If there was a true spectre haunting the Pakistani state, and particularly Islamabad, it is Maulana Abdul Aziz. After years of being continually dismissed from his position of leading prayers, and attempts to depose due to his repeated controversial and despicable statements, Abdul Aziz still always manages to resurface back, relatively unscathed. Perhaps it is the man’s influence, perhaps it is the fact that the state has a soft corner for him.

The last round of talks between the administration and the cleric started on Friday morning and concluded less than an hour before the prayers. The talks started because Shuhada Foundation of Lal Masjid had announced on May 8 that Maulana Aziz would lead the Friday prayers and deliver a sermon on May 11 after a gap of over three years. This prompted officers of the local administration to coordinate with the cleric in the new Jamia Hafsa. The officials told the media that the Maulana had agreed not to visit the mosque and the sermon was delivered by someone else.

On first notice, it seems like a success that the state managed to hold in the volatile Maulana Aziz and refrained him from delivering his divisive sermons. However, it is beholding to see the amount of power and influence that is being granted to the deposed Mullah, where the authorities have to convince him to follow the law. We should not forget that this is the man who was deposed after he defended the perpetuators of the heinous Peshawar 2014 attack. In his controversial sermons, he has also targeted political leaders of Shia schools of thought, and has also threatened the state apparatus of dire consequences if action was taken against him.

Yet the state has always been lenient with him. After repeated events to go against government orders of his deposal, which include attempting to hold a conference in Lal Masjid against blasphemous content on the social media, and trying to get hold of the microphone at Lal Masjid in 2013, the government has never out rightly punished him for going against the law, other than banning his public appearances. One wonders what the victories of the government in successfully restricting Abdul Aziz when they have to appease him for it first.

This issue today too reflects the difficulties of the situation. The government may have stopped Abdul Aziz from leading prayers, yet he still dominates the Lal Masjid, and his followers still irk the law every chance they get.