Nawaz Sharif’s message of tolerance towards all religions at a Christian gathering on Saturday is a sentiment that needs to permeate throughout society. The marginalization of minorities has systematically led to their disempowerment and has contributed in making them feel like they do not belong in a country that has nothing but spite for their views. The abuse has gone beyond just their status as second-class citizens, and the threat now extends to their lives as well. Being a Christian or an Ahmedi or a Shia or anyone belonging to a minority means that the danger to their security increases tenfold. As a country created to ensure the protection of one religion, no one should have been more sympathetic towards the plight of minorities, and yet it seems we have forgotten the very reason of our own existence.

Shahbaz Sharif’s speech stressing the importance of ‘foolproof’ security during Chehlum leaves us looking back at the incident in Rawalpindi and the subsequent sectarian attacks, and one can only hope if this time will be any different. The measures taken on this occasion need to be better and more stringent to ensure that no untoward incident happens again. One slip-up proved to be catastrophic the last time, and the law enforcement agencies need to do more in order to guarantee the safety of all citizens, regardless of their beliefs. The Chief Minister also announced the formation of the Anti-Terrorism Force which will be subordinated under the provincial Police and will specialize in tackling the threat of terrorism in Punjab, however only time can tell if this initiative will prove to be effective.

The government seems to have taken at least one lesson from Rawalpindi and has issued a blanket ban for all loudspeakers for the Chehlum, but it seems the damage has already been wrought using that particular medium. The spark of sectarianism has already been lit, and the state must make sure that it does not lead to an all out fire that results in a complete breakdown of law and order. Pakistan is not far from that endpoint at this moment, and only one lapse is all it will take for things to come to a head. At this point, it is too optimistic to envision a Pakistan completely unified, however, the state must fulfill its duty to the people and make sure that tensions do not lead to an all-out confrontation, for once the threshold of sectarian violence has been crossed, there is no going back.