The Pakistani army uses the TLP to control the civilian government led by Imran Khan

By Sanjeev Sharma

New Delhi, February 11 (IANS): The deal with outlawed extremist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) demonstrates that the Pakistani military is using the group to control the civilian government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Now that it has the upper hand in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021, it looks like the Pakistani military is once again activating its proxies – the religious extremist groups – to further its domestic political ambitions, according to an article by Sameer Patil, Former Fellow, International Security Studies Program, Gateway House.

The 2021 TLP protests in Punjab came as controversy over the appointment of the new chief of inter-service intelligence highlighted differences between Imran Khan and Army Chief of Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa .

Therefore, the military may have used the TLP protests and the ensuing agreement to signal to civilian leaders that there would be political consequences for their actions, if not immediately, then at least in the future, according to the military. item.

“With the deal with the TLP, Imran Khan may have avoided pressure for now, but the challenges for him are far from over. Growing pressure from opposition parties and alliance, speculation over the return of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, collapsing economy — these will further weaken the position of the PTI ahead of the 2023 general elections. Military discontent will only increase vulnerabilities of the PTI, allowing the army to give more importance to its proxies,” he added.

This is worrying, with serious implications for India and counter-terrorism efforts as a whole, as the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has encouraged the Pakistani military to activate its proxies like the TLP. , to advance its domestic political ambitions and to openly support extremist organizations.

This brazen support for the TLP comes as no surprise as the military has used extremist groups like the TLP to send a “message” to civilian leaders, who are working at cross purposes with the military, according to the article.

The TLP, as a Barelvi group, has a unidirectional focus on the issues of ‘Khatm-e-Nabuwwat’ (finality of prophecy) and ‘Tauheen-e-Risalat’ (blaspheming the Prophet). This orientation made it an influential politico-religious group.

The Pakistani military perceives the TLP as a “contained team” that can do their dirty work rather than making them hostile to the state.

Alignment with the military also helps the TLP broaden its base. The group understands the growing vulnerabilities of the PTI to power at all levels – political, economic and foreign policy and exploits them accordingly.

Since the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, radical groups in Pakistan have grown bolder and are challenging the country’s democratic system. Calling for the implementation of Sharia, the activities of the TLP are in line with this trend, he added.

Patronage of the military and a stirring religious issue of blasphemy have made the TLP an influential player in Pakistani politics. The abject capitulation of the civilian government to the TLP has set a dangerous precedent because future civilian governments will also be vulnerable to the coercive actions of extremist groups.

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