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Pakistan: Imran Khan Promised A Return To Riyasat-e-Madina, So Why Should He Oppose The TLP Demand For Strong Action Against French Government's Islamophobia?

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

30 October 2021

Pakistan: The TLP on the March Again

Main Points:

1.    The TLP is marching again to pressurize the Pakistan government to sever its ties with France and expel its envoy.

2.    The Pakistan government is dithering in taking a firm stance which is further aggravating the situation.

3.    Imran Khan promised a return to Riyasat e Madina; so why should he now opposed the TLP when they are placing a similar demand?


The Tehreek e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) is on the move again. They are demanding again that Pakistan sever its ties with France, and expels its envoy from the country. The TLP has argued that the government in refusing to accede to their demands is refusing to act against those who had blasphemed the prophet of Islam. It should be recalled that the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo published a series of cartoons lampooning the Islamic desire of martyrdom which many Muslims across the world found deeply offensive. For the TLP, a party which made blasphemy its core issue, this was an opportunity to showcase its strength. They besieged important cities and the capital after which the Pakistani establishment was forced to negotiate with them and accept most of their demands. However, after few months, the same establishment proscribed the TLP as a terrorist organization which gave much relief to those who wanted to contain the blackmail of this Ulama led party. The same confusion within the Pakistan establishment can be seen even now. One of its ministers says that it is willing to talk with the protestors while the others have refused to engage with them alleging that the TLP is being funded by India.

This loss of face and eventual surrender of the Pakistan government has been long in the making and primarily caused by its flirtation with political Islam. Through a series of pronouncement and policy measures, the Imran Khan government promised the people a return to the prophetic times when supposedly equality, justice and welfare were the cornerstone of the state. One doesn’t really know how true is this assertion as most of these concepts were simply foreign to the pre-modern mind. Justice with the Islamic law, for example, was and continues to be, retributive rather than restorative as is the case in modern law. Similarly, Muslims like Imran Khan make the mistake of equating charity with welfarism which is patently absurd. Modern welfarism starts with a nation state devoted to protecting the rights and dignity of individual citizens, something which was in short supply in medieval countries, either Muslim or Christian.

Imran Khan promised the people of Pakistan that he will bring back the Riyasat e Madina, the proto-Islamic state established by the Prophet in which supposedly all the needs of the people were taken care of. He harped on this idea again and again and even went further than Zia ul Haque in fashioning himself as a devout believer. But the very fact that he had to take recourse to Islam meant that there was something fundamentally wrong elsewhere. The economy continued to be in deep distress and the Chinese grip was making itself strongly felt in areas of strategic agreement. The aid economy, on which Pakistan establishment had been dependent on so many years was simply withering away as the strategic interests of the United States shifted away from Afghanistan. Pakistan was in shambles and possibly the only way to keep the hope alive was to make newer appeals to Islam.

Imran Khan, Pakistan Prime Minister


Just look at the new education policy unveiled by the Imran Khan government. It ostensibly seeks to unify Pakistan’s education by proposing a single national curriculum. However, as critics like Pervez Hoodbhoy have pointed out, it is nothing but a political gimmick. The stark differences between private and government schools will remain thus negating any uniformity that the government is promising. The only beneficiary of this policy would be the Mullahs who would be empowered through local textbook committees to ward off any ‘evil and anti-Islamic’ content from the curriculum. They will also benefit from a much larger religious education content within the textbooks. The anti-Islamic content can be anything: from Darwin’s evolution to the ridiculous argument that all women must be shown fully covered in these textbooks. These Mullahs, who have no sense of what science or liberal education entails, will now sit on judgment over how such textbooks should be written and how they should be taught. This would have been a scandal in any sane country; but in Pakistan this has been enabled by the government itself.

((File Photo: Representational)


One doesn’t really know whether people really believe in the promises of Imran Khan. But it is the habit of Muslims that whenever Islam is brought into the picture, they become silent and stop asking questions. Something similar happened in Pakistan; Imran Khan was never questioned how he proposed to bring his heavenly vision down to earth. But he did raise the expectation of the country, especially in relation to adopting religious ways of life. In a way, the TLP movement is trying to pressurize the government to make good on its own promise. After all, it was the government which presented the prophet as the model for the whole of humanity. So, when the TLP asks why is it that the government is silent over the issue of blasphemy, then probably they are asking the right question. When the TLP protestors are demanding that Pakistan should be governed by Sharia laws as during the times of the prophet, what wrong is it committing in placing these demands? If the government itself says that it is committed to revive the Riyasat e Madina, then why is it hesitant to cut off ties with all countries who ridiculed the prophet?

In many ways therefore, it is the government of Pakistan which has engendered this movement. The government cannot now turn back and accuse the TLP protestors of taking the country hostage or acting at the behest of India. If you make Islam as the master political narrative, then why should you stop anyone from demanding the same?


Arshad Alam is a columnist.


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