It seems that the protests of civil society members have finally reached the ears of parliamentarians as the issue of Maulana Abdul Aziz’s arrest was finally discussed in the National Assembly on Tuesday. PTI member Shireen Mazari raised questions against an absent Interior Minister and it will be interesting to see how he responds, given that there is no excuse available any longer. Never Forget Pakistan, the organization that sent documentary evidence to parliamentarians, has put the Interior Minister in a tricky position; to do nothing at this point will have far-reaching consequences in both the domestic and the international stage. Pakistan’s commitments made to the international community about having a no-tolerance policy for extremism are under threat, as are its promises to its people.

It is strange that Chaudhry Nisar is unable to see the cases against Aziz even when FIRs of cases of hate speech and threats of assault have been registered against him multiple times. The government clearly fears the backlash that might come from a result of arresting Abdul Aziz, but ignoring him is not an option. It is imperative to not allow the cleric more room to breathe, because that will only make him bolder. The state has dilly-dallied for a year already. Aziz insulted those martyred in the APS attack, then proceeded to threaten the protesters outside his mosque. The government has arrested over a 100 little-known clerics, but it still has reservations in taking on the high profile cases.

Aziz has incited acts of terror; he does this unabashedly, without any sign of this coming to an end in the future. The state has maintained time and again that no acts of terror will be tolerated, but here is a cleric, in the heart of the capital spewing hatred for all to hear, publicly declaring support for the Islamic State and being declared a wanted man by Islamabad, roaming free without a care. When forced to clarify his wife’s support for the Islamic State, Aziz only stated that the government should implement Shariah so that people are not drawn to the ideology of Daesh. This is not a denial, but instead a justification for his belief system. A belief system that cannot be allowed to spread. And since Aziz has a position of influence, letting him roam free is not an option. The Interior Ministry, with Chaudhry Nisar at its head, is supposedly spearheading the National Action Plan (NAP). If NAP cannot be implemented in the capital, what hope does the rest of the country have? Progress on the government’s part since December 2014 has been sluggish at best. Viable efforts to eradicate financial channels have not been made, hate speech and extremist thought is allowed to foster and attacks still happen by the day. What have we really achieved?