaining mass appeal and mileage. This was very well reflected from the tweets made by the Interior Minister of Pakistan, Ashan Iqbal, stating “Doc of finishing dharna was not desirable but there was little choice becuz if situation had persisted another 24 hrs there wud b riots”[xv] and also by the scope and the coverage of the protest which ranged from Karachi to Lahore, Islamabad and Faizabad.[xvi] The scope of the protest seems to be much broader and hints towards the revival of Barelvi politics[xvii]. The manner in which this religio–political party is gaining traction is alarming and will definitely impact the political discourse of Pakistan.
Surprisingly, the Pakistani Army which is renowned for brutally crushing protests and the dissent voices, was seen cringing amidst the rampage and turmoil unleashed by fulminating fanatics who held Pakistan hostage for almost a week. This itself was an implicit indication of Pak Army’s involvement in the whole episode. This can further be substantiated by the statements given by TYL leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi who after calling off the protests said, “Pakistan Army made Zahid Hamid resign from his post of law minister.”[xviii] He further went on to say that “Our party held negotiations with officials of Pakistan Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) who said ask whatever you want to,”[xix] adding that there was no role of the civilian government in resolving the stand-off and the signature of the Interior Minister, Ahsan Iqbal, on the documents of agreement was taken by the army men. [xx] It was absolutely sensational to see that the director-general of the Punjab Rangers Maj-Gen Azhar Navid Hayat was distributing envelopes containing 1,000-rupee ($9.50; £7) notes to participants in the protests.[xxi] It appears that the Army used the radical protestors to harass the civilian government.
It was a real pity to see that on one hand a senior Pak Army official went on to reward the protesters and offenders who were responsible for rioting and damaging public property by distributing them money in cash, and on the other hand an agreement to call off the strike was reached between civilian government and the protestors which was brokered by the army stating that the Federal and Punjab government of Pakistan would be paying for the losses incurred to the properties during the dharna.[xxii] It must be flabbergasting for a Pakistani citizen to see their money being misused by the Pak Army and their civilian elected government, which is incapable of giving them decentand progressive governance.
All the above mentioned episodes expose the Pakistani Army and its intelligence agency ISI’s involvement in mainstreaming terrorists and radical elements into political space of Pakistan by making them their proxy, to counter already established political outfits and at the same time exposes the inability of civilian administration in dealing with extremist elements.
[i] For Details see “Profile Nawaj Sharif” Accessed 20 Dec 2017,
[iii] For Details see “Global terrorist Hafiz Saeed walks free”, Accessed on: 21 Dec, 2016.
[vii]For Details see “Open to forming political alliance with JuD, LeT: Musharraf”
[viii]For Details see “Musharraf may ally with Hafiz Saeed for 2018 polls”, Accessed on 22 Dec,2017
[ix] For Details see “Musharraf calls himself ‘greatest supporter of LeT”, Accessed on 22 Dec, 2017.
[xii]ImdadHussian, “Pakistan protests have exposed longstanding sectarian fault lines” Accessed on 22Dec,2017,
[xiii]Kalbe Ali, “Who is Khadim Hussain Rizvi”, Accessed on 25 Dec,2016.
[xv] For Details see “Deal with Tehreek-e-Labbaik not desirable”, Accessed on 25 Dec, 2017.
[xvi] For Details see “Protests by Islamist group paralyze Pakistan’s cities”, Accessed on 25 Dec,2017
[xviii] For Details see “Pakistan Army made law minister resign: Tehreek-e-Labbaik leader Khadim Rizvi”, Accessed on 25 Dec, 2017.
[xxi] M Ilyas Khan, “Why was Pakistan general giving money to protesters?” Accessed on 26 Dec, 2016.
[xxii] The Express Tribune, “Deal with Tehreek-e-Labbaik ‘not desirable’, but struck out of necessity: Ahsan Iqbal”. Accessed on 27 Dec, 2017.
Courtesy: With permission reproduced from www.claws.in