The fact that Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, who was involved in the Lal Masjid riots in the country under the Musharraf regime, dodged the Islamabad Captial Territory (ICT) Administration and was able to deliver a sermon at Lal Masjid is alarming, to say the least. This is not the first attempt made by the cleric to go against the writ of the state. He tried to regain the post of khateeb of the mosque in Nov 2018 as well. His several attempts to get hold of a microphone in Lal Masjid was foiled by the government in 2017 as well. He also stirred another controversy in 2014 after he openly extended support to the perpetrators of the Army Public School attack in Peshawar by calling it a reactionary move by the terrorists.

The situation which has developed post the recent Pak- India tensions within the country is that the government is showing great willingness to cleanse the land of radical voices which promote hate speech and prompt people for indulging in violence. This commitment has been reinforced by Pakistan’s participation in the dialogue to end the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan has facilitated the talks between the United States of America (USA) and the Taliban in Qatar to ensure a diplomatic end to the war. This along with the mounting pressure by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) leaves no space for the Pakistani government to show any leniency towards elements within the state which now promote a narrative which has been labeled as anti-Pakistan by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Under the current circumstances, there is no space in the society for individuals who challenge the writ of the state and promote violence. Maulana Abdul Aziz went so far in his sermon to state that the state institutions, particularly the judiciary were corrupt. He also termed democracy un-Islamic and claimed that he is ready to challenge any cleric who claims otherwise. He also criticised the politics of several mainstream politicians claiming that they have no credibility. Knowing Maulana’s history, he cannot be allowed to become a potent political actor in the country once again. For this, the government not only needs to strengthen its security network but also work towards a stringent implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), which cannot happen without the cooperation of the opposition. Both the government and the opposition need to realise how cooperative efforts will help improve the overall security situation.