Just like the Axact scandal, only when a Western news agency runs a report on a problem that is practically common knowledge here, will people start to pay attention. While this dichotomy needs to be explored further, the ominously smiling portrait of Ghulam Mustafa Chaudary - the leader of the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat Lawyers’ Forum - gives one pause and forces us to deal with the graver danger. A portrait that makes one think that Mumtaz Qadri was the tip of the iceberg.

Indeed he was; an extreme and violent outcropping of a malaise that goes far deeper. Qadri makes the headlines, but the meat and bones of the blasphemy law problem lies with this 700 man strong shadowy organisation, which boldly proclaims that it will secure death for anyone who commits blasphemy - free of cost. The lawyer’s group not only represents complaints free of cost, but sends people to ‘actively persuade’ people to start legal action where none might exist. Recent convictions have deterred - not completely - the rabid cleric with a microphone and his equally rabid mob, but vigilantism was a collateral to the problem, not the problem itself. The problem lies in the mandatory death sentence, and those fanatics who strive to obtain it by hook or crook.

How can a legal group whose sole purpose is to be the purveyor of death allowed to exist in the modern world is anybody’s guess. Their motto, purpose and modus operandi are abhorrent, but as long as the blasphemy law exists, they can safely ply their “trade” and even market it. It is sickening - but legal. The government, if truly adamant at ending extremism must deal with this aberration too - what started with Qadri must continue. It may not be able to render them useless by repealing the law just yet, but it must counter their scare tactics.

There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that intimidation is the group’s go-to policy. A courtroom stuffed with a dozen unnecessary lawyers and a dozen more clerics is appalling. The government must limit admittance to courtrooms in blasphemy cases to those necessary to proceedings. It is equally appalling that the government’s directive, that a senior officer investigate blasphemy cases, is not being followed. Secondly no one expects the state to provide foolproof security to courtrooms and the families of the accused, but reasonable security - even token security - would to wonders to eliminate intimidation.

Finally, short of permanent solutions, the state can beat the group at its own game; provide legal representation to all accused of blasphemy free of cost. The streets near mall road are clogged with lawyers, the government will surely be able to find a few more brave than itself.