Ostensibly fed up with the national court system Jamatud Dawa (JuD) has set up ‘Darul Qaza Sharia’, smack in the heart of Lahore, to dispense ‘justice’ among people in light of Sharia laws. Surely this has to be the final straw – the Gulshan-e-Iqbal attack is not even a month old and the ‘operation’ in Punjab has just started; and it is discovered that a proscribed religious organisation has set up a parallel system of justice based on its own warped interpretation of the Sharia. The government has to shut it down quickly if it wants to maintain any credibility about its anti-terror ambitions. Unfortunately, when it comes to Punjabi extremists, things are not so simple.

The government - and the military establishment too in this case – has consciously disseminated a confusing, vague and contradictory line on the status of organisations such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and it’s off-shoot Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF). PEMRA bans media channels from covering their events, both organisations have been put on the government’s watch list and officials claim all manner of impediments – such as frozen bank accounts and travel bans – have been put on its members. Yet, the organisation is still ‘not banned’, it continues to hold rallies, spread extremist vitriol – such as mourning the death of the Taliban founder Mullah Omar – and it seems to be untouched by the NAP. JuD and FIF exist in a carefully constructed limbo – too radical to be openly supported, too big and useful to be completely condemned.

Yet this uncertainty can be maintained no more. If its extreme religious views weren’t enough, the organisation has gone ahead and challenged the writ of the state. This is not an innocent ‘arbitration panel’ as the JuD spokesperson claims, where people come and go voluntarily. It actively issues ‘summons’ backed by the threat of “strict action” to the accused in its cases – which is the domain of the state. It has also styled itself as a ‘court’, complete with the trappings of one. It has a Qazi (judge) who is assisted by Khadmins (court associates) and has its own court procedures.

The important fact is that even if it manages to present itself as a ‘arbitration body’ the government must look at the bigger picture and not the semantics. Everyone accepts that the government and the military have made great strides against terrorism, but it is it’s tolerance of organisations like JuD that makes everyone question their sincerity and resolve. In operation in Punjab will seem like an eyewash, if the most powerful entities in the land are left un-tackled – especially when the openly challenge the state in the provincial capital of its most populous province.