Some issues in this country are so sensitive that they should not be used for political clout either by the opposition or the government. The three day protest against the Supreme Court verdict in the Aasia Bibi case, and the subsequent vandalism that it caused, is one of them. Unfortunately, it appears that this issue has not brought people together as politicians, and especially the government, use it to sling mud at each other.

The recent statement by Minister of State Sheheryar Afridi illustrates this. During a speech in the Senate, the Minister of State said that activists of some political parties, including PML-N were behind the incidents of violence across the country during the three-day protest. While emphasising that investigations were under way and that those who had taken the law into their own hands and were involved in violence would not be spared, Afridi also said that TLP were not responsible for the lawless behaviour and that the state would engage them in dialogue.

While there may be differences of opinion in how the government handled the protests and the subsequent agreement with the TLP, PTI’s arresting of protesters who broke the law has been appreciated throughout. Even TLP apologised for the disturbance it caused, showing the consensus throughout the country against the lawless tactics adopted by the protesters. Allowing those who broke laws, caused disruption and distress on the road and invoked violence is indefensible by all parties, even the TLP itself. It is thus bizarre why the Minister of State is insisting on choosing to politicise the utterly indefensible violence that occurred and deflecting blame on the opposition, while trying to excuse the real culprits.

The sort of un-publishable and volatile statements released by TLP leaders against judges and the Army Chief definitely show that TLP at least incited violence, if not outright caused it. In this backdrop where PML-N leaders are arrested for contempt of court on the slightest statements, it does not make sense for Afridi to chide criticism of TLP’s derogatory comments. Nobody is demanding bloodshed or outrest but that does not mean the state should start indulging in apologist statements for a party which caused the country to shut down for three days. 

Investigations are still underway- thus it is not fair to throw around unsubstantiated allegations against PML-N, especially when large parts of the evidence points to other culprits. While government is in its rights to opt for a peaceful process of negotiation, the worst step it could take is to politicise this process and try to target the blame on opposition parties.