The persistence of the Lal Masjid standoff is a practical demonstration of “give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile.” Maulana Aziz’s demands that he be recognised the Khateeb of Lal Masjid, that the government should pay for the construction of Jamia Hafsa and allotment of a new plot in one of Islamabad’s sectors are equivalent of extortion. Maulana’s demands suggest that he wants to interpret the law of the land according to his wishes. However, the concept of law and rules do not bend and change according to an individual’s wish. If the government accommodates him for his unjust demands, then others will also make such demands.

So far, the government is dealing with the matter calmly and responsibly. The state is correct in saying that “law cannot be altered only to accommodate one person.” The burden of proof lies on the shoulders of Maulana Aziz. First, he must convince the government that his demands are legal. Second, even if he thinks that the state has violated his rights, he needs to go to the appropriate forums to seek a remedy. Capturing space and exerting pressure on the government for meeting one’s demands is not the right way.

Right that the deposed cleric does not pose a significant security risk anymore, the state cannot allow him to persist like this. Any lax attitude towards him will encourage all other radical religious elements in the country that have been pacified for the most part. The government must find a permanent solution for dealing with those who take it upon themselves to interpret Islam according to their wishes only to secure their material desires. A few episodes in recent history tell us that the appeasement policy is perhaps not the best solution to deal with crises of such nature. And we cannot have this situation repeat itself again and again.