Our institutions never fail to surprise. In a recent case, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has allotted the election symbol of ‘crane’ to a newly emerged political group known as Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). The leader of the group is no one else but Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Khadim Hussain came to prominence on the national screen when he openly defended Mumtaz Qadri for his brutal killing of Salman Taseer, former governor Punjab.

The move is comes as a greater shock considering that the ECP refused to give a election symbol to Milli Muslim League (MML). The refusal was based on a letter from interior ministry in which the ministry declined to issue security clearance to the newly formed political organization. The letter of the ministry read that allowing any such party involved in any terrorist activity would go against the spirit of National Action Plan (NAP). This is solid reasoning, which should be used by the ECP to censure all extremist political parties – but it seems the body cannot apply any principle consistently.

Comparing the literature and ideologies both the groups follow, it’s not hard to tell that TLP is far more dangerous than MML. The leaders of TLP openly preach intolerance and hatred against minorities and other Muslim sects. Such provocations make the party a sectarian organization. The toxic literature and hate-based content of this party’s leaders are not only available in print form but also present on social media sites, making any ECP claim of ignorance untenable.

It seems that the ECP has shirked its responsibility for giving a green light to a political party whose manifesto revolves around certain religious sentiments and issues that can be abused at any time against anyone. In the recently held by-elections on NA-120, a nominee of the party also contested the polls. His posters and banners carrying pictures of a convicted murderer and terrorist, Mumtaz Qadri didn’t catch the attention of the ECP as well as the interior ministry, while posters carrying MML’s symbol and Hafiz Saeed’s pictures did.

The ECP needs to withdraw the election symbol it has allotted to the said group. Also, interior ministry needs to be more watchful as such organizations start operating under different party and group names. If the Interior Ministry is serious in the implementation of NAP, it should ban all such parties and groups that feed themselves on hate against others.