With the upcoming 2018 elections, there are many important discussions to be had. It is a shame that a clerical error is the cause of an outrage. Sadly, when you would expect the government to be playing a calming and conciliatory role, it has gone ahead and joined the raucous chorus.

Addressing the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Workers Convention at Lahore’s Alhamra Hall on Wednesday, the Shahbaz Sharif said his party had no aim to extract Khatm-e Nabuwat clause from Election Act 2017 and that strict action will be taken against the cabinet member who committed the mistake. These remarks by the Chief Minister are particularly baffling and unnecessary since the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ayaz Sadiq had already clarified that the minor change in words was a clerical error and that the mistake would be rectified.

Not only does this contradict the government’s own story that this was merely a clerical error - by implying that a conscious decision was made on the minister level - it further fans the flames of communal hatred that the government should be actively seeking to extinguish. A national outrage on Khatam-e-Nubawat almost always induces violence on the Ahmedi community, where they caused it or not.

Shahbaz’s incentives are clear. The voter bank of religious parties has grown significantly stronger this year and PML-N has lost some of its right-wing voters, as demonstrated by the NA-120 elections. By this statement, Shahbaz hoped to kill two birds with one rock - pleasing the religious voter base and striking down one member from the new cabinet setup. Moreover, the backlash of this clause has distracted from the main faults of the Act, which are its controversial clauses that have allowed Nawaz Sharif to become president of the PML-N again. It has lead attention away from Nawaz’s pending accountability cases, which is what perhaps Shahbaz wanted.

However, this time, the cost may be too great. With the world’s attention on the topic of terrorism and religious violence being focused on Pakistan right now, communal tension is the last thing Pakistan needs. No one needs to be fired from the cabinet and no one is at fault. The government should quietly put this matter to rest and not undo the commendable work it has done in the past against religious bigotry.

Appealing to the extreme religious viewpoints at the expense of minorities is an old trick that has been used by many politicians, including Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Zia-ul-Haq and Nawaz Sharif. However, PML-N should take note of history’s lesson that the cost of appeasement of parties which can never be appeased enough is too high, especially in such politically sensitive environments.