Pakistan's Political Future: The Influence Of Tehreek-e-Labaik And Protests

Pakistan's Political Future: The Influence Of Tehreek-e-Labaik And Protests

What incited the protests and what are their implications?
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After Pakistan’s Law Minister allegedly changed a reference to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that the Pakistani oath lawmakers must take, something he claims to be a clerical mistake, he was declared by the mobs as being guilty of blasphemy. As protests erupted in Islamabad last weekend, killing 2 and injuring over 250, incited by none other than the Tehreek-e Laibbaik Pakistan. The group formed after a man shot a Punjabi governor over his criticisms of Pakistan’s vague blasphemy laws, essentially laws that make it illegal to insult Islam (but in reality, these laws do far more than that, as the definition of ‘insult’ is vaguely interpreted). The group has blocked a highway in the capital of Islamabad and is conducting protests throughout the country that are quickly turning violent.

Reuters reported the following: “Activists from Tehreek-e-Labaik have blocked the main road into the capital for the past two weeks in protest after blaming the law minister Zahid Hamid for changing the wording in an electoral oath proclaiming Mohammad to be the last prophet of Islam from “I solemnly swear” to “I believe,” a change the party says amounts to blasphemy.”

While the minister has apologized for the clerical error and changed the wording back, the protestors persist. According to The Washington Post, “The demonstrators had initially called for a federal minister to be fired over a religious controversy, but by midday, many protesters were demanding that entire government step down.” Many have also claimed that the change was made to appease the Ahmadi minority sect, whom the law claims to be heretics.

Tehreek-e Laibbaik, officially known as Tehreek-e Laibbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) is an Islamist Political Party in Pakistan that has been growing in the past couple of years, their main focus being blasphemy laws. This growth is deeply concerning for religious minorities in Pakistan that are often arbitrarily accused of blasphemy, as well as anti-blasphemy activists who see the laws as oppressive.

The eventual Pakistani deployment of the military came a little too late and without an apparent plan. While tensions have been brewing for the last 3 weeks there was no preventative effort, and once the military had been deployed it was clear they had no actual plan on how to de-escalate the situation. Instead, they resorted to controversial actions such as blocking social media, news channels, and YouTube throughout the region. The eventual resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamidi, giving in to the demands of the protestors, is a troubling precedent to set.

The protests come lined with political tensions, whether indirectly or directly responsible for this incitement. The impeachment of the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, a few months back amid charges of corruption, cannot be said to not play a role. BBC News reported: “Since Mr. Sharif's party, PMLN, has considerable standing with right-wing religious voters in Punjab province, many believe the protest by the ultra-right-wing Tehrik Labbaik Ya Rasool-ul-Lah (TLYRA) is aimed at attracting some of that support towards itself.” There is also much speculation that Nawaz Sharif will once again emerge the victor of next year's election in Pakistan, an equally if not more troubling predicament. These events breed an uncertainty about the political future of Pakistan.

Cover Image Credit: Sameer Akhtari / Unsplash

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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Pelosi Deserves Your Respect

Nancy Pelosi has been a staple, leader, and avid fundraiser of the Democratic Party since the 1970s... yet Democrats are actively seeking new leadership.

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Today's college students and young voters have never known a Democratic party without Nancy Pelosi. She represented California's Eighth District in the House for 15 years and held positions on several committees. In recent years, she has served as both Speaker of the House and as House Minority Leader, giving voice to the concerns of those in her party and breaking fundraising records. Democrats proudly supported her as the face of their movement and she successfully served her purpose.

Although her policies have seemingly always been controversial amongst her Republican counterparts, 2010 saw the beginning of a steady decline of her popularity within her own party. In 2010, Republicans regained control of the House, Pelosi lost her position as Speaker, became Minority Leader, and with every party loss, more and more blame was shifted unto her. Even more recently, the election of Donald J. Trump sparked a new wave of resent for Pelosi, and many Democrats have made it clear they want to see new leadership. With a figure so successful and so experienced, it is difficult to imagine why her own party has made such effort to force her out.

Born Nancy D'Alesandro on March 26, 1940, in Baltimore, Maryland, Nancy Pelosi was destined to enter the world of Politics. Her Father was a Congressman, and both her Father and brother served as Mayor of Baltimore. Pelosi graduated from Trinity College in Washington D.C. in 1962, where she met her husband, Paul, and they moved to San Francisco. Even with her strong family ties to politics, she had humble beginnings within the Democratic Party. Pelosi was focused on raising her family first, and volunteered for the Democratic party in California by hosting fundraising parties and assisting with campaigns. Slowly, she made her way up in the ranks and served as California representative to the Democratic National Committee from 1976-1996 while also working as the state and northern chair of the California Democratic Party.

In 1987, Pelosi won a special election for California's eighth district and became a member of the House of Representatives. Within the House, she worked on the Appropriations Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. She avidly fought for increased funding for health care and health care research, housing programs, and improved environmental regulations. In 2002, she became the first female Democratic leader in the House, and in 2006, the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House. Finally, in 2010, she became the House Minority Leader, where she still stands today.

Pelosi's resume is extensive and her passion for public service is undeniable, so why do Democrats feel she has to be replaced amidst their most divisive and chaotic time in recent years? David Wasserman, an editor of "The Cook Political Report," believes it's all Republicans doing. He said in a tweet, "It's just extremely difficult for Ds to argue benefits of Nancy Pelosi's fundraising skills still outweigh the cost of her presence in GOP ads." His argument does carry weight. With the association of Pelosi and the sharp dropoff of unity in the party, Republican campaign ads hit their opposition hard in almost every state by running television advertisements that link the Democratic candidates to the "failures" of Pelosi.

By persistently connecting her to the destruction of her own party, many of these candidates resorted to distancing themselves from Pelosi. One such candidate is Kim Schrier, whose currently running for the eighth district in Washington state. When Nancy Pelosi's team offered funds to assist with a fundraising event for Kim Schrier, Schrier declined, adding she refused to take money from Pelosi. Kim said, "I see the party changing a lot … I think that the leadership needs to reflect the new party and that probably means it's not going to be Nancy Pelosi... I think that the leadership really needs to reflect this new, energized, forward-thinking party."

Another reason the Democrats could be driving her out, one that Pelosi herself has stated herself in the past, is because of her sex. Even though the left prides itself on its progressive social policies and its efforts to ensure equality for all, Pelosi may be on to something. Her record is extraordinary and her ability to unify her party in the past, like when she rallied Democrats to push the Affordable Care Act through, were unprecedented. She was the first woman in United States history to be Speaker of the House and the first woman to be the Democratic Leader in the House. She's fought for universal health care long before it was on the party's agenda as a whole, and she successfully led the party under a Republican president in the past, George W. Bush. Her support for the left has always remained unwavering, and Politico called her "the most successful nonpresidential political fundraiser in U.S. history."

Yet she's been criticized, blamed, and trashed relentlessly by the very people she's been so loyal to. Her male peers such as Bernie Sanders or Charles Schumer never seem to take the same heat from the party that Pelosi does, and her record is equally, if not more so, as impressive. There's no arguing she does her job well, even if you can't agree with her politics. An opinion piece in The Atlantic summarized this perfectly; "For women politicians to succeed, they must defeat and outmaneuver men. Yet the better at it they are, the more detested they become."

Regardless of whether your personal political beliefs dictate your opinion on Pelosi continuing her role as Minority Leader, it's clear she's worked hard and accomplished a great deal in her career. To diminish that and to judge her worth solely on the recent years that the Republican Party has managed to regain control and to blame her for the failures of the left is unjust. The Democratic Party is using her as a scapegoat, and rather than replacing one person and hoping to reunify, they must focus on rebuilding their entire party, rethinking their core ideas, and setting a clear goal for the future that voters can rally behind.

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