As abruptly as the members and followers of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) locked down Lahore last Thursday, this swiftness was also replicated in the negotiations between the group and the government. There was no mention of the grounds on which negotiation was being carried out nor were those terms disclosed. A matter which affected several lives that day and prevented the smooth running of the city was not brought to the forefront after dialogue between both the parties, should have been disclosed to the public. Two demands which have come to the forefront are the registration of the lives lost by TLYRA members during the last Faizabad sit-in, and the dropping of cases against TLYRA leaders.
While the first demand stands correct, the second demand is somewhat problematic. An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) had previously declared TLYRA chief Khadim Rizvi an offender and issued an arrest warrant against him. However due to the recent negotiations, those charges have been dropped and a new case will be filed in light of a new investigation. This move alone discards the legitimacy of the decisions of the court and also sets the precedent of coercing the government into accepting the demands of a group causing chaos on the streets of Pakistan. And this is not an ordinary court that we are talking about here. An ATC is different from the judicial system of Pakistan. Cases picked up by this court are treated differently and individuals are not offered free trials. This precedent alone shows how weak the institution is.
The fact that no political party deems it right to criticise this mode of negotiation is a bit alarming because the governance of a polity follows strict procedures. There is no space for groups indulging in hate speech and coercion, and there are mechanisms for interest aggregation and articulation. If these basic steps are ignored, the state moves towards anarchy.
The silence in the case is deafening. A radical group threatening the state and using the most vile and abusive language possible to engage in hate speech was able to get this kind of treatment from the state, whereas, on the other hand peaceful protests are being shut down. This is going to perpetuate the idea that only chaos, violence and threats lead to cooperation from the government’s side, and will eventually create a very unstable polity for the lawmakers to handle.