The Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has given a puzzling explanation for not arresting Maulana Abdul Aziz, the Lal Masjid cleric who publicly supports religious terrorists operating in Pakistan: since the Musharraf regime was forced to reinstate the Maulana at Lal Masjid after the 2007 military operation against the mosque, the present government does not want to take a similar decision that would need to be reviewed later. In light of the government’s emphatic resolve to weed out terrorism in the name of religion, this explanation only suggests strategic weakness, either in relation to Maulana’s religious convictions or his ties to terrorists.

Maulana Abdul Aziz is no ordinary Maulana. In addition to his long-standing affiliation with Lal Masjid and support for the Pakistani Taliban (as well as for ISIS), he is clear-headed, eloquent, and committed to the cause of imposing the Quran and Sunnah on to Pakistan. In more peaceful times, he could easily have been a brilliant jurist refining the laws for the betterment of his people. However, as for many other capable minds in our midst, Maualan finds himself the one-eyed king of a blind nation. To make matters worse, Maulana’s blind nation feels divinely ordained and financed to gouge out everyone else’s eyes too.

No doubt, the Maulana’s case needs to be handled carefully. However, the Government’s efforts so far have failed to construct a vision or a narrative that can effectively answer the violent convictions of the likes of Maulana: Operation Zarb-e-Azb utterly lacks the kind of transparency necessary to boost the morale of civilians against religious terrorism; the National Action Plan does not offer a single moral proposition to dissuade an intelligent believer from becoming the next Maulana Abdul Aziz. At best, the Government seems to be treating the patient and not the disease.

It is high time that the Government takes more refined and constructive steps towards the elimination of religious terrorism: it must be clarified as a matter of state policy that Islam and the shariah will only be allowed to work in Pakistan within the democratic and federal framework established by the Constitution; that the existing Constitution provides more than enough Islam to the people of this country; and that advocating the promulgation of the Quran and Sunnah at the expense of the Constitution will not be tolerated.