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Blasphemy at the core

The TLP has said in a statement that “we announce ending the sit-in in Wazirabad”.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Pakistan government’s decision to lift the ban on the hard-line entity, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has been greeted with collective jaw-dropping by large sections of the intelligentsia in the country.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to abrogate the decision comes after the outfit agreed to call off its recent anti-government protests in which 20 people were killed, almost half of them policemen.

The TLP, it bears recall, was banned in April this year after violence perpetrated by the group had forced the government to expel the French ambassador over the publication of allegedly “blasphemous” caricatures in a journal in France.

The government in Islamabad last Sunday issued a notification to remove the Islamist party from the list of proscribed entities. Most particularly, the TLP has agreed that in future it will follow the law. On October 18, it would be pertinent to recall, the TLP had launched protests from Lahore to Islamabad to pressure the government to expel the French ambassador and release its chief, Saad Rizvi.

At least 21 people, including 10 policemen, died in the confrontation between TLP activists and law-enforcement authorities. As it transpired on Monday, a “secret agreement” was concluded with the group by the authorities in dominant Punjab province when activists in course of their march had reached Wazirabad town on the Grand Trunk Road.

The protesters had been camping in Wazirabad since then. On Monday, they called off their sit-in. According to the Punjab government, the release of the TLP chief is “still days away”. There is considerable controversy over whether or not the expulsion of the French ambassador, one major TLP demand, has been conceded.

The TLP has said in a statement that “we announce ending the sit-in in Wazirabad”. The protestors will now move to their headquarters in Lahore after half of their demands are fulfilled, going by the terms of the agreement. “The TLP hopes that the government will fulfil the remaining demands of the agreement within the promised time”.

The Punjab government has released 1200 TLP workers who had been arrested during the clashes with the police in Lahore. Central to that clash of shields is Pakistan’s allegedly repugnant law on blasphemy. Some years ago, the Governor of Punjab province was killed by his security guard for a perceived act of blasphemy.

More recently, a girl child was brutally punished by the clerics in her locality. Once again, the charge was trumped up ~ desecration of the Quran. It is time for Pakistan to rationalize the blasphemy law in accord with the certitudes of humanity.

In a civilized society, there is no scope for unsubstantiated allegations, especially those made in furtherance of an extremist agenda that sees a theocratic state as its final goal.