TLP pakistan protest
Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) Islamist political party chant slogans as they protest against the arrest of their leader in Lahore, Pakistan April 16, 2021. Image Credit: Reuters

Islamabad: The Pakistan government has issued a notification to ban the ultra right-wing Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party under the anti-terrorism laws. The country’s interior ministry issued a notification declaring TLP as a proscribed organisation after the federal cabinet approved a summary to ban the party.

The federal government said that it has “reasonable grounds to believe that the TLP is engaged in terrorism and [has] acted in a manner prejudicial to the peace and security of the country, [was] involved in creating anarchy in the country by intimidating the public, caused grievous bodily harm, hurt and death to the personnel of law enforcement agencies and innocent by-standers, attacked civilians and officials.”

The notification further said that the far-right party “created wide-scale hurdles, threatened, abused and promoted hatred, vandalised and ransacked public and government properties including vehicles and caused arson, blocked essential health supplies to hospitals, and has threatened, coerced, intimidated, and overawed the government [and] the public and created sense of fear and insecurity in the society and the public at large.”

The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) added the TLP to the list of banned terrorist organisations on April 15. The list of such outfits in the country has now reached 79.

The religio-political party TLP, despite being a new entrant in politics, gained more than 2.2 million votes in the 2018 elections.

The Pakistan government decided to ban the party after days of violent countrywide protests resulting in the deaths of at least two police officers. More than 340 policemen were wounded in clashes in several cities of Punjab province after the protesters attacked them with clubs, bricks and firearms. The use of firearms by protestors was described as an “alarming sign” by law enforcement agencies. The government would now approach the country’s top court for the dissolution of the political party.

Ban on media coverage

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has banned the media coverage of the proscribed TLP. On Friday, Pakistan ordered a temporary shutdown of social media platforms and messaging services including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Telegram to maintain the law and order situation on the first Friday of Ramadan amid calls of protests from radical groups.

What sparked the protests?

Protests erupted across major cities in Pakistan on April 12 after far-right religious party TLP chief Saad Hussain Rizvi was detained by security forces in Lahore for threatening countrywide protests if the government did not expel French ambassador over depictions of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) in France.