Authorities agreed to free more than 2,000 jailed activists, including the group’s chief, on top of lifting a ban on the group that will allow
it to contest forthcoming elections. They also guaranteed to unfreeze the group’s assets and bank accounts under a deal believed to have been finalized by the military’s leadership.
The agreement with the TLP is the third since 2015. The TLP came to prominence under the former firebrand preacher Khadam Hussain Rizvi during a protest campaign for the release of a police guard
who assassinated the Punjab governor in 2011 for demanding the reformation of the blasphemy law.
The TLP is part of the ultra-conservative
Barelvi group, a Sunni Muslim revivalist movement with more than 200 million followers in South Asia and parts of Europe. The TLP has in six years established unrivaled street power and a huge electoral base by exploiting issues such as blasphemy and the finality
During the 2018 elections, the TLP secured 2.2 million votes and became the fifth largest party in Pakistan.
TLP does not have an armed militant wing but it has taken the Barelvi discourse to the mainstream of Pakistani politics.
In 2017, TLP
staged a sit-in at Islamabad on amendments in the election oath. This oath is a declaration by candidates that they believe in the finality of Prophet Mohammad in terms of the Election Act, 2017.
The violent mob, which had laid siege to the federal capital for several weeks, dispersed after a military-forced agreement was signed, meeting all the demands of the Barelvi clerics.
The agreement culminated in the resignation of law minister Zahid Hamid. It reintroduced the electoral declaration and released all TLP activists along with an assurance
that no case would be registered against the TLP leaders and workers after the end of the sit-in.
Former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal, Rizvi
and Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed signed the accord. Rizvi died in November 2020; his son Saad Hussain Rizvi succeeded him.
In November last
year, the group came out to the street again to demand the expulsion of the French ambassador in retaliation for the caricatures of Prophet Mohammad published by a French satirical magazine.
The demonstrations were intensified when France stood to defend their right to freedom of thought. Macron added fuel to the fire when he defended French secularism in the wake of the killing of a teacher accused
of showing the cartoons during a class discussion.
The religious group called off its protest following an agreement with the government through
Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri, former interior minister Ijaz Shah and a representative of the district administration.