Islamabad [Pakistan], May 21 (ANI): Amid the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has emerged as a potential next big terrorist threat to the world after the Taliban.
The past years of US occupation of Afghanistan, as well as various geopolitical changes, may mean that Pakistani intelligence and army may have to find another proxy to achieve multiple objectives such as keep the Taliban in check in Afghanistan and to continue terrorist activities while maintaining an internationally clean image to receive aid from multilateral and bilateral donors in the west, which effectively keep its economy alive, writes Vas Shenoy for Inside Over
The TLP is one such candidate. It has challenged the Pakistan state writ in the past few weeks by indulging in rampant violence and arson. The Pakistani army strongly supports this "new" radical offshoot of Islam, given its challenges controlling the Taliban and is encouraging the development of the TLP as a proxy.
Other proxies of the Pakistani establishment are Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), who are running terrorist training camps.
The TLP was banned by the Pakistani government on April 15 due to its grassroot civil disobedience and violence. It was founded with the principal objective of upholding the honour and teachings of Prophet Muhammad by all means.
"This translates into violence against all minorities, Islamic or otherwise and those who are seen to challenge Islamic principles including other Sunni sects such as the Deobandi and Ahmadiyyas," Shenoy said.
Furthermore, most party members follow the Barelvi school of Islamic thought, which has a massive following in South Asia and parts of Europe and the US. It was once considered to be relatively peaceful and more liberal than the Deobandi school.
Many of the Barelvis joined the Sunni Tehreek group in 2001 after their return to Pakistan. The group has considerable influence in Karachi and Hyderabad, Sindh as well as Pakistan's Punjab province.
The Sunni Tehreek and other extremist groups hailed Qadri, a Barelvi, as a savior and threatened all who opposed the blasphemy law, informed Shenoy for the Inside Over.
After Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was killed by his guard, Mumtaz Qadri, over his statements and actions against anti-blasphemy law, the Sunni Tehreek's founder Khadim Hussain Rizvi and others criticised Qadri's guilty verdict and his eventual hanging.
"The army saw an opportunity in the TLP and its dynamic leader Khadim Husain Rizvi. In Rizvi and his group, the Generals found a useful tool to check the power of Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan Muslim League in Punjab, sharif's home turf. Rizvi's influence in Punjab increased exponentially with imminent elections and as the army expected, Sharif lost a sizable part of his support base to the Rizvi led extremists," wrote Shenoy.
Since then, the TLP has played a vital role in making headlines by creating a civil disturbance in Punjab and other provinces first against the Supreme Court order to release Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy, as well as strongly opposing changes in the blasphemy laws, resulting in the resignation of the then Minister for law and Justice Zahid Hamid in 2017.
Rizvi took the central stage in protesting against French President Emmanuel Macron, who condemned all forms of terror after a teacher was beheaded in Paris in 2020 for allegedly displaying cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed.
Since Rizvi's death in November 2020, his son Saad Hussain Rizvi has been appointed the "Ameer" of the party and the group remained in the forefront of agitation over issues of blasphemy and insult to the Prophet Mohamed, said Shenoy.
Last month, the TLP took the streets in Punjab and Islamabad and engaged in extreme rioting and arson, demanding Prime Minister Imran Khan to expel the French ambassador. After the police arrested Saad Rizvi, the violence intensified leading to a ban on the party.
"The army's deafening silence over this issue raises the specter of TLP being primed to lead a new wave of terrorism in the region, especially given the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan," said Shenoy.
Barelvi militancy has spread even beyond Pakistan. This is exemplified when a radicalised Barelvi killed another Muslim shopkeeper in Scotland for disrespecting Islam in 2016 and the Barelvi Dawat-e Islami movement held a public meeting in the German city of Offenbach where speakers celebrated Salman Taseer's assassin and openly threatened all blasphemers with death in 2019.
In 2020, Zaheer Hassan Mahmood, a follower of Rizvi and a member of the Dawat-e-Islami movement, stabbed and seriously injured two people in Paris, claiming to "avenge insults to the Prophet".
The TLP is a potential new instrument for the Pakistani army to subvert the political process, to counter other ethnic, religious and sectarian movements against the state, and to replace terrorist groups like LeT and JeM which have too much of a liability for the army, opined Shenoy.
"In the coming months the rise of more brutal and vicious armed groups inspired by the TLP will only increase the blood spilled by terrorism in South Asia," he said. (ANI)