For its residents, Pakistan always seems to be on the verge of momentous events. A mass terrorist attack, a political assassination, a frenzied mob, or a half-baked attempt at regime change; such events are not only expected by the citizens, but taken in stride by an increasing stoic populace. Instead we raise our heads in wonder only to witness those rare events when the nation takes a momentous step in the right direction. On Monday, Mumtaz Qadri – a murderer, terrorist and religious demagogue – was executed in Adiala Jail in the hours before sunrise for the murder of Salmaan Taseer, and the day broke on a changed Pakistan.

Many thought this day would never come; the extremist religious lobby has been adamant to protect its so-called champion and violence is their preferred method of negotiation. On cue scattered protests broke out across the country of various severity, and thus it must be stated with absolute conviction that the state was brave to take such a step which invited known backlash. It must also be commended for thinking ahead and preparing for this backlash – something that it has often forgotten to do in the past – law enforcement was placed on key location and traffic diverted in advance. Now the government must remember that this vigilance needs to continue long after the hanging; the extremist groups have been known strike soft targets and even families of officials to exact revenge. This threat becomes increasingly ominous once we consider the atmosphere the hanging comes in; the NAP has pressurised religious groups, and recent legislation has angered others. The state has been brave, and for good cause.

Mumtaz Qadri has been an icon of an extremist ideology and his hanging, amid all these perils, is a strong statement of the state’s resolve to end this menace – a stronger statement than any raging speech or proposed policy could be. Just like the APS attack, this event can be another turning point in this protracted battle, one that signals that it is possible to win.

Finally, this victory does not only belong to the state authorities, it belongs to everyone who did the right thing from the start. From the lawyers and judges who took up the case to the anonymous policemen who protected them. It extends to the politicians and journalists who argued for the case and the Supreme Court judges who adjudged that criticism of blasphemy law is not blasphemy. Today these people – hunted and threatened – are right to feel proud.