Rapid rise of far-right TLP poses dilemma for Pakistan

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief, Khadim Hussain Rizvi. (Photo courtesy: Qazi Shaheer Qadri)
Updated 02 August 2018

Rapid rise of far-right TLP poses dilemma for Pakistan

  • The party’s count was roughly 300,000 votes less than its heavyweight rival Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)
  • Anecdotal evidence showed that in many seats, TLP votes pushed PML-N to second position

ISLAMABAD: The far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has emerged as the country’s fifth-largest party, according to an exit poll survey by Gallup, with analysts predicting it will become a growing legislative force. 
The religious party, founded in August 2015 and led by hard-line preacher Khadim Hussain Rizvi, is the third largest in Punjab, the country’s breadbasket and most populous province, the survey shows.
In a surprise to many political observers, the TLP gained more than 2.2 million votes in the recent election, taking 4 percent from the total vote bank.
The party’s count was roughly 300,000 votes less than its heavyweight rival Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an old five-party alliance. 
Barring Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the TLP crushed all other parties in Punjab, including the mainstream Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). 
Gallup Pakistan (GP), the country’s leading research institution, gathered data from across 127 constituencies and questioned about 4,000 voters.
Imran Khan’s PTI led with a 32 percent share of votes in the polls, according to GP, which used the official results from the Election Commission of Pakistan. The PML-N ranked second with 24 percent of votes.
“Anecdotal evidence showed that in many seats, TLP votes pushed PML-N to second position, one reason for the loss of PML-N seats,” the survey said.
“Another way to look at the numbers is that between the 2013 and 2018 general election, PML-N lost around 9 percent of its vote bank nationally. Of this 9 percent, around 3-4 percent of the vote bank was lost not to PTI but to TLP.”
TLP’s success also dented the hopes of the struggling Muttahaida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in Karachi, the capital of Sindh and second most populated province. Rizvi’s party surpassed the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), a splinter of MQM, and PML-N, winning 12 percent of the vote.
Political analyst Qamar Cheema told Arab News: “Since no party lived up to the expectations of the masses, the lower and lower middle class in the city voted for right-wing Islamists.”
Rizvi made international headlines with his support for Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer’s assassin Mumtaz Qadri, a member of the governor’s security detail who shot and killed Taseer over blasphemy allegations and was subsequently hanged in 2016. 
The Qadri movement, spearheaded by the preacher, drew support from across the nation.
In November 2017, TLP followers blocked Islamabad’s main road protesting against the PML-N-led government’s attempt to amend the “finality of prophethood” constitutional clause. 
Agitators clashed with security forces forcing the army to step in to curb the violence. However, the federation surrendered to Rizvi’s demands, turning him into a so-called people’s champion of religion.
“Pakistan’s politics is facing a new dilemma: The rise of new Islamists and their participation in the democratic process,” said Cheema.

“TLP’s inclusion in provincial assemblies will definitely affect future legislation,” he said.


US opens first round of resurrected peace talks with Taliban

Updated 07 December 2019

US opens first round of resurrected peace talks with Taliban

  • The talks will initially focus on getting a Taliban promise to reduce violence
  • Permanent cease-fire would be the eventual goal, said a US statement

KABUL: US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad held on Saturday the first official talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban since President Donald Trump declared a near-certain peace deal with the insurgents dead in September.
The talks will initially focus on getting a Taliban promise to reduce violence, with a permanent cease-fire being the eventual goal, said a US statement. Khalilzad is also trying to lay the groundwork for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the protracted conflict.
The meetings being held in the Middle eastern State of Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, follow several days of talks in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, where Khalilzad met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
The Taliban have so far refused direct talks with Ghani calling him a US puppet.
Ghani leads the Afghan government with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in a power-sharing agreement brokered by the United States after the presidential elections in 2014 were so deeply mired in corruption that a clear winner could not be determined.
To head off a conflict Washington stepped in and forced the two leading candidates __ Ghani and Abdullah __ to share power in a so-called Unity Government that has been largely paralyzed because of the relentless bickering between the two leaders.
The Afghan government is now embroiled in a fresh elections standoff. Presidential polls on Sept. 28 again ended in accusations of misconduct and corruption, with no results yet announced.
Repeat leading contender Abdullah has challenged the recounting of several hundred thousand ballots, accusing his opponent Ghani of trying to manipulate the tally.
Meanwhile, Khalilzad’s return to his peace mission followed Trump’s surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to Afghanistan in which he said talks with the Taliban were back on.
While Khalilzad is talking to the Taliban about reducing violence, the US military in its daily report said overnight on Saturday US airstrikes killed 37 Taliban and operations by the Afghan National Security Forces killed another 22 of the militants.
The insurgents have continued to carry put near daily strikes against military outposts throughout the country. They now hold sway over nearly half of Afghanistan.
Trump has expressed frustration with America’s longest war repeatedly saying he wants to bring the estimated 12,000 US soldiers home and calling on Afghanistan’s own police and military to step up. The Afghan government has also been criticized for its relentless corruption.