The bestial madness that descended upon the hapless Christians of Gojra on July 31 and August 1 cannot be described in simple words. The pain and anguish that it caused to the residents of the Christian Colony resulting in the death of nine people and burning of over sixty five homes has been felt throughout the country as there has been widespread condemnation of the heinous act with demands to mete out exemplary punishment to the perpetrators of the crime. The reported presence of masked people with firearms among the mob that attacked and put to torch the homes of the poor residents of the locality is reflective of the dastardly role that religious zealots might have played in enacting the orgy. It is here that the government is faced with a daunting challenge: how to arrest the spread of religious extremism by a miniscule minority of illiterates who are bent upon imposing their decadent script on a vast majority of peace loving people? First Information Report (FIR) has been registered against 17 nominated and 800 unknown people and initial investigations have already commenced. Constitution of a judicial commission to conduct a transparent enquiry into the incident will make sense only if due process of law is unleashed once its findings have been made public and all those found wanting in the discharge of their duties are proceeded against with speed and without exception. While many reasons may have contributed to the carnage, the general perception is that there was an absence of institutional capacity for conflict resolution. The non-provision of intelligence assessment and inadequate and insufficient deployment of personnel of the law enforcement agencies may also have contributed significantly to the ultimate failure to control the situation. These factors assume an enhanced importance in an environment that is already vitiated on account of the presence and influence of the baton-and gun-wielding zealots who are generally immune to reason and logic. In the aftermath of the carnage, rehabilitation efforts are of great significance. This may not help in erasing the pain of death and destruction, but it would at least facilitate a return to some normalcy in the grief-stricken locality. The relief effort should encompass reconstruction of all burnt homes, restoration of all utilities and replenishment of other losses that the inhabitants of the unfortunate colony may have suffered from. But, most important of all, it is in sharing the pain of the victims that one may atone for the heinous crime that has been so brutally enacted in broad daylight. It is a stigma on the conscience of a whole nation that may take years to wash away. In the meanwhile, people belonging to all walks of life - be they writers, poets, religious scholars, human rights activists, teachers, students, traders, businessmen, opinion moulders, lawyers, legislators, media personnel, or simple, common folks - have to rise and condemn in unison the dastardly act. It is in this unity that is forged irrespective of the distinction of class, colour or creed that we may be able to take the first meaningful step on the road to arresting this nauseating slide into religious madness. It is not the responsibility of the government alone, or a select few. The responsibility devolves on the shoulders of all people who have to respond with one voice: a voice of religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence among all segments of the society. Pakistan has been in the grip of religious extremism for a while now. This has been gruesomely on display in the northern regions of the country where the army has been forced to launch a comprehensive operation to wrest the control from the militants and re-establish the writ of the state. Unfortunately, that is the not the only area that has been plagued by the germs of militancy. Another region that is reportedly bursting with this cancer is the southern Punjab. Of note is the display of an extreme level of intolerance toward other religions as well as those who belong to a different sect within Islam. This is simply unacceptable as it would only sow the seeds of hatred and bigotry. Let there be no ambiguity that no religion would tolerate the inhumanity that was unleashed on August 1. It has to be ensured that such incidents are not repeated in the future. Along with taking administrative and judicial measures, this would happen only if a message of love and affection penetrates the wounded souls of those who suffered at the hands of masked criminals letting loose an unprecedented orgy of blood and destruction. That is where the real character of a nation would come forth. Let no one conclude that we are a bunch of beasts hiding behind the masks of fanatics who have hijacked a peace-loving religion for promoting their petty nefarious designs. Let us unite for the sake of cultivating harmony among all segments of the society. Media can play a major role in this transformation by sensitising all tiers of society to the scourge of extremism and the condemnable designs of its perpetrators in disrupting public peace and causing physical harm to those it considers as lying outside its myopic realm. It must encourage steps to create awareness at the grassroots level regarding the evil intentions of this minority of extremists and fundamentalists provoking disharmony and disunity to advance their criminal agendas. The society should come together in the wake of this heinous act and insist on walking a path of tolerance. A credible initiative regarding forging interfaith harmony would be a major step forward in attaining the ultimate objective of establishing the supreme principle of equality of all before law, without discrimination on any basis. This was the dream that propelled the creation of Pakistan and the same was amply spelt forth by its founder on August 11 in his maiden address to the Constituent Assembly. Unfortunately, along the years, its meaning and relevance have been dismantled and over-run by a mad onslaught of bigotry and intolerance. It is time to revisit the ideals of our creation and rekindle the hope for a progressive future that would be found only if we re-enact the ideals for which Pakistan was conceived and created. Reconsidering the Blasphemy Law appears to be a critical requirement for creating an environment of equality and equity. Conversely, a perpetuation of the concept of superiority of a few on the basis of conformity to any particular religion or creed or caste would only provide the fodder for degenerating into further depths of ignominy. The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com