A vigil had been arranged on 4 January 2015 to remember Salman Taseer, five years after this death. Even that small gesture was marred by several men attacking the gathering. These men have been apprehended and tried by the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC). Five of the accused have been found guilty and sent to jail for five years and two of them, for three years. The court also fined them Rs 40,000 each. The trial of the prime accused Mumtaz Sindhi has yet to be completed.

These attackers had torn banners, pictures and posters displayed at the venue besides thrashing the activists of the civil society. They represent a very dangerous mentality, one that finds its moral duty to hurt people and destroy private and public property. Putting aside the ambivalent sentiments that the general population may have towards the vigil or the Blasphemy laws, vandalism and mob violence in Pakistan is rampant and needs to be made punishable.

In Islamabad, the moral brigade is back in action, blackening the faces of women on billboards. It does not matter that these are paid for and put by hardworking Pakistanis and cost money and effort. Public property is for all and not for some. In the case of this vigil, the attackers showed a blatant disregard for a martyred man, who was a government official no less, as well as the sentiments of the people there. Strange, that the feelings of “devout” Muslims are so hurt by the freedom of speech and association, and their solution is to cause more hurt and pain.

The case also opens up important questions for the future of law. Will future hate crimes be charged under the folds of religious terrorism? Is the Supreme Court set to define the boundaries of religious terrorism and minority protection?

Eight hours before Salman Taseer’s assassination, he had tweeted an Urdu couplet by Shakeel Badayuni: “My resolve is so strong that I do not fear the flames from without, I fear only the radiance of the flowers, that it might burn my garden down.” If our courts and law enforcement agencies do not contain the fire of hate-speech, vandalism, and mob violence, our garden too will burn down.