It is a shame that a step in the right direction in Pakistan is treated as something abominable. The execution of Qadri and the Punjab Domestic Violence Bill are both things that the federal and the provincial governments should be commended for. Yet instead, we see prominent religious leaders who have both spiritual and temporal power, looking to derail the progress made by the government. The ideological shift necessary to curb extremism in the country relies on small steps such as these, and everyone clamouring for the government to answer for them is allowing extremist thought to flourish in Pakistan.

The government seems affected by all the criticism, and reports of Nawaz Sharif directly looking to placate the protesters is very disconcerting. While the government should attempt to diffuse the situation as amicably as possible, backing down from supporting the law is not an option. There should be no admission of the government having erred in any way, because that undermines the whole narrative of fighting extremism in all its forms.

The reports of Imran Khan and PTI waiting to see where the wind turns before backing the clerics is shameful. PTI has proven time and again that it has absolutely no agenda except to fire cheap shots against the government at every possible opportunity. Using this issue to score a point would be sinking to a new low. The outcome of this flare-up with clerics could potentially have lasting consequences for what happens in the war on extremism. This is beyond politics; it affects the future of the ideological direction the country will take. To add voice to the side that defends a murderer and does not allow for women to take action even when they are being abused is disgraceful.

Contrary to what JUI-F and other religious parties believe, the government is not constitutionally bound to have every law vetted by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII). The CII fulfilled its purpose long ago, and should have been scrapped to begin with. In any case, its recommendations were never meant to be binding. Clerics looking to have a say in government even when they do not represent the people is evidence of their contempt for the law. The only thing Fazl-ur-Rehman can muster is street power. Threatening to take the law into your hands undermines the writ of the state. If the government decides to back down right now, it will lose all credibility to do what must be done to ensure that no more ground is ceded to extremism.