On the heels of the state admonishing a rights movement that has pointedly been peaceful in the protests, comes the resignation and withdrawal from the political sphere of an actor that has been the instigator of a much more violent and nefarious agenda. Firebrand Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) patron-in-chief Pir Afzal Qadri – second only to the notorious Khadim Hussain Rizvi - has announced his retirement from the movement and issued an apology for incendiary remarks made by him during a protest against the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Aasia Bibi. From the appearance of the cleric, and the comprehensively apologetic statement, it seems that the rogue politician has been bought to heel – how and by whom, still remains a mystery.

Regardless of the fact that the inner workings of this surrender are unknown, it is unquestionably a commendable achievement. The impunity with which the religious group had laid siege to the nation was a disturbing reality; creating doubts on our law enforcement agencies’ ability, and willingness, to tackle the group. The “protective custody” under which the TLP chief and its patron-in-chief languish is still a far cry from what violent perpetrators, which they are, deserve under our laws. However, as long as the group is being dismantled and prosecuted, the slow pace can be accepted.

More important than a legal sentence is the group’s repentance from their hate-filled policies. The fact that Pir Afzal Qadr apologized for his remarks and actions regarding the Aasia Bibi case – a case that was a touchstone of the blasphemy debate – is extremely significant. The message it sends out to those who proscribe to such beliefs is strong and necessary one; it is not simply enough to punish, the groups must be made to understand the error of their ways. It is hoped that wave of actions against such violent organizations continues – and in this particular case, the ring leader be bought to the same end.