That people gathered in Lahore, Karachi and other places in Pakistan to hold candlelight vigils to mark the 4th death anniversary of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer shows that the civil society is attempting to come out and express itself in an otherwise closed, suffocating environment. That goons allegedly affiliated with the Sunni Ittehad Council attacked the vigil in Lahore is demonstrative of the ideological divide that continues to exist in Pakistan. One lot celebrates the principles and courage of the murdered whereas the other salutes the piety of the murderer. This isn’t an episode involving fringe elements fighting against a peaceful mainstream society but rather a case of a divide and radicalism that exists within the mainstream society. There are different shades of extremism, different kinds of bias and prejudice, which manifest themselves in various forms. Militants barging into a school and murdering children is one form, and goons storming a vigil, tearing up placards, threatening the attendees and forcing them to leave is another. Since we are yet to completely unite in denouncing elements and the ideology behind the attack of the Army Public School, it is not at all surprising that the attack on the vigil will not be condemned with one voice across Pakistan. Some sections will oppose and some will come out in support.

Pakistan will not defeat terrorists until its society frees itself of its own bigotry and extremism. Be it the TTP or the SIU – no one can be allowed to use force to enforce its ideals on others. Extremism – coming from Barelvis, Deobandis or Shiites – is extremism all the same. Be it Maulana Abdul Aziz refusing to condemn the Peshawar incident or others refusing to condemn a religious fanatic, Mumtaz Qadri, for killing Salman Taseer, it is all deplorable and points towards the same bent of mind. Decades of state policies and indoctrination have left a society that feeds on fanaticism, celebrates it and refuses to acknowledge its many flaws. We’re not just fighting an enemy; we are the enemy.