Pakistan is a country of conflicting ideologies and competing partisan interests. It is a place where political drama, punctuated with military pauses and judicial exclamations, is the primary source of entertainment as well as sensationalism for a talk-show-centric nation. But regardless of the political divides, judicial philosophies, or even khaki interests, the one contention on which there can be no cavil (at least since the unprecedented tragedy of Army Public School, Peshawar) is that the fundamental struggle of our time, in Pakistan, is the ongoing battle against extremism in our land.

The fight against extremism – whether it is masked in a tainted religious philosophy, or clothed in the garb of ethnic divide, provincial differences, or even pan-Islamic glory – is the defining question on which we, as a people will be judged by the merciless gaze of history.

The battle against extremism, away from the ideological consensus, is a tough idea to reconcile. We all might agree on fighting (and killing) those who planned and carried out the attack on APS Peshawar, but will have differences in terms of the attacks carried out to thwart the Muharram processions. On the off-chance that we can agree on condemning those who attack Shias, there will still remain a palpable divide in terms of condemning the actions of Mumtaz Qadri or even the rhetoric of Maulana Abdul Aziz, each of which is ‘extremism’ packaged in the name of deeply held religious sensitivities. And this rupture in our social fabric, which seems irreconcilable at the moment, is a lacerated national wound that bleeds hope and peace.

Who is to be blamed for the persistent lapses in our ideological battle against extremism? What responsibility do private individuals have in this regard? What measures must be taken by the State? What is the command of our Constitution as well as the law? And can the express command of the Constitution be ignored by State institutions, under the pretext that the same would create ‘unnecessary’ turmoil? Is there an implicit ‘doctrine of necessity’ that prevents our law-enforcement agencies as well as the courts from aggressively confronting elements such as Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid? Is temporary preservation of a tainted ‘peace’ enough justification to ignore (and let breed) the menace of extremism in the soft underbelly of our capital? Or is it incumbent upon the State, in accordance with the Constitution and the law to rid our nation of this brooding threat, even if it requires a messy (read: bloody) conflict with evil?

As such, there are no two opinions about Maulana Abdul Aziz, and his followers, being intolerant extremists about their particular brand of Islam. There are no secrets about this belligerent Maulana’s express rhetoric against the State of Pakistan, its institutions, and its armed forces. There are documented statements about him inviting Talibans as well as members of ISIS to carry out their activities in Pakistan.

He has delivered sermons, extending his support to such out-lawed organizations. And, of course, there was that time when TTP picked this Maulana to be their representative in talks with the State of Pakistan.

As it turns out, Maulana Abdul Aziz is neither hiding nor trying to avoid our law-enforcement agencies. In fact, he is almost inviting a confrontation; one that our State wants desperately to avoid. In the past, Maulana Abdul Aziz has been no stranger to either the police lockups or our Courts of law. At numerous occasions, implicated under dozens of FIRs, Maulana Abdul Aziz has been arrested by our law enforcement agencies, and subsequently released on one pretext or the other. Despite manifest violations of the law as well as blatant instances of violence, his organization commands such terror that people shirk away from presenting evidence and testimony. Even parliamentarians as well as members of the Executive who have been presented with actionable intelligence and a private dossier of Maulana Abdul Aziz’s criminal activities (by my friend Jibran Nasir) have constructed obscure justifications for resisting a conflict with him.

And thus, for untenable justifications, which are soporific at best, a State which is at war against extremism, has continued its policy of hypocrisy by tolerating a breeding ground of terrorism, only stone’s throw away from the Constitution Avenue.

The excuse for inaction presented by State officials is two-pronged: 1) There is not enough evidence to implicate this Maulana, and 2) any action taken against him will lead to a widespread conflict with his followers. The first of these excuses, even prima facie, is untenable. At the risk of sounding clichéd, even a blind man can see that Maulana Abdul Aziz is inciting violence against the State and citizens of Pakistan. The second excuse by State officials, including the Interior Minister that any action against Maulana Abdul Aziz and his Lal Masjid would create unrest in the society at large, presents an age-old question of governance: In the responsibility of maintaining law and order, is ‘order’ more important than the ‘law’? And in most instances, at least jurisprudentially, preserving order trumps the application of law.

However, in the case of Maulana Abdul Aziz, maintaining order (by not proceeding against members of Lal Masjid in accordance with law), will only succeed in delaying and perhaps extenuating the impending conflict with religious extremism of the worst kind. And when this conflict does arrive, as it surely will, it will be that much more threatening to the existence and continuity of our State because of our criminal inaction.

The truth is that fanaticism in confronting evil is no vice. That moderation in pursuing justice is no virtue. That the unforgiving verdict of history will not exonerate us for having delayed the inevitable, or for having condoned the unpardonable. Maulana Abdul Aziz personifies the extremism and intolerance that is rotting the core of our national spirit. His loud belligerence, in the face of an impotent State, inspires the next generation of extremists who wish to see a repressive interpretation of Islam replace our Constitutional freedoms.

Temporary political goals of avoiding a conflict, in order to achieve some teetering semblance of tainted peace, belies our entire Constitutional ethos. And for us, common citizens of the State, to standby and watch the perpetration of this monstrosity, implicates us in this crime of apathy.