Opinion: What did the govt gain by signing an agreement with TLP?

November 5, 2018

What did the federal government gain by signing an agreement with TLP to end country-wide protests against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi?

The topic was explored by ‘Agenda 360’ hosts Haider Waheed and Abdul Moiz Jafferii.

Last week, the Supreme Court acquitted Aasia Bibi in a blasphemy case. Following the verdict, the right-wing parties, led by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, staged sit-ins across the country, paralysing the country for three days. On Friday, the protests ended after the government and TLP signed a 5-point agreement.

Commenting on how things unfolded, Waheed said, the government had two options on how to deal with the protesters. “First was the crackdown, conduct an operation against the protesters and disperse them, or build a counter narrative and explain what really happened.”

Waheed said that the top court did not say whether Aasia Bibi committed blasphemy or not. All it said was that the charge of blasphemy against her could not be proven and acquitted her, he explained.

Soon after the protests erupted, Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation and warned the protesters not to force the government to take an action, giving an impression that the government will not bow down to protesters’ demands.

However, the government had to agree to their demands. “The elements who declared the chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court wajibul qatal and the army chief ‘non-Muslim’ were given assurances that the government will put Aasia Bibi’s name on the ECL,” said Waheed.

The government also assured that it will not oppose the writ petition filed against the acquittal and those who arrested during the unrest will be released.

“I’m not against the negotiations but after all that was said and done by the protesters, is a simple sorry enough?” he asked. “How will the government treat the people who engage in similar acts in the future? Will they also be forgiven?”

‘Temporary relief’

Waheed said all that the government has gained is just a few days. Such agreements provide temporary relief but a day will come when this will not be enough, he added.

The protesters said that they will come out on the streets again if the ruling on the review petition is not as per their wishes, Waheed said.

Commenting on the review petition filed against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi, Jafferii said the purpose of the review petition to address an “error floating on the face of the record”, a glaring mistake which is visible to anyone.

Any lawyer would tell you that in 99% of the cases, the review petitions are declined, said Jafferii. In such a case, the only thing that the government has gained is that they will now have time to prepare for more protests.