Could Pakistan Become the New Afghanistan?

 In Afghanistan, Terrorism

The TLP was banned by the Pakistan government in April 2021 under the country’s anti-terrorism law because of its increasingly militant demonstrations to strictly enforce the controversial and often misused blasphemy law. It launched a massive march on Islamabad last month to get its leader released from detention and demand the expulsion of the French ambassador because of the French president’s justification of cartoons portraying Prophet Muhammad in a negative light.

The government signed a secret agreement with the TLP in early November after a two-week-long protest by the group in which scores of policemen were killed and which caused massive economic losses. The deal was reached through the intervention of the army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and has the blessings of the powerful military. While the details of the agreement haven’t been disclosed, it is expected to legalise the TLP’s status as a normal political party and lead to the release of its leader. This is a major about-face by the government and is commonly interpreted as a victory for fundamentalist forces.

This impression is augmented by the fact that simultaneously the Pakistan government announced that it had reached a ceasefire agreement with the TTP, another banned organisation, through the mediation of the Afghan Taliban, which is allied with the TTP. The ceasefire is to last for a month while negotiations continue. The outcome of these negotiations is likely to be legalisation of the TTP in return for an undertaking not to attack Pakistani army assets. Both these deals signify that the civilian and military establishments in Pakistan are increasingly succumbing to extremist Islamist pressure and allowing fundamentalist groups greater space and legitimacy within the political system.

The recent capitulation by the Pakistan government to the demands of the TLP and TTP can be attributed in part to the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been the major supporter of the Taliban, but it appears it is now riding a tiger from which it cannot dismount. One wonders if this is an indication that Pakistan may be going the way of Afghanistan.

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