It is not often that we get to commend our law enforcement agencies for vigilance – especially vigilance in matters that had overtime slipped from the public view. Yet police in Karachi were prompt to display their diligence in to “protect the sovereignty of the state” and counter “incitement to violence” when they registered a case on Friday against the editor and the owner of daily Amn over charges of publishing a statement and a picture of Altaf Hussain, the head of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-London.

The police are certainly within their right to charge the paper considering that the Lahore High Court had imposed a ban on publishing or telecasting “anti-state statements” of Altaf Hussain during the height of the crackdown against the MQM. The statement itself – calling for “a separate province for Muhajirs” - can also be characterised as a challenge to Pakistan’s sovereignty. What is surprising however, is the selective nature with which the laws against incitement to violence are imposed.

Altaf Hussain, by now a marginal player in Pakistan’s politics is not forgotten for a moment; the blanket ban on his speech and image is being enforced with a vengeance. But individuals who are actively inciting violence and physically challenging the writ of the state – such as Khadim Hussain Rizvi who is currently leading a defiant protest in Lahore – are treated far more leniently. Similarly publications peddling anti-minority propaganda and spreading hate-speech are busy churning out material, while banners depicting leaders of banned groups – such as Hafiz Saeed – and convicted terrorists – such as Mumtaz Qadri – flutter proudly in major cities like Lahore and Karachi.

The failure of law enforcement to tackle the real problem, and their rabid zeal in enforcing laws where the other party is relatively powerless, show a lack of courage and initiative. The law must be applied evenly – and applied to the greatest and most dangerous offenders first.