How does the government expect to curb rising sectarianism when it allows sectarian elements to operate with impunity? Does it really expect to be deemed credible when it expresses its resolve to counter sectarian violence simply for public consumption and simultaneously forms alliances and accommodates those who pose the greatest threat? This co-operation takes many forms; from sending monthly stipends to the family of an infamous sectarian leader as he faces a murder trial to securing a seat in the Parliament for an equally infamous individual. All this is done for a few votes from cities like Jhang where sectarianism sells while jeopardizing the security of the increasingly vulnerable minority communities of Pakistan. The entire state machinery appears to be complicit in the exercise. The Election Tribunal, which declared the runner-up Mr Ahmad Ludhianvi as a member of the Parliament after the disqualification of the winner, did so by following rules unknown to anyone. Usually under similar circumstances, a by-election is announced and the people vote once again. But this was not the case here. Why is everyone, including the government, the judiciary and the media, silent on the issue?

The system is so incredibly flawed that even a child could well exploit it. Take Sipah-e-Sahaba’s (SSP) story for example. The sectarian organisation was banned and thus barred from carrying out any activities, both political and apolitical. How did the SSP beat the ‘system’? It changed its name to Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ). That’s it. The same easily identifiable people with the same extremist and divisive agenda are working under a new name. And somehow, that is acceptable. SSP wasn’t banned because of its name, but due to its ideology and its willingness to resort to violence in order to enforce it. So why then, is the ASWJ allowed to operate freely and even contest general elections (as they did last year)? The media’s role with regards to the issue is no less shameful. Rather than calling a spade a spade, it has looked to circumvent critical issues and goes a step further by giving airtime to hate-mongers. Members of the ASWJ, full of malice, sit before talk show hosts on national television in obscene displays of hypocrisy, all the while chanting slogans against minorities before their supporters. Of course, it is difficult and risky to be blunt and just here. But if this means the difference between the life and death for a member of the minority community, it must be said.