Calculated optimism over govt’s decision to treat TLP as ‘militant party’

Fawad Chaudhry announced on Wednesday TLP will be dealt with as a militant organization and wiped out like other terror organizations

Federal Interior Minister Fawad Chaudhry has said that the government will annihilate the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) like all other terror groups in Pakistan – a statement that has been applauded, albeit skeptically.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Chaudhry said that no one had the audacity to ‘blackmail’ the state and that the TLP would be treated like a ‘militant party’ instead of a political one. He added that several security personnel were martyred because of the ongoing TLP protests. The PTI minister said that the shift in stance towards TLP came about because of a meeting headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan with military and intelligence agencies.

Several voiced support for Chaudhry’s and by extension Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI’s) stance to obliterate the proscribed TLP.

Former senator Farhatullah Babar appreciated the government’s fresh stance and suggested that TLP’s ‘patrons’ being investigated would be a good start. Babar added that pictures of TLP’s 2017 protest may help in this regard.

Middle East and North Africa (MENA) analyst Ravale Mohydin applauded the government for calling TLP a militant organization as was their true essence. She said that TLP had no interest in a prosperous Pakistan and that the state should be above all.

Brookings Foreign Policy Fellow Madiha Afzal said that years of appeasing TLP led to violent clashes between them and security forces, but it appeared that the government was finally ‘putting its foot down’.

A user compared Chaudhry’s commitment to getting rid of TLP to that of the Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed. He said that Rasheed was a ‘coward’ who left Pakistan in the middle of TLP’s protests, furthering that TLP should be treated like a ‘terrorist organization’.

One user suggested that bank accounts of TLP members should be banned with haste.

While many supported the government, others were bothered by the shaky stances and the delayed action. A ‘concerned citizen’, Musadaq Zulqarnain, wondered why the government couldn’t have a solid stance on such groups, adding that the ‘nurturing’ of such elements made the country suffer time and time again.

The news also drew the attention of global spectators. Asia Program Deputy Director Michael Kugelman said that Pakistan had announced a landmark shift in approach towards TLP, which could reap both short term gains and detrimental long-term impacts. He furthered that a ‘military assault’ could agitate the radical elements, thereby enhancing empathy for it. Kugelman said that TLP’s ideological base had to be shaken as much as the group itself.

In the middle of supporters and skeptics, journalist Salman Masood described the trajectory of TLP’s relationship with the government. He said that TLP was treated like a ‘proscribed group’ before a ‘militant party’. Earlier, it was treated like a ‘political party’, said Masood, adding that before that it was dealt with as ‘one of our own’.

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