TLP is the Naya face of Naya Pakistan. It has emerged over the past 2 to 3 years from obscurity.  It shot into prominence over the past six months through its edicts and strictures on blasphemy. Initially the issue was internal to Pakistan. It went international after the Charlie Hebdo cartoons on Prophet Muhammad. The growth of this organization has been inorganic and exponential. It has found resonance all over Pakistan across substantial sections of Pakistani society. It has entered the hearts and minds of the uniformed personal of Pakistan who are taking cudgels up for it. The recent protests have brought it into national and international prominence. The TLP represents a phenomenon beyond the normal realms of radicalism. The movement is not a jihadi phenomenon. It represents the mindset of a society which Is increasingly intolerant philosophically and continuously weakening economically. Normal analysis will not describe this movement.  There are various facets to this story. I have attempted to capture some facets of this in my articles The Five Cancers of Pakistan and Pakistan’s Societal Fracture . I have examined the TLP contextually along with other issues plaguing Pakistan. I’ve discussed the phenomenon in a discussion with Sree Iyer of P Gurus. The Video is embedded in this article. 


The most important aspect of the TLP is that the Government of Pakistan has capitulated . to the movement and Pakistan Army has adopted a stance of a scared bystander.  Just think of this. The Pakistan Army Chief goes to the French embassy and reassures the staff and requests them to continue to stay in Pakistan. A day later,  Pakistan Government takes up the issue of expulsion of the French Embassy in the National Assembly. It then reaches an agreement with the TLP. The protests are called off. Further all cases registered against activities of the banned outfit have been withdrawn. That is the current status. 


For all Pakistan watchers, I have put together excerpts from articles written by Pakistanis. These articles are from different viewpoints. It gives you an inside perspective of the TLP and where Pakistan is heading. You could draw your own conclusions and make your own analysis. All the best. 



The Impending Capitulation of the State


Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Tuesday announced that the government will present a resolution on the expulsion of the French ambassador in the National Assembly later today….Rashid said that the TLP had agreed to call off protests across the country. “Talks with the party will continue,” he said….The minister said that cases registered against TLP workers under the Fourth Schedule will also be withdrawn


The Fanatic PM


Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said although his government and the recently proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) had the same goal to end incidents of blasphemy around the world, their methodologies to deal with the issue were different.…”I assure you that the purpose of the TLP for which they’re bringing people out, that is my purpose as well and that of my government”….no such demonstrations or demands to expel the French envoy were seen in other Muslim countries…If we send the French ambassador back and end relations with them then this means we will break relations with the European Union…Half of Pakistan’s textile exports are to the EU… and if they are discontinued, it will result in unemployment and the closure of factories in the country. Because textile is the country’s primary export sector, it will also put pressure on the rupee and give rise to inflation and poverty…..So the loss will be ours, not of France…


Descent into Fanaticism


VERY recently, we witnessed the occurrence of two terrifying incidents of vigilante justice, and although they were separated by many miles, whatever they lacked in geographical proximity, they made up for in a unified ideology — both were carried out in the name and on the pretext of religion. …First, there was the horrific murder of Imran Hanif, a bank manager in Quaidabad, who was gunned down in broad daylight by a security guard employed at the same establishment. Although later reports indicate that there may have been an element of personal enmity involved (apparently the two had had an earlier tiff), once the deed was done, the guard declared the manager a blasphemer. This was not murder, he asserted, but an execution. His motive was pious — all he wanted was to avenge the honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). …As word spread, a throng of people gathered around the killer. But, rather than decry the fact that he had taken another life, they showered him with admiration and praise. ..Videos made shortly after the incident depict the murderer not being taken into custody but marching to the police station, boldly and defiantly. And he does not march alone. Escorting him is a whole coterie of fans. They are in thrall, it appears. One kisses his cheek, overwhelmed by emotion. Another caresses him, almost in awe, as though he is an object of reverence. As for the rest, they rally behind and around him, making videos and snapping pictures and chanting slogans….. The second incident took place at Kohat University of Technology, and is eerily reminiscent of the brutal lynching of Mashal Khan only three years prior. A young student accused of posting blasphemous content on social media was assaulted by a gang of his colleagues — on university premises, no less. Thankfully, due to the timely intervention of the vice chancellor (VC) the student was escorted to safety and law-enforcement agencies promptly alerted. This, however, was not the end of the saga…As anti-riot police arrived, students put the entire campus on lockdown. They shuttered the gates and besieged the VC’s office, demanding that the student be expelled, failing which they would be forced to kill him. It was only when the VC issued a formal notification of expulsion that the mob of pupils finally relented. 


Inequality and Ideology


…State-centred analysis of the TLP should therefore be supplemented by tracing the entity’s origins and continued existence among the complexities of society….One such line of analysis makes the role of inequality and poverty a pertinent one. Visuals and reportage from TLP gatherings, protests, rallies, and riots lend further credence to this perspective, which can be crassly summarised as ‘the lumpen masses enraged’. The slightly longer version of this argument sees the late Khadim Rizvi’s charismatic authority striking a chord with poor people around the country, translating their poverty-induced anxieties into electoral support and seasonally assertive rage….One critique proffers that Pakistan is a poor country and any reasonably large political/social phenomenon would carry significant involvement of poor people. Just by force of demography, that doesn’t mean the movement itself is of poor people. There may be some quantitative truth to this proposition; TLP clearly speaks to a section of the poor, not all of it. At the same time though, an outright dismissal ignores the proportionality of public support that TLP draws from subaltern groups. Exit poll data, while imprecise, suggests that the median TLP voter is poorer than the median voter for other mainstream parties, while a higher share of TLP in urban and peri-urban constituencies points to an inequality and rural-to-urban migration story…

Six years ago, while doing research in a large wholesale marketplace in Lahore, I caught a glimpse of the refractions that make something like the TLP possible. As public spaces, bazaars act as sites where not just goods but also ideas are exchanged and practised, as well as where inequality is produced and replicated. The bulk of a market’s population consists of informally employed, perennially exploited shop workers, helpers, hawkers and vendors. Many are young, recent entrants to the city from rural areas, or what government labour data would coldly classify as ‘unskilled migrants’. They live and work in adverse conditions, with non-existent protections, and the contingent generosity of patrons and employers as their only material insurance.


And it is in this backdrop that religious organisations have carved out significant space for themselves. In recent years, the Barelvi revival has led to the numbers of such affiliate organisations mushroom; these organisations then frequently take on the task of organising public events (bayaans and mehfil-i-milaads, for example) and localised acts of philanthropy. For the urban poor, it’s not just about free food and the occasional handout, as crass theories of patronage would have us believe. These events help propagate ideas and develop cultural understandings of the world in very localised idiom, often by linking material inequities to moral failures and global machinations. In contrast, the political and cultural mainstream has no response or theory for either of these concerns.

But beyond conduits of ideology, these events also act as viable public entertainment and an integral source of social bonding. Assisting local religious figures in organising them — in simple tasks of laying out the daris, helping distribute food, collecting alms from local residents — helps build fraternal ties among the unrooted and gives cultural purpose and a sense of dignity in a deprived landscape with few alternative sources for either. That reservoir of social solidarity then reproduces itself in public form, including through collective acts of violence.


The TLP has not only become an internal security threat but is also hurting Pakistan’s international image and its relations with the world. The state has been tolerating the group for many years overlooking domestic and international concerns. Certainly, the state institutions have their own assessments and calculations.


What Does The State Really Want


The TLP’s street saga this past week revealed the potential strength of the new leadership of the organisation and its cadre. For one, the street power of the group is still intact despite a relative decrease in its verbal ferocity or hate speech after the death of its founder Khadim Hussain Rizvi, whose memory will continue to inspire the TLP support base for a long time. But his demise may have offered the state institutions the opportunity to limit the bargaining power of the group. The assessment may have its pros and cons, but the future of such groups would depend on the state institutions’ approach towards them. If the state continues seeing these groups through a political lens they will continue thriving in one way or another. And as in the past, they will resurface, and be allowed to operate, with different names, and will continue exploiting the religious-ideological and sociocultural sensitivities of the state and society….However, the TLP is merely an expression of the poor and retrogressive political and religious-ideological ‘scholarship’ in the country to which many actors and factors have contributed, ultimately nurturing a unique code of linking power to religion. The code in particular defines the relationship between state institutions and religious forces. The code only promotes a narrow worldview, discourages questioning, and insists on believing in a self-created utopia. But how to deal with a relationship if it becomes ugly or burdensome? Through negotiations or coercive means? Both ways are tricky.


Banning Mr Rizvi


And though the TLP’s methods are splattered with blood — bludgeoning policemen to death, threatening judges, persecuting minorities, and leaving Covid patients to die — some voices still call for its continued freedoms. These mostly belong to the same powdered classes that Rizvi’s men would like nothing better than to beat with sticks. 


In all this finger-pointing, the core problem remains the same: class. Far removed from the buttoned-down Jamaat, Maulana Fazl’s wheeler-dealers, and the Sunni Tehreek’s murdered leadership, TLP has struck a chord with poor people that the religious right hasn’t in years. 

Khadim Hussain Rizvi was an appallingly effective speaker in Punjabi, besides being fluent in Iqbal, Sultan Bahu, and Sufi poetry. His men not only filled the void of a Barelvi mass movement — to the dismay of their Deobandi rivals — they also emerged as the party of the young, the angry, and the very, very poor.




  1. Sir, You missed out “France vs Pakistan’s elite vs the TLP” by Mosharraf Zaidi in The News. It is very interesting.

  2. Very good compilation. Congratulations

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