The Tehreek-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is back on the streets. And this time it is threatening nationwide agitation. Indeed, in a confidence-builing move of sorts — to demonstrate that it means business — the party held simultaneous rallies in Lahore and Karachi. The one-point agenda was to call for Asia Bibi to be sent to the gallows. Khadim Rizvi, the TLP chief, has from the offset centred his so-called political credentials on the blasphemy question. Indeed, he hero worships the bodyguard who gunned down a sitting provincial governor over the latter’s support for Asia Bibi as well as daring to lobby for blasphemy law reform. Back in November, Rizvi and his cohorts held the federal capital hostage for three weeks over a clerical error in the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat. His critics are right to dismiss him as an opportunist. But this does not deflect from the fact that he knows how to work the crowds for political gain. The Faizabad sit-in certainly helped the TLP go all the way to the Sindh Assembly. This time around, Rizvi has his eyes firmly on today’s by-elections. This is to say nothing of attempts to undermine the Supreme Court’s (SC) probe into whether or not the party fulfils the necessary criterion to be registered as a political entity. Be all this as it may, the ruling PTI cannot afford to dismiss any of this as mere politicking. Not when Rizvi is threatening to prevent the government from functioning if he does not get his way regarding a poor Christian woman who has spent close to a decade in solitary confinement. By means of framing her possible acquittal as “an attack on Islam, the Constitution, and blasphemy law”. For to be clear, if he is allowed to succeed — at the front of the firing line will be the entire Christian community. Prime Minister Imran Khan must address this matter at the earliest; including the fact that the Lahore rally went ahead in violation of Section 144. But more than this, he needs to put an end to this dangerously cruel practice whereby calling for the execution of minorities is viewed as legitimate election campaigning. And this means booking Rizvi and the rest of the TLP leadership for hate speech. While providing Christians and Ahmadis with security wherever possible. This is the very least the Centre must do. Its previous missteps over the inclusion in and then subsequent firing of Dr Atif Mian from the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) naturally exacerbated prevailing trust-deficits. Thus inaction on the blood-baying TLP will likely prompt charges of state-sponsored terrorism by another name. And if that happens, we at this newspaper, will not beg to differ. * Published in Daily Times, October 14th 2018.