The wake of the horror in Peshawar left behind a serene moment of clarity for the nation. All over Pakistan, on anonymous street corners and busy thoroughfares, there were oases of burning candles. A much fragmented society was for once united behind a similar objective: eradication of extremism. It was this exact moment that was chosen by the anti-terror court in Islamabad to grant bail to the former operational head of the banned Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT), Zakiur-Rehman Lakhvi, one of the men accused by India of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attack which killed 164 people.

In one fell swoop, the decision has undercut the building narrative of not discriminating between terrorists as well as the nascent gestures of solidarity between India and Pakistan. What was considered a watershed moment in Pakistan’s tussle with extremism, is now just another flash in the pan. Where on one side the nation is baying to hang all convicted terrorists and run all shades of militants to the ground; on the other we are quietly granting bail to a person who allegedly planned a terrorist attack. How is this any different from the supposedly long-gone day when we used to differentiate between “terrorists” and “strategic assets”? The decision has led to outrage in India; the inklings of trust and mutual suffering have been erased. Instead, we are still being painted as aggressors, where a moment ago we were viewed as the victims. The distrust returns, as do the hurdles towards peace.

Even if we take the horrible timing of the decision out of the picture, the merits of it are still dubious. True, the facts are the court’s purview, and the court reserves the right to grant bail if it feels that the accused is not a flight risk or a threat to society. Yet, it is unfathomable how in the face of a wealth of incriminatory facts, he was not considered a threat to society. The state felt it had enough evidence to conduct a high-risk raid to nab him and 10 other activists in 2008; yet that evidence holds no water now? He has been routinely and heavily accused by India and the US, he features on several International top criminal lists, the state has banned the organisation he headed and the political wing of LeT, Jammat-ud-Dawa, still continues propagating Jihad. Despite all this, he is ‘not a threat’. Considering the case was on virtual standstill after terrorists attracted the district courts earlier this year, for all intents and purposes, this is de facto exoneration.

When all of Pakistan is building a narrative against extremism, such steps are critical blows to the process, and therefore needs to be reversed. It is not only a terrible decision that harms the state’s objectives but is also an insult to the memory of the innocent 141 who lost their lives in Peshawar.