Pakistan Anti-French Protests – Is Pakistan on the way to become a Talibani state?

| Chandrashekar TS

Recently, strong anti-French sentiments are growing in Pakistan ever since French President Emmanuel Macron defended the publication of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad and pledged to fight “Islamist separatism”. Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Saad Hussain Rizvi with his supporters took to the streets to launch violent protests with an aim to force the Imran Khan-led government to expel the French ambassador and ban French products in the country. 

However the government banned Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) on Thursday following three days of violent protests. The TLP supporters clashed with the law enforcement agencies in several towns and cities earlier this week, leaving seven persons dead and over 300 policemen injured. The TLP chief Saad Hussain Rizvi was arrested. Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA on Friday temporarily suspended the services of social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp to stop their use to organise demonstrations following violent protests. But this time only social media has been particularly targeted as the TLP was reportedly using it effectively against the government.

PM Imran Khan said four policemen have been killed and over 600 injured in the four-day violent clashes. Earlier, the TLP protesters refused to vacate the main roads and highways in Lahore and other parts of the province. In Lahore, Rangers and police launched an operation at the main protest venue of the Islamists at Yateem Khana Chowk, which is the headquarters of the TLP and has the shrine of its founder Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Punjab remained a battlefield as fierce scuffles broke out between the police and the TLP activists. 

Who are the TLP and Saad Hussain Rizvi?

Tehreek-e-Labbaik is known for its countrywide street power and massive protests in opposition to any change to Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The party demands that Sharia law be established as the fundamental law in Pakistan, through a gradual legal and political process. Most of the party’s members belong to the Barelvi school of Islamic thought.

In 2018, when the Dutch politician Geert Wilders announced that he is planning to hold a contest to draw caricatures of  a Religious Leader there were large protests in Pakistan against it. It was in this context that TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi declared in front of the media that he would order nuclear bomb strikes on the Netherlands to destroy the entire country and “wipe them off the map” if he ever became Pakistan’s PM! He is quoted to have said at a press conference in Karachi “If they give me the atom bomb I would remove Holland from the face of the earth before they can hold a competition of caricatures… I will wipe them off the face of this earth.” Eventually Geert Wilders cancelled his proposed cartoon contest citing security risks.

In late October 2020, just after the killing of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty in a suburb of Paris by an 18-year old Chechen refugee, TLP published an article on their official website where they labeled the killer as a “Shaheed” and “Mujahid”. In the same article, they posted a photo of the bloodied severed head of Samuel Paty which the killer initially posted on Twitter just after the killing. The post was deleted by Twitter soon afterwards. 

In Pakistan the TLP came to prominence in November 2017 when it staged a sit-in at the Faizabad interchange near Islamabad and cut off  the capital from the old international airport. Pakistan Muslims League-Nawaz (PML-N) was in the government then and Imran Khan, the current PM and his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party had supported the protest.

Hotbed of Terrorism

If there is any country in the world where terrorism has been adopted as a state policy, it is Pakistan. Its support for cross-border terrorism has not only created mayhem and interfered in other countries, it has destabilized Pakistan itself. Pakistan which functioned with the aid of Islam, Army and America, is now without America. Saudi Arabia which was its second pillar of support does not trust it anymore. Pakistan itself has questioned the sanctity of Saudi Islamic leadership. Killing of Wall Street journalist Daniel Pearl, Pak courts freeing his killers, providing shelter to Osama Bin Laden, US Navy Seal Operation to exterminate him, and its support of terrorism in India has ensured that Pakistan is the hotbed of terrorism. Pak based Islamist terror groups have indulged in Mumbai terror attack, attack on India’s parliament, Pathankot terror attack and have not spared Indian temples too. 

FATF is also fed up with Pakistan and has it under the radar due to terror financing using the Hawala network. Money from Pakistan had reached even the World Trade Center attackers. Pakistan’s ISI has played a direct role in fomenting trouble in Yemen, Afghan, Azerbaijani and many other parts of the world apart from India.

However, today Pakistan itself is collapsing as an effect of its own misdemeanours. The curse of Afghan people who suffered from four decades war where ISI was involved, genocide in Bangladesh, plight of Kashmir Hindu’s and their genocide by Pakistan backed terror groups are all coming back to haunt it. 

The withering of Pakistan state started that moment it adopted exporting terror as a state policy. Now Pakistan is under the grip of the same violent, fundamentalists which it used to target other countries. The neo-Taliban or ISIS or AL Qaeda or Islamic State are trying to take control of the country. A state which has failed on all fronts including economically, politically and socially was trying to act as the custodian of Islam. 

So, is Pakistan heading to become the neo-Taliban State? The events of the past week and the growing protests shows that it could be so.

Towards Complete Talibanisation

Meanwhile women in Pakistan cannot do peaceful protests as the country’s police have registered a blasphemy case against the organisers of Aurat Azadi Women’s Freedom March in a northwestern city. Though a local court dismissed the same charges as having no grounds, Talibanisation of Pakistan is almost compelte. “Since the march, women marchers have been met with countless death and rape threats including a leading newspaper, Daily Ummat, referring to [women] marchers as prostitutes and whores”, observed the women proteters. These accusations and threats have now gone as far as falsely accusing women of blasphemy, an accusation that gravely endangers the lives of women in Pakistan. 

At last one can say that Pakistan has become the neo-Taliban or ISIS or a neo-Al-Qaida State. Its people have been fully radicalized and are emerging dangerous. Due to the hasty mistakes of Pakistan leadership since 1970’s, its people instead of worrying about jobs, development, infrastructure, health are becoming terrorists for the sake of religion. It is said that many have not taken the COVID-19 vaccine as it goes against Islam. 

After the violent anti-French protests last week, the French embassy in Pakistan has advised all French nationals and companies to temporarily leave the country. Soon Europeans, Japanese, Koreans will have to move from Pakistan as it is not a safe place for anyone who does not follow the dictates of the Islamists. For now Pakistan is imploding under its own weight and we can witness more pitched battles between radicals and establishment to take control of the state. Though these developments do not augur well for the region, the graveyard was set by its leaders long ago who allowed their people to turn into terrorists, rioters and extremists ensuring the country and the region suffers today.

(The views expressed are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view and opinions of SamvadaWorld)

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