Mainstreaming Extremist Religious Organizations in Pakistan: Challenge or Opportunity?

“Mainstreaming Extremist Religious Organizations in Pakistan: Challenge or Opportunity?”

The event is being organized in light of a series of recent events that have highlighted the attempted entry of known and generally acknowledged extremist religious entities – most prominently the ‘Tehreek-e-Labbaik ya Rasool Allah’, which is now politically known as the ‘Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’, and Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s ‘Milli Muslim League’ – into the mainstream political arena, and the potential consequences of such moves.

The argument often put forward for the mainstreaming of such entities is to encourage a move away from radical or violent activities by creating space and giving these organizations a voice within regulated power structures. However, what we have witnessed instead are situations where the government finds itself a hostage of the demands and ideas of these parties, most recently at the Faizabad ‘dharna’ that held the twin cities hostage for over 20 days, and resulted in the resignation of a Federal Minister on the basis of pressure from a fringe element, whose position and values become validated by allowing their formal entry into the political arena.

The purpose of the Roundtable will be to discuss the impact of the use of ‘street power’ to threaten state institutions and challenge its jurisdiction/authority, the resultant emboldening of other fringe elements, and the impact on the political, legal and socio-economic aspects of public life at large. We hope to encourage an open, candid and productive discussion, aimed at better understanding and devising possible policy recommendations/ways forward for tackling these challenges.

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