When critics equate the Jammat-ud-Dawa (JuD)with terrorist organisations like the Taliban, its defenders – usually found sitting in the parliament or wearing stars and stripes on their shoulders – claim that even if it is propagating an extremist ideology, at least it refrains from using violence. The fact that it peacefully ‘orders’ the forfeiture of animal skins across Punjab on Eid and that it calmly offers funeral prayers for a mass murderer in Mullah Mansour does nothing to contradict the establishment’s narrow view of the word ‘peaceful’.

However, one hopes that forceful kidnapping, threatening, and drugging a person would qualify as ‘violent’ in the establishment’s handbook. The property dealer who had been pursuing litigation in the Lahore High Court against the religious organisation’s self-styled ‘Shariat Court’ was briefly kidnapped, intoxicated and threatened by two unidentified men on his way to the court on Tuesday – who told him to drop the case against JuD or face consequences. Is it still the benevolent charity organisation that the establishment fawns over?

Let’s put this in context; not only has the JuD – a banned organisation nationally and a terrorist organisation internationally – established a parallel justice system in metropolitan Lahore, which dishes out a warped version of Shariah law and threatens respondents with violent conduct if they don’t follow the “summons”. It now also sends out goons to beat and threaten anyone who tries to take action against this illegal ‘court’. Far cry from a “voluntary” arbitration centre is it not?

The illegal activities of JuD keep piling up and the government keeps ignoring them, perhaps in sympathy to their cause, perhaps out of fear. In both cases the lions of Lahore – the ruling PML-N – are shirking from their duty to the public, and in doing so appear no more menacing than kittens. This party promised it would never bow its head to religious extremism after the APS attack, yet here is extremism running amok in their stronghold, and they stand powerless.

Unsurprisingly, the ever diligent Lahore DIG (operations) Dr Haider Ashraf said he was not aware of the incident yet and sought time for his official response. Later calls made to his mobile phone remained unanswered. He must register an FIR, arrest the culprits, and shut down this fake ‘court’.

As for the real court – the mighty third pillar of the state – it is time for them to establish their authority and hand down harsh sentences to the JuD. No one will believe in the legitimacy of the judiciary if there are a group of uneducated clerics defying its authority a few kilometres away from the High Court. Just as no one will believe Shahbaz Sharif’s overzealous speeches and punching of tables if he shies away from the real fight.